Friday, May 13, 2011

Gospel Meals

“And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him” (Mark 2.15).

My church loves food. This is a good thing because I love food too. Years ago we started a ministry called “fellowship lunch” (which is essentially an enormous pot-luck (providence?)) that takes place about once a month. There is something about food, something about table-fellowship, that we know is right. When we are sitting down, eating and fellowshipping we know in our bones that “this is the way things were meant to be!” Why is that?

The Gospel of Mark points us in the right direction. Mark, like my church and like me, is obsessed with food. In Mark 2 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners, in Mark 6 Jesus feeds 5000, in Mark 8 Jesus feeds 4000, in Mark 14 Jesus is eating when he is anointed and later is eating with his disciples when he inaugurates the Lord’s Supper (a meal we celebrate again and again), and there is also a meal in the extended ending of the gospel in Mark 16. As if that weren’t enough, he includes an entire “bread section” spanning from 6:33-8:26 in which the word bread (greek. ortos) occurs no less than seventeen times. That’s a lot of food!

Through these meals Mark clarifies for his readers who Jesus is and what he came to do. God’s plan and promise was to send his Messiah (i.e. the liberating-king) to Israel to establish his new society and rescue his people from the evil that enslaved them. This plan was, all along, not just for “righteous” Israel but was meant for the entire world; Jew and Gentile alike, righteous and unrighteous.

When God came he would set his people right and set his world right so that there would be a renewed people under the rule of God’s king in God’s place. Sinners would be healed and God’s people would have fellowship with him and with one another. When this happened it would be an enormous celebration. And the point is that in Jesus all these things are coming true.

This is what the cross and resurrection is all about. Jesus gave himself so people could be liberated from their sin and brought safely into his kingdom. His body, the bread, and his blood, the wine, are given to make all things new. Now all who give up their lives for Jesus participate in the life of God’s new world. The party has begun. The feast is taking place. Jesus calls out to the world and says, “Pull up a chair. It’s on me.”