Did Dr. Luke hint that dining in a group with Jesus would boost one’s physical, mental and spiritual health?

Throughout my daily Bible readings in Luke’s Gospel I numbered each reference to food and eating as a sequence of jigsaw pieces, so that one day I could visualise the evangelist’s whole picture on this subject.

Recently I eventually finished several weeks of browsing my way through all 24 chapters, paragraph by paragraph. On reaching chapter 22 I counted there fifteen such references in the 30-verse context of the Last Supper in Luke 22:11-30! In fact, I found only two more occasions mentioned on Luke’s final page. (All quotations are from the New Living Translation.)

Here are some observations:

[] In Luke 4:39, before our Lord  called his band of twelve disciples together (see 5:1-11), we are told of how Simon’s mother-in-law showed her gratitude to Jesus for healing her; ‘she got up at once and prepared a meal for them’ (probably just for Jesus, Simon and his wife, I presume).

[] Another disciple, ‘Levi’ (= Matthew) was called during the ‘banquet [he] held in his home’ at which Jesus was ‘the guest of honour’ (Luke 5:29).

[] According to his Pharisee critics, Jesus was ‘always eating and drinking’ with his disciples, unlike their own regular practice to ‘fast and pray’ with theirs (5:33). In fact, they were shocked that Jesus allowed his followers to eat grain on a Sabbath while walking through a grain field. So Jesus calmly reminded them of how David’s hunger had even caused him to eat ‘the sacred bread’ with his band of famished exiles, bread that only a priest should be allowed to consume (Luke 6:1-5). Wow! Should church be conducted more socially?

[] Luke later pointed out that the Pharisees persisted in objecting that Jesus couldn’t be the promised Messiah because they considered him to be ‘a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax gatherers and other sinners.’ However, they hadn’t taken to ‘John the Baptist’ either because he ‘didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking’; in fact they insisted that he was therefore ‘possessed by a demon’ (see Luke 7:29-35)!

Food for thought

  1. A hungry mass of guests at Jesus’s picnic

[] Sometimes gospel outreach to the hungry masses was a miraculous picnic hosted by our Lord!

[] When he launched his disciples into itinerant witnessing [No! not ‘internet’ evangelism!] Luke recorded that he specifically ordered then not to take food with them (9:3) but to stay in the first home that offered to feed them (10:17).

[] Then Luke, right after that, tells us his command to them: You feed them’ so that thousands of famished folk were given bread and fish by the disciples from one simple packed lunch (9:13). What a picnic! On clearing up the left-overs, each disciple collected a big basket of scraps, as an object lesson about their Master’s miraculous generosity (see 9:17)

  1. A flustered hostess to Jesus and his friends

[] But no hostess of theirs should feel overburdened in serving meals to his followers. Martha got unnessarily flustered in cooking for Jesus and ‘the twelve’ (see 10:40).

  1. God’s supernatural family menu

Remember that our daily prayer request should precede our heavenly Father’s regular provision (11:3) – ‘Give us each day the food we need.’ Jesus even told a parable of a guest who turned up at the door at the very end of a day – midnight (11:5)! Ask and ‘keep on asking’ (11:9) was his lesson (note the continuous tense!)

Yet, despite the Master’s habit of social dining, he bade us ‘not to worry about . . . enough food to eat’, but to be like ‘the ravens’ that ‘don’t plant or harvest’ yet our heavenly Father supplies their nourishment (see 12:22-24 and 29).

  1. Life is more than earthly food

Even our continual infilling by the Holy Spirit requires us not to be presumptiously laid back and taking his work in us and through us for granted (see 11:11-13).

  1. Let’s be specific about what dining with Jesus doesn’t guarantee

[] After his ‘second coming’, his resurrected people will banquet as if at a ‘wedding feast’ (2:35-37).

[]Those who simply went through the external ritual of religion won’t get into the ultimate banquet hall despite their boast that ‘we ate and drank with you’ (13:21-27)! This is especially the case if, like the prodigal’s older brother, they refuse to celebrate. (By the way, Luke 15:1-2, 15-18, and 27-30 is another cluster of nine references to eating – from pigswill to banquet in as few as eight actual individual verses.)

* So, let’s get more specific in our spiritual lives about what it means today to dine collectivenly with Jesus – and realise what isn’t guaranteed!

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