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by Mark Driscoll
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Tue Dec 10, 2013
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Sat Dec 07, 2013
by Kimm Crandall
A Biblical Theology of Food
More Than Fuel
Food reminds of our dependence on other people. We are tied into a network of farmers, traders, shopkeepers, cooks, families, traditions of gastronomy. Above all we are dependent on God. We are finite beings who need sustenance to sustain us. We need to ‘refuel’. Except that food is so much more than fuel. Think of all your favourite foods: steak and potatoes, thai green curry, crumble and custard... It didn’t have to be this way.
Biscuits would have sufficed to sustain our lives. But God is ridiculously lavish in his creativity and generosity. God’s first act after creating humanity was to present us with a menu: the fruit of all the trees in the garden. Every meal is an opportunity to receive God’s good gifts with thankfulness. Perhaps we need to refresh the practice of saying ‘grace’ before meals as an expression of our dependence and God’s generosity. Food is an opportunity for human creativity and generosity in the image of the Creator.
But food is also at the heart of our rejection of God. The very first act of rebellion was an act of eating. Ever since, our relationship to food often goes wrong because our relationship to God has gone wrong. We find comfort in food instead of refuge in God. We use food – or avoid food – to make ourselves desirable so others worship us. Our fractioned relationships and greed means many in our world go without food. We over eat. We under eat. Food is integral to our humanity so it’s no surprise to find that our brokenness shows up in our relationship to food.
Our invitation to the feast of God comes at a price: the precious blood of Jesus his Son.
Against this backdrop of food-gone-wrong, God promises a feast. Again and again in the Bible salvation is picture as a feast with God. When God leads the Israelites out of Egypt, the leaders of the people are invited up on Mount Sinai to eat and drink with God (Exodus 24:9-11). The rescue from slavery in Egypt – the defining act of Israelite identity – is itself commemorated in a meal, the meal of Passover. At the high point of Israelite history, in the reign of Solomon, we are told ‘the people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy’ (1 Kings 4:20). Even when things begin to unravel, God promises another meal on a mountain, ‘a feast of rich food for all people’ (Isaiah 25:6-8). On this occasion death itself will be on the menu for God will swallow it up. This is an eternal feast which no-one need ever leave. Jesus provides a foretaste of this feast when he feeds the 5,000. Here is a feast which need never end. Indeed there’s more food at the end than there was at the beginning. It’s a pointer to the fulfilment of God’s promise: that one day we will feast forever in his presence.
There's Something Bigger Here
So the meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent God’s coming world. But at same time they give that new reality substance. They’re the real thing in miniature. Food is stuff. It’s not ideas. It’s something you put in your mouth, something you taste, something you eat. And meals are more than food. They’re social occasions. They represent friendship, community, welcome.
Our invitation to the feast of God comes at a price: the precious blood of Jesus his Son. We are outsiders, enemies, excluded. But Jesus takes the judgment we deserve. He becomes the ultimate outsider. Pushed out of the world onto the cross. Forsaken by his Father. As a result we become insiders, friends, included. The invitation goes out to all.
So it’s not accident that at the heart of what it means to be the church is a meal. Jesus told us to remember him not in a pattern of words, but in a meal.
For more on meals check out Tim Chester's upcoming Re:Lit book, A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table