I got an Amazon Kindle for Christmas so I was eager to try it out. Annoyingly many of the books on my Amazon wishlist don’t have a Kindle edition, or are cheaper to get in paper, but Tim Chester’s “A meal with Jesus” was available at a good price, and after very much enjoying the other books of his I have read, I made it my first Kindle ebook purchase. I had to get the US version, published by re:lit, as the UK edition was strangely unavailable for the Kindle at the time of purchase, but does seem to be there now. I presume the UK edition uses Tesco and the World Cup rather than Walmart and the Superbowl as illustrations.
I wasn’t entirely convinced I would like this book after reading the first chapter. We are told that Jesus did a lot of eating. But don’t we all? Herod also enjoyed a good meal, as did Samwise Gamgee. And living in an age where there was no TV and internet to entertain you in the evenings, it isn’t all that surprising that meals featured prominently in people’s lives.
He starts off by looking at Luke 7:34 – “the Son of Man came eating and drinking”, which he describes as a “statement of method”. Already I was beginning to wonder whether there was going to be some rather strained exegesis at play here. I have always understood this verse as pointing out the obtuseness of the Pharisees for rejecting both Jesus and John the Baptist despite their opposite approaches to diet. Instead, Tim Chester wants us to understand “eating and drinking” as a kind of special missional strategy employed by Jesus.
But enough nit-picking already, because this is in fact another excellent book from Tim Chester. The book is structured around various stories from the gospel of Luke that recount meals Jesus had. He starts by focusing in on who Jesus chose as his mealtime companions. Jesus was known for eating with “sinners”, and this is where Chester’s claim that “eating and drinking” is integral to Jesus’ method for reaching the lost begins to make sense:
This is why eating and drinking were so important in the mission of Jesus: they were a sign of his friendship with tax collectors and sinners.
The implications for our own mission are obvious. Maybe in our desire to come up with all kinds of culturally relevant mission strategies, we have overlooked the very simple and effective approach of Jesus to both discipleship and mission – he spent time with people over meals.
If you share a meal three or four times a week and you have a passion for Jesus, then you will be building up the Christian community and reaching out in mission.
When you combine a passion for Jesus with shared meals, you create potent gospel opportunities.
Meals bring mission into the ordinary. But that’s where most people are—living in the ordinary.
Don’t start a hospitality ministry in your church: open your home.
But this book is about more than just mission. As he works through the stories of Jesus’ meals, Chester treats us to a fascinating theology of food and eating, something I suspect most of us rarely think about.
Neither eating to live (food as fuel) nor living to eat (food as salvation) is right. We’re to eat to the glory of God and live to the glory of God.
He makes a strong case that shared meals should be integral to the life of the church, with communion being celebrated in the home in the context of a meal. He has a number of interesting ideas and insights about communion, such as seeing it as a “foretaste of the messianic banquet” and suggesting that it functions like the rainbow following Noah’s flood, as a reminder to God of his gospel promises.
The Lord’s Supper is a call to God to act in keeping with his covenant: forgiving us, accepting us, and welcoming us to the Table through the finished work of Christ.
It’s not a particularly long book, and he returns to a number of his key themes he develops in earlier books, particularly the link between suffering and glory. It will provoke you to think about how often you eat with both those in your church and those who are not Christians. It is a good reminder for people like myself who are introverts by nature and don’t naturally seek out company at meal times.