Eat Up!

October 22, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Brad Pitt 2In the 2001 remake of the famed heist film, Ocean’s 11, I found my favorite character to be Rusty Ryan, played by Brad Pitt.  Do I like him because he has the raw street smarts to pull off a $150 million heist at three Las Vegas Casinos simultaneously?  Nope.  Do I like him because he is able to coolly keep his partner, played by George Clooney, in check when as he plans this job only to impress his ex-wife?  Not really.  The reason I like Brad Pitt is because, in almost every scene, Brad Pitt is found chowing down on some piece of junk food.  Indeed, this turned into an intentional gag, as Pitt later himself admitted: “I started eating, and couldn’t stop. I don’t know what happened. It’s just the idea that you never have time to sit down and have a meal while you’re trying to pull off this heist, so my character is grabbing food all the time.”  Now there’s a man after my own heart.  He starts eating and he can’t stop.  I know the feeling.

In Luke 14, Jesus seems to be always eating.  The chapter opens:  “One Sabbath, Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee” (verse 1).  From there, the food motif continues.  Jesus tells a parable:  “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited” (verse 8).  He then follows up this food-based parable with another meal metaphor:  “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid” (verse 12).  What is Jesus’ obsession with food?  Is this some kind of intentional gag?

It is indeed intentional, but it is certainly no gag.  The majority of people in the Ancient Near East subsided on next to nothing.  That is, rather than having a super-abundance of food, they lived on scarcity.  One famine, one drought, or one natural disaster could kill hundreds of thousands of people because they had few reserves in place to stymie a crisis.  Thus, the Old Testament prophets would often promise a day when people would no longer have to contend with these restricted resources.  They would speak of a day of feasting.  The prophet Isaiah writes, for instance, “The LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isaiah 25:6).  The Psalmist promises likewise:  “Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm 92:13-14).  In our day, a promise of fatness is hardly desirable.  But in the first century, when food was scarce, a promise of fatness was a promise of provision.  It was a promise of a lavish feast.

When Jesus speaks of several feasts in Luke 14, He is saying:  “I am the fulfillment of God’s provisional promises.  With Me, God’s feast has come!”  This is why Jesus continues with yet another parable on food:

A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.” Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.” Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.” (verses 16-20)

It is important to understand that the excuses these guests offer as to why they cannot attend this king’s feast are offensive and disingenuous.  To turn down any invitation to share in a meal, much less to share in a lavish feast such as this one, would have been unthinkable in that day.  But this is what these ungrateful invitees do.  Thus, the king responds by ordering his servant: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (verse 21).  This king, one way or another, will have guests at his feast.  And these marginalized people will certainly not turn down the king’s invitation.  And indeed they don’t.  They come to the king’s feast.  But even after they come, the servant returns to his king and says, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.” (verses 21-22).

I love these words.  Even after the poor, the crippled, the blind, and lame fill the king’s banquet hall, there is still room.  There is still room for more feasters.  There is still room for more banqueters.  There is still room.

The king in the parable, of course, is Jesus Himself.  And the invitees to Jesus’ banquet are you and me.  We are invited to share in Jesus’ feast of salvation.  And here’s the good news:   There is still room.  There is still room enough for you to share in God’s salvation.  There is still room enough for you to share in God’s grace.  There is still room enough for you to share in God’s forgiveness.  There is still room enough for you.  So come to Jesus’ feast and share in His goodness.  After all, there is still room enough at His table…just for you.

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