Meals have always been important across societies and cultures, a time for friends and families to come together. An important part of relationships, meals are vital to our social health. Author Tim Chester sums it up: “Food connects.”
Chester argues that meals are also deeply theological—an important part of Christian fellowship and mission. He observes that the book of Luke is full of stories of Jesus at meals. These accounts lay out biblical principles. Chester notes, “The meals of Jesus represent something bigger.” Six chapters in A Meal with Jesus show how they enact grace, community, hope, mission, salvation, and promise.
Moving from biblical times to the modern world, Chester applies biblical truth to challenge our contemporary understandings of hospitality. He urges sacrificial giving and loving around the table, helping readers consider how meals can be about serving others and sharing the grace of Christ.
About The Author:Tim Chester (PhD, University of Wales) is codirector of The Porterbrook Network, which equips individuals and churches to rediscover mission, and director of The Porterbrook Institute, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. He is coleader of the Crowded House, a group of church-planting networks. Chester co-authored Total Church(Re:Lit) and has written more than a dozen books.
During the last year, I have had a privilege to listen and watch Pastor Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church Seattle) online, as he has taken his congregation on a journey through the book of Luke. One of the things that Driscoll has mentioned on a number of occasions is the fact that Jesus met with people over meals a lot. Recently I had the opportunity to read a book that builds on this exact premise. A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester, was a perfect read to compliment the sermons from Driscoll.
Tim Chester takes six specific passages in Luke and shows us, the reader how we can apply how Jesus ministered in our own life. Meals are the opportune time to talk to people about God's word, as it is the place where there is so much conversation already and occurs all the time. Here is what Chester looks at through his book:
Meals as Enacted Grace: Luke 5
Meals as Enacted Community: Luke 7
Meals as Enacted Hope: Luke 9
Meals as Enacted Mission: Luke 14
Meals as Enacted Salvation: Luke 22
Meals as Enacted Promise: Luke 24
Eating meals is an everyday occurence and one of the ways that God was us to "shine our light" is in our hospitality. If Jesus could sit down with the Pharisees and sinners of His day, surely I (and all of us) can invite our friends, family and neighbors over for meals, dessert nights, or summertime BBQ's to share our faith in a non-threatening manner. It can be through a Saturday night meal of steaks that your non-Christian friend, for example, will start asking questions about church and that can open the door to inviting them the next day to your Sunday Worship Service. People are much less threatened to have a conversation about God over a meal, then brought to church, especially if they have had a bad experience with religion or church in the past.
As Chester states in Chapter 3, food is part of God's creation and an expression of our dependence on Him. We need it, but we also need community (p. 70)
Here are a few other quotes from the book that really got me thinking:
"Every time we eat, we celebrate again our dependence on God and His faithfulness to His creation. Every time. Food is to be received with gratitude. "Taking the five loaves...he gave thanks" (Luke 9:16)"
"God set a table so we could eat in His presence. This is the heart of what is means to be human. It involves physicality. God didn't create us for mere mental contemplation, but for a shared meal....Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:3)" (p.73)
"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 for 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?" (p. 81)
"We think we're enacting grace if we provide for the poor. but we're only halfway there. We've mission the social dynamics. What we communicate is that we're able and you're unable. "I can do something for you, but you can do nothing for me. I'm superior to you". We cloak our superiority in compassion, but superiority clocked in compassion is patronizing. Think how different the dynamic is when we sit and eat with someone. We meet as equals. We share together. We affirm one another and enjoy one another. People don't want to be projects. The poor need a welcome to replace their marginalization, inclusion to replace their exclusion, a place where they matter to replace their powerlessness. They need community They need the Christian community" (p. 83)
"Everything else - creation, redemption, mission - is "for" this: that we might eat together in the presence of God. God created the world so that we might eat with Him. The food we consume, the table around which we sit , and the companions gathered with us have as their end our communion with one another and with God. The Israelites were redeemed to eat with God on the mountain, and we're redeemed for the great messianic banquet that we anticipate when we eat together as a Christian community. We proclaim Christ in mission so that others might hear the invitation to join the feast. Creation, redemption, and mission all exist so that this meal can take place" (p.138)
A fascinating, thought-provoking book that will change the way you look at meals and hospitality to be sure!
I highly recommend this book and give it a huge thumbs up!
BUY IT: A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester is available online through Crossway, as an ebook only. It is also available through your favorite local Christian bookseller.
***I received a complimentary copy of this book, courtesy of Crossway Publishers, for the purpose of review on this blog. All opinions expressed are my own, and I have not been compensated in any other manner***