My guess is that most of us would more readily associate Jesus with fasting than with feasting. Yet, the Gospels present a different story.
John opens his account with Jesus attending a wedding and organising a special delivery of wine, and closes it with an impromptu BBQ hosted by Jesus for His closest friends on a Galilean beach. And all the Gospels record the reputation Jesus enjoyed for eating with tax collectors and sinners.
Zaccheus, the archetypal tax collector, received an unexpected guest when Jesus invited Himself along for afternoon tea – with life-changing consequences. Jesus fed the crowds with bread and fish, made sure that Jairus’ daughter, having been raised from the dead, did not die of malnutrition, and even formalised the new covenant over a meal with His friends.
Of course, for the three years recorded in the Gospels, Jesus did not have a home of His own. But Jesus declared that in His Father’s house there were many rooms and that He was going there to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). There is no doubt that had Jesus enjoyed the privilege of living in His own home it would have been an open house. Open to all. His friends would have eaten with Him, but neighbours and strangers too. In fact, the emphasis would be on the latter. All would have been welcome. The business of ‘running the church’ would have happened over a meal and the Kingdom would have come in the form of healing, deliverance and salvation to those on the outside.
As church leaders, my wife, Pippa, and I set a priority on looking for ways in which we could apply this principle in our own home. We gathered our small group leaders regularly for meals together to encourage one another, share good practice, update on pastoral concerns and pray for one another. New people considering our church, the Fountain of Life, as their spiritual ‘home’, would be gathered together for supper. We would host regular gatherings of around twenty to thirty people which would be an eclectic mix of those who were at the centre of our life as a church family alongside those who were more on the fringe.
Now, having passed on the baton of leading the whole church, we lead a small group and just yesterday we gathered ours together with another for picnic lunch in our garden. We talked a bit about ‘hope’, prayed for one another, very informally broke bread together, and enjoyed catching up – all whilst observing social distancing guidelines! We are made for relationship with one another, and hospitality and food provide the opportunity for real community to flourish.