Week 2 - Gospels

June 18, 2015


As we learned in last week’s lesson, we saw the foundation relationship between God and man in the Garden of Eden and further development of that relationship through covenantal promises and the Torah with the act of eating at the center both in provision on behalf of God and in praise of God’s mercy and love.  Eating is an example of God’s power and love as our creator and provider.  As we enter into the New Testament, we will take a look at the relationship that Jesus Has with food and then the early church.  We should note that Jesus grew up a Jew, and followed the Jewish eating traditions as he was taught.  However, we see some significant differences in the act of eating, which we will explore.


Have you noticed how much ministry Jesus did around the dinner table? Here are some examples: The wedding at Cana, for ‘starters’, pardon the pun, two meals, the last supper and the feeding of the 5,000, are recorded in all four gospels. Also Jesus’ meal with Levi the tax collector and his shadowy friends is found in all but John’s gospel. We add the feeding of the 4,000, found in both Mark and Matthew. Total these up and we have four meals, found in thirteen passages! But there are many more. Meals are particularly prominent in Luke’s gospel. Take a look at two very uncomfortable meals at the houses of Pharisees (11:37-54 and 14:1-24), the meal with Zacchaeus (19:1-10), and the meal that followed Jesus’ resurrection appearance on the Emmaus Road (24:30). The list is still not complete. You can see why scholars have said, ‘Jesus ate his way through the Gospels.’


Jesus’ fellowship meals didn’t come from ‘out of the blue’. They are the delightful ‘second course’ to follow the feasts and celebration of the Old Testament.


We left off last week, in the Old Testament with conversation about the Torah and the rules that were set forth in regards to what could and could not be eaten in order to have a “pious” eating relationship with God. 


1. The In-breaking of the Reign of God - Isaiah: During the time of the Prophets and the time of exile for Israel, we saw a perversion of the rituals of eating.  Rich people feasted and poor people starved and orphans were abandoned.  The prophet Isaiah lamented these iniquities of his people and the faithless king who had a made a military alliance with Assyria.  Isaiah proclaimed that God would judge those who were poor with righteousness and act with equity for the meek (Isaiah 11:1-4).  Isaiah envisioned a restoration of the peaceable kingdom under God’s reign, when the wolf would lie down with the lamb; the lion with the calf, and the child with the asp, and the whole earth would be full of the knowledge of the Lord. 

At the dawn of the first century C.E., the people of Israel longed for the coming of God’s messiah as they struggled under the rule of Caesar Augustus.  The women would gather to grind grain in the courtyards between their homes, and they shared their dreams of the coming reign of the messiah.  They would mix their coarsely ground grain, mix it with water and kneed it into a dough to bake round loaves of bread in wood-burning stoves.  This bread was a staple in their lives.  It was often served with olives, olive oil, figs, or even some fresh goat cheese. 

The hefty taxation by the state left many people poor, struggling to feed their families.  It is in the midst of this background that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced should would give birth to a son, who will “reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).  As a child of this era, it is likely that Jesus knew the reality of fear of famine and the reality of thirst.  Following his baptism, he went into the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and nights, and afterwards “he was famished.”  Jesus knew what it was like to be hungry. 


As a faithful Jew, Jesus practiced faithful eating and drinking according to the covenantal tradition as he went forth to proclaim the Good News: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believer in the good news” (Mark 1:14-15).  Along with the messianic promises within the Jewish tradition, Jesus’ practices are characterized by  inclusive communion, sharing of food with all who are hungry, feasting with joy, and the sacrificial gift of his own body and blood.


2. Eating in Inclusive Communion: Who Jesus ate with was just as important as how Jesus ate.  This is because the practices of table-fellowship are important social markers that determine the boundaries of our societies.  They distinguished and often divided people along lines of kinship, class, ethnicity, gender and political power.  One sect of Jews, known as the Essenes, who were a monastic Jewish community, had incredibly stringent standards for admission to their communal means.  Women and children were not allowed to participate, nor were full members who were guilty of misconduct or were ritually unclean, (Due to death of a family member or sexual relations).  It is in this context that Jesus echo’s Isaiah’s messianic vision of a feast for all people (Isaiah 25:6-7).  Jesus told the Roman Centurion that “Many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).


Jesus invites Levi, the tax collector to become a disciple, dining in Levi’s home with other guests, to which the scribes and Pharisees question this practice of “eating with sinners and tax collectors” (Mark 2:13-16; Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34; 19:7).  There is debate as to how sinners were identified, those involuntarily in contact with impurities, or those who willfully acted against the Torah.  Either way, Jesus replied to those critics: “those who are well have no need for a physician, but rather those who are sick; I have come to call not eh righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17). 


Jesus’ table-fellowship was an invitation to restoration of communion, as an act of compassionate welcoming that can transform hearts.  He invited his followers to practices of eating that would heal the divisions of society.  Reminding them to not invite their friends, brothers or family or rich neighbors to their luncheons or dinners in the hopes of being invited to one of their meals in return.  Rather they should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  The host will be blessed because the invited guests cannot repay the honor of the meal, and instead they will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous (paraphrase Luke 14:12-14).


3. Food for All That Hunger: Everyone who thirsts come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price, is a vision of Isaiah (55:1).  Isaiah’s vision is realized on the banks of the Sea of Galilee in a meal shared by a great multitude with neither food nor money.  In all four gospels there is an account of Jesus feeding a large crowd with nothing more than a few loaves and a couple of fish, actually occurring twice in Mark 6:32-44 & 8:1-10 and Matthew 14:13-21 & 15:32-39.  IN Mark, Jesus arrives on the bank of the Sea of Galilee and sees that the people are gathered there like sheep without a shepherd.  So he has compassion for them, and begins to teach them.  As the day went on, and the hour grew late, the tummies started to grumble, and Jesus urged his disciples to go into town and get food for everyone.  They told Jesus they didn’t have enough money for food for everyone, a crowd of nearly 5 thousand!! So Jesus asked what they did have.  Five little loaves of baked bread and two fish, clearly not enough to go around.  Jesus took that bread and those two fish and blessed them and broke up the loaves and divided the fish.  All who were there ate and were filled until satisfied.  When the left-over were collected there were 12 baskets still full.  Miraculous, Yes.  Whether the loaves and fish magically and mysteriously multiplied as people reached in the baskets or through an act of communal generosity inspired by the disciples first giving up what they had in order to share, other in turn shared what they had brought along.  It speaks to a deeper meaning, that this meal is a vision of the coming reign of God, with the image of a banquet in which ALL who are hungry are fed.  On that day, that dream, the women dreamed of in the courtyards as they ground grain for bread because a reality. 


4. Feasting with Joy: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.  And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted,” says Isaiah (12:3).  Jesus’ practices of eating and drinking in many of the parables are characterized by joy; a wedding feast, a great banquet.  At the wedding, Jesus turned 6 stone jars of water into wine, wine that was better than first brought out.  In Matthew, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of heaven is similar to a wedding feast prepared by a king for his son.  But the invited guests do not come, instead the servants are sent out into the streets to get anyone who will come.  All are invited to come and feast with the king and his son and bride.  Luke’s moving account of the prodigal son returning home to be met by a joyous father who has his fatted calf prepared to celebrate the son’s return.  Eating is to be done in joy.  Eating is done in celebration. John 2:1-11; Matthew 22; Luke 15:11-32;


5. Sacrificial Gift of the Body and Blood of Christ:  Isaiah lamented that the righteous servant of God was taken away “by a perversion of justice” (53:8-9).  Jesus entered into Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover.  He gathers with his apostles in the little upper room partaking in the Passover meal.  Before they ate, Jesus washed the feet of the twelve, a humble act that is a radical reversal of Greco-Roman culture, where hosts and guests were cared for by the servants, not the other way around.  Seated at the table, Jesus took a loaf of bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the apostles.  Do you hear the echo?  Yes it looks a lot like what he did on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.  This time, though, Jesus tells his apostles that this is his body broken for them, passing it around to each.  He then takes the wine, gives thanks for it, and passes it around, telling them that the cup is his blood of the new covenant, poured out for all (Mark 14:24-25). 


After this meal, Jesus heads down to the olive grove and prays, only to be handed over by Judas to the chief priests, scribes and the elders.  He is accused of blasphemy and it is determined he should die for his supposed transgressions.  According to John’s Gospel, as Jesus hangs upon the cross, he cries out that he is thirsty, and a bystander soaks up some sour wine on a song, or rag and hoists it high to Jesus’ lips and then Jesus cries out loudly and he breathes his last breath. 


Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the importance of eating and begin together around the table. Some have suggested that it serves as an organizing structure for the gospel. Whether that is true or not, it is clear that Luke uses these meals as teaching occasions, providing lessons on evangelism, justice and the kingdom. Meals reflect the social values of the culture, revealing the importance of social class, prominence and rank. For this reason, they provide the perfect occasion to illustrate the counter-cultural message of the kingdom of God.






Banquet at Levi’s House

Tax collectors and sinners


Dinner at Simon’s House

Pharisees, guests and sinful woman


Feeding the 5,000

Disciples and Crowds

10:38-42 *

Hospitality at the home of Mary and Martha

Mary and Martha


Dinner at a Pharisee’s House

Pharisees and Lawyers


Sabbath Meal at a Pharisee’s House

Pharisees, Lawyers and Guests

19:1-10 *

Hospitality at the home of Zacchaeus



The Last Supper

The Apostles


Breaking Bread at Emmaus

Two Disciples


Jesus Eats Meal in Presence of Disciples

Two Disciples


June 28, 2017


Worship Service 11:00AM

Adult Bible Study   9:45AM

Children's Class  11:00AM 


SERMON ON SUNDAY: July 2, 2017  "Welcome"


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