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Food and following

Jesus calls us to live a radically new life as His followers. We are called to be with Him, enjoy time together, learn from Him, and be transformed from inside to out. 

BIBLICAL PREACHING AUTOR 108/Peter_Mead 04 DE ABRIL DE 2024 10:45 h
Photo: [link]Luisa Brimble[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

It seems like food is significant in every culture. 

Whether a culture is known internationally for its food or not, something about sitting down together to eat carries more significance than the mere fuelling of the body or renting restaurant space for a meeting. 

In Jesus’ time, it is evident that table fellowship mattered greatly.

In Matthew 9:9, Jesus called Matthew from the tax booth to a new life as a follower of Jesus.  That may seem like a familiar idea to us, but having such despised sinners as followers was a radical act by Jesus. 

Who deserves to be his follower?  Who deserves to be his apprentice, learn from him, become like him, relate to him, and be launched into a life of ministry representing him?  Did Matthew deserve it?  Do you or I deserve it?  May we never lose the wonder of the call to be his followers!

Immediately, we read of Jesus reclining at the table with many tax collectors and sinners.  Luke’s account points out that Matthew laid out a “great feast,” although Matthew was too humble to mention that detail.  (Luke 5:29)


The fellowship question (Matthew 9:10-13)

The meal sparked a fairly obvious food-related question – who should Jesus eat with? 

To the religious evaluators, it was obvious that Jesus should not be eating with tax collectors and sinners. Indeed, they were the ones who’d earned the invite to the special meal.

I was recently with a pastor whose church seeks to reach out to the marginalized and the maligned of society.  He took my family to dinner, and we enjoyed a wonderful meal together at his favourite restaurant. 

[destacate] Jesus called Matthew from the tax booth to a new life as a follower of Jesus.  That may seem like a familiar idea to us, but having such despised sinners as followers was a radical act by Jesus [/destacate] He told us how, when his church had started, they hired this restaurant and filled it with people who may never have eaten in a restaurant before.  The feast was a gift.  The gift was not just the food; it was a fantastic way to get to know a Jesus who would sit and eat with societal nobodies like Matthew’s friends.

It is interesting how Jesus responded to the question.  He differentiated between those who are healthy and those who are sick.  It is the sick who know they need the help of the physician. 

After all, whoever says, “Let me allow my broken ankle to heal, and then I will head for the hospital”, or “Let me wait for this abdominal pain to pass before I go and get checked out?”  It makes no sense to hold back when you know you need help.

Jesus called the religious to soften their hearts toward those who knew their spiritual need.


The fasting question (Matthew 9:14-17)

Matthew follows up with another food-related question.  Why do Jesus’ followers eat? 

Some of John the Baptist’s disciples wanted to know about fasting.  After all, the Pharisees were promoters of the Old Testament Law and promoted fasting. 

Then, they were followers of the final Old Testament prophet and were into fasting, too.  So, indeed, if Jesus were a step forward religiously, he would promote fasting even more. 

The Law, the Prophets, and now came Jesus; therefore, his followers should be fasting extra!  But they missed something: Jesus was not just another step forward. He was the goal of it all!

Jesus spoke in wedding terms.  A wedding day is not a normal day.  You never walk into a wedding reception and expect to find people fasting.  It is a day of feasting!  It cannot be a typical day when the bridegroom is present! 

Jesus went on to give two everyday examples to make a point.  Nobody would put a piece of unshrunk cloth onto an old garment because it would self-destruct when it got wet and dried again. 

Everyone knew that.  Likewise, nobody would put new wine into old, hard, shrunk, leathery wineskins.  Again, it would self-destruct when the wine fermented and expanded.  Everyone knew that, too. 

So, to Jesus’ point – his work was not just another step forward in the Old Testament line of promise.  It was the launch of something profoundly new that could not be contained in the old framework.

We may not be from a Jewish background and tempted to try to squeeze the radically new gift of New Covenant life into the framework of the Old Covenant. 

But actually, we are all tempted to try to add the new life Jesus offers into the old way of religious effort that always characterizes humanity. 

It is so easy to think that becoming a Christian adds a few more responsibilities onto my to-do list of moral efforts for respectable living.  However, that is not how it works.  It is a radically new life.

Jesus came to transform our lives by his presence.  He calls us to live a radically new life as his followers.  We are called to be with him, enjoy time together, learn from him, and be transformed from inside to out. 

[destacate] It is easy to think that becoming a Christian adds a few more responsibilities onto my to-do list of moral efforts. However, it is a radically new life[/destacate] We are called to feast in joy because he has come.  We are called to fast in earnest because he is currently away.  Jesus is not asking you to become more religious; he is offering something far more radical than that.

As our thoughts are drawn to the first Easter, remember the radical nature of all that Jesus has done for us.  And then don’t settle for a modified version of religious living. 

We get to follow the risen Christ through the year ahead.  Jesus offers a radically new life to really needy folks like you and me.

Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. He blogs at Biblical Preaching




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