The God who speaks through meals

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples . . .” (Isaiah 25:6a).

Food and hospitality are important in kingdom work. Food and meal customs sit so firmly near the center of a culture, that to accept people’s food is to accept them and to reject people’s food is to reject them – a principle that cross-cultural workers take seriously.

Those who have been around me long enough know that I like to talk about having a theology of food. In the Scriptures, food seems to play a central role in God’s work of redemption.

At the center of the Passover celebration commemorating the Exodus, we find a meal. “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord – a lasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:14).

Then during a Passover meal that occurred hundreds of years later, Jesus instituted another tradition to be celebrated by his disciples through the ages. According to Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples on the day when they sacrificed the Passover lamb; he then gave instructions for the meal we now refer to as the Lord’s Supper or the Lord’s Table.

This meal connected Jesus’ disciples to both the deliverance of the Exodus and the deliverance that was about to come through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Whenever we come to the Lord’s Table, we too are connected to that deliverance. We come as the liberated ones, as a people belonging to a new community whose living leader is hosting a table to which all are invited.

Both the Passover meal and the Lord’s Table point to the glorious final feast, the meal at the end of time depicted in Isaiah 25, a meal called the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19. Those from every tongue, tribe, nation, and time who have placed their faith in Christ will eat together and celebrate the full union of the Church, the bride, with Jesus the bridegroom.

Knowing that God wants every seat at his table filled, the church works around the world through mission agencies extending Jesus’ invitation to the great kingdom feast. Not surprisingly, these opportunities often begin with eating together.
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