This is a book review I wrote last year for JOURNEY #03: Food. I post it here again just in case you missed it :)
P.S. JOURNEY #03: Food is still available!
What is in a meal? Is it something you dutifully put in your stomach while watching TV or reading a textbook to keep your energy level up? Or is it something you look forward to and plan ahead for? What is involved in your planning? Food shopping? Time to cook? Friends to share the meal with? Who do you invite? Close friends? A newcomer you met in church on Sunday? When people come to your place, what do you do? Do you worry the flat is too small and people will secretly judge you by how tidy it is? Do you expect everyone to clap at the dish you proudly present? Have you ever thought about all these? Have you ever thought about what have all these to do with Jesus?
A Meal With Jesus is a book by Tim Chester. The sub title of the book is: Discovering grace, community and mission around the table. I learnt a great deal from it but at times it challenged me enough that I felt like skipping pages!
How would you finish the sentence, “The Son of Man came…”? If you know the Bible well, you might remember instantly: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). But have you noticed this one: “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking…” (Luke 7:34)? The book uses passages in Luke’s gospel to show me how Jesus did evangelism and discipleship around tables. It teaches me how I can share my life and love my neighbours by having simple meals together. It also teaches me how to understand rebellion, judgement, salvation and hope through the lens of food.
It explains many familiar passages with a fresh perspective of the culture of Jesus’ time. Do you know the reason behind the Pharisees’ question to Jesus, “why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners”? Have you realised just how shocking the action of the sinful woman in Luke 7 is? Why being hospitable is a requirement of church leaders in Paul’s letters? How is Jesus’ identity revealed through a meal? It has a chapter explaining the meaning of the Lord’s Supper too.
The book doesn’t only explain the Bible, but is also full of challenging applications for the readers. As followers of Jesus, what’s the message of our meals, in church and at home? Do we bear the image of a graceful and generous God? Would we obediently give our ‘five loaves and two fish’ to Jesus, watch in amazement at what he is able to do, and know confidently that ultimately he’s the one who provides? Do you see cooking and eating as a dull task that you can’t get away from? Do you know how God sees it? God created food and it’s good. Are you aware that we even use food as a way to rebel against God? Have you ever thought that having meals and parties could be a way to do mission? A friend of mine regularly meets up with people at breakfast to train them up as church leaders.
I remember a small group leader who once told us that, at the end of one term he asked his group what they would like to do as a social. Go to the cinema? Have fish and chips at the beach? Go bowling? Or have a meal in his house? Everybody voted for the last option. They preferred an ordinary family meal with chats and laughter around a table in an ordinary home to fancy entertainment. Are you willing to open up your home and to share your meal time with people? If you need some motivation or encouragement, I recommend this book.