While on vacation last month, I read through Tim Chester’s bookA Meal with Jesus. I found it to be incredibly provocative and insightful regarding the life and mission of Jesus. I was challenged in a number of ways and continue to revisit the exegetical and practical work Chester delivered in this little book. Though I plan to write a review in the near future, I thought I’d highlight some quotes where Chester talks about the message behind meals. I admit that I have never considered meals being this meaningful, and perhaps Chester belabors them in excess at points. But Chester’s arguments are worth considering. Though these quotes are not provided with context, I encourage you to make them “food” for thought (pardon the pun).
“Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance. ‘Few acts are more expressive of companionship than the shared meal. . . . Someone with whom we share food is likely to be our friend, or well on the way to becoming one’” (9-10).
“Our life at the table, no matter how mundane, is sacramental—a means through which we encounter the mystery of God” (10).
“So the meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook. But they give that new reality substance. Jesus’ meals are not just symbols; they’re also application. They’re not just pictures; they’re the real thing in miniature” (14).
“Meals should be an integral and significant part of our shared life. They represent the meaning of mission, but they more than represent it: the embody and enact our mission. Community and mission are more than meals, but it’s hard to conceive of them without meals” (14-15).
“The meals of Jesus are a window into his message of grace and the way it defines his community and his mission” (15).
“The meals of Jesus picture that day (when the first shall be last and the last shall be first), as he welcomes the marginal and confronts the self-righteous and self-reliant” (27).
“In Luke’s Gospel Jesus got himself killed because of the way he ate” (30).
“Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force you to be people oriented instead of task oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way to build relationships, but it is number one on the list” (47).
“Meals bring you close. You see people in situ, in life, as they are. You connect and communicate” (47).
“Unresolved conflict can’t be ignored when we gather round the meal table; you can’t eat in silence without realizing there’s an issue to address” (48).
“The hospitality of God embodied in the table fellowship of Jesus is a celebration and sign of his grace and generosity. And we’re to imitate that generosity” (49).
“Meals also have the power to shape and reshape community. A person to whom we may have related in one role becomes a person to whom we relate as friend. Serving another changes the dynamics of a relationship. The leader who serves at table is no longer aloof” (49).
“In this culture our shared meals offer a moment of grace. A sign of something different. A pointer of God’s coming world” (50).
“Around the table we offer friendship and celebrate life. Our meals offer a divine moment, an opportunity for people to be seduced by grace into a better life, a truer life, and a more human existence” (50).
“Our meals express our doctrine of justification” (53).
“When your church family gathers together as a group of needy people and share food with Jesus at the center and with Jesus as the provider, you glimpse God’s coming world right here, right now” (61).
“The Christian community is the beginning and sign of God’s coming world—and no more so than when we eat together. Our meals are a foretaste of the future messianic banquet. Our meals reveal the identity of Jesus. Our meals are a proclamation and demonstration of God’s good news” (61).
“In receiving the bread with thanksgiving, Jesus affirms the goodness of creation. And by affirming the goodness of God’s creation as he promises a new world, Jesus reminds us that this world is not going to be trashed, but redeemed. Food matters because it is part of God’s good creation and part of God’s new creation” (66).
“Food is a central ingredient in our experience of God’s goodness” (67).
“We’re to treat food as a gift, not merely as fuel. We’re to treat creation as a responsibility entrusted to our care by God and to be used for his glory” (68).
“Every time you place a meal on the table with quiet satisfaction, you’re sharing the joy of the Creator at the creation of the world when he declared everything good” (69).
“Eating is an expression of our dependence. God made us in such a way that we need to eat. We’re embedded in creation; this means that every time we eat, we’re reminded of our dependence on others” (70).
“Above all, food expresses our dependence upon God. Only God is self-sufficient. We are creatures, and every moment we’re sustained by him” (70).
“Every time we eat, we celebrate again our dependence upon God and his faithfulness to his creation. Every time. Food is to be received with gratitude” (70).
“When you combine a passion for Jesus with shared meals, you create potent gospel opportunities” (77).
“Our parties are to be a reflection—albeit a pale reflection—of God’s great banquet” (79).
“Meals can be a visual representation of our hearts. If our hearts are concerned for position, honor, status, or approval, then that will be reflected in our dining etiquette. Consider how your meals express your vision of life. Think about who’s invited, how they’re served, what you hope to achieve, and the layout of your home. Do they express the vision of the kingdom of God?” (81)
“The table fellowship of Jesus, with its ethic of grace rather than reciprocity, was creating a new countercultural society in the midst of the Empire. ‘The behaviors Jesus demands would collapse the distance between rich and poor, insider and outsider’” (81).
“God welcomes us to his party, and so we’re to welcome the poor. The kind of fasting that God desires is ‘to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house’ (Isa. 58:7)” (82).
“Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals. If you routinely share meals and you have a passion for Jesus, then you’ll be doing mission. It’s not that meals save people. People are saved through the gospel message. But meals will create natural opportunities to share that message in a context that resonates powerfully with what you’re saying” (89).
“Meals bring mission into the ordinary. But that’s where most people are—living in the ordinary. That’s where we need to go to reach them” (91).