Sharing A Meal With God

Sharing A Meal With God
Exodus 24:9-11, Luke 24:13-35, Psalm 23

For much of world history, God has been approached with some degree of fear & anxiety.

God revealed at Sinai

The people of Israel, when they were coming out of Egypt, had reasons to be afraid of all gods. The gods of Egypt and their priests were tyrants, demanding much but giving little. Then in the Exodus, they had seen the awesome power of the God of Israel over Egypt in the plagues, and were afraid of their own God.

Then at Mount Sinai, they had seen the thunder & lightning & fire on the mountain, and all the people quaked with fear.  It is in this context that the Seventy Elders are invited to ascend the Mountain of Sinai to meet with God in person.

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel.  Under His feet there was something like a pavement of Sapphire stone, like the very heavens for clearness.  But God did not harm the chief men of the people of Israel, but they beheld God and they ate and drank.”

The God, who had demonstrated such power and glory, sat down and ate a meal with the leading men of Israel.   It is actually stunning when you think of it.  God provides a meal, perhaps even serves it, to these people.  Does he sit down with them? We are not told.  But God is saying something profoundly significant in this act. He wants fellowship, friendship, family ties, with Israel, his people.

God revealed in Jesus

But let me take you to the time when Jesus walked in our shoes.  For 30 years he lived among us, but undetected. He lived in obscurity, and even when he begins his ministry, he travels incognito.  Time and time again he attempts to silence those who want to announce his messiahship.  He prefers to do miracles behind closed doors.  He wants to avoid people sticking labels upon him.

But it is interesting to note, that as we read the four Gospels, we notice an unusual phenomenon.  The gospel writers describe Jesus as always eating with people.  A couple of dozen times he is found at a meal.  In fact, he is at the meal table so often that it aroused some derision.

Matthew 11:18-19 commented on the critics’ response: John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking and they said, “He has a demon.”  Jesus came eating and drinking and they said, “Behold a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

These opponents of Jesus were very discerning.   He was always eating and drinking.

  • His first miracle was at a wedding feast,
  • He and his disciples were always on the eat, whether it was grain from the fields or meals in the homes of friends like Mary and Martha.
  • He ate in the house of Levi and Zacchaeus, the tax collectors.
  • He ate with people like Simon the Pharisee and Simon the Leper.
  • In the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 he is at the center of grand picnics.
  • He tells parables about wedding feasts and beggars being fed.
  • And on the night of His betrayal, he initiates another meal with his friends, a sort of last supper before his death.
  • And then wouldn’t you know it! He calls for food to eat on the evening of his resurrection. Earlier that same evening, he had sat with his friends who lived beside the Emmaus road, and shared a meal with them, and then a few days later shared a fish-fry BBQ on the beach.

When the early church was launched, as described in the Book of Acts, they carried on his practice, as “They broke bread from house to house and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.” (Acts 2:46)

The critics were right.  Jesus ate out a lot.  But that was not because he was a glutton or a free loader.  He wanted people to know what God was really like. His miracles did not give a true picture of God, so he tried to hide them.

His sitting down to a meal, however, to share our common life, did reveal something far more important about God.   God wants to share life with us.  He wants to be the companion in all of our days. He does not want to be the miracle worker who gets us out of life’s little jams, but he does want to be our divine companion, who sits with his feet under our kitchen tables.

Even at the close of the Bible, in the book of The Revelation, Jesus is heard speaking to the Church in Laodicea, “Behold I am standing at your door and knocking.  If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and have supper with you, and you with me.”  That has always been God’s intention from the time he walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day, all the way through to the end of the human story.  He wants to share life with us.

The Communion Meal

But let me return you to the most important of those meals.  It takes place in the Upper Room on the night before Good Friday.  It is of great interest to note that when Jesus is laying down the foundations of the church, on the night of the betrayal, on the night of the denial, on the night when his closest friends will desert him, he takes bread and wine, and begins a custom that the church is to practice all the way through to the end of time.   Listen to the Apostle Paul:

I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “this is my body that is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”   

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  Then Paul adds, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

A meal together is one of the central symbols of Christian faith.

A Manger in Bethlehem tells us of the humility of God!
A Cross on Golgotha tells us that God loves us enough to die for us!
An empty Tomb in the garden tells us that death is not the last word for Him or for us!
And a shared meal tells us that God wants to be the companion of all the days of our lives.

Now can I take you to an early conflict in the history of the Christian Church?  The Western side of the church got into an argument: was Jesus actually present in the bread and the wine served in Holy Communion?

  • Did the elements contain the real presence of Jesus?
  • Did the elements get changed into the real body & blood of our Lord?
  • Was the bread and the wine only a reminder of what God did in Christ back in our early history?
  • Was the presence of Jesus above, below, beside, and around the elements so as we ate the bread and drank the wine we also took in the spiritual presence?

This fight in the Western parts of the church still goes on

The Eastern part of the church said, “What are you talking about?”  Then they said, Jesus is not in the bread or the wine, he is in the room.  His feet are under the table with ours. Where two or three are gathered in his name, there he is, among us. He does for us, as he did for the early apostles: he meets with us in person. He wants to have a meal with us and fellowship with us and share life with us. So, the Eastern church said the resurrected Jesus himself is present by the Holy Spirit, and having a meal with his people is “one of his favourite things!”

The message is clear.  God wants to share His life with us too.  He wants us to share our lives with Him.  He wants us to share life with one other as well.  It is why this time together is called “Communion“.  And as we take the bread and wine together, let us each respond to God and say, “and I want to share my life with you.”  On the road to Emmaus, Luke tells us that Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread.  He can be re-experienced by us too in such a moment as this.  Thanks be to God!