Growing up, I loved to read about King Arthur and his knights. Names such as Lancelot and Galahad fed my dreams of being a knight one day. The knights saved damsels, wore gleaming armor to protect themselves, and fought wicked warlords. Then at the end of the day, they would gather and feast around a unique table—famous because it was round and everyone sitting at it had equal value. King Arthur brought himself down to his knights’ level to show his love for this fellowship of warriors.

The table in my parents’ kitchen was not so grand. It was a classic Formica vintage green swirl design standing firmly on metal legs. It didn’t have knights’ names carved into it, but I knew where each member of my family would sit as we ate together. I knew where my dad liked to sit before heading off early to work, where my mom liked to sit when she ate lunch and read, or exactly how many laughing aunts would fit around the table while the men were out wrangling the barbeque on a summery Christmas Day in Australia.

I still remember my father baking his favorite dessert, quandong pie.* When it came out of the oven, he would put it on the kitchen table, and we would happily divide it up, pouring thick white cream over it. Even today, whenever I eat quandong pie, I think of him and the memories we made over that food.

Eating together is fundamental

Eating with other people is one of humanity’s most important and basic activities. It has always been more than just a way to stave off hunger; it’s a way to build relationships and trust. Sharing a meal creates bonds between people and allows us to understand each other a little better. When we eat with someone, we’re vulnerable in their presence. We let our defenses drop and reveal our humanity when we eat.

Social eating marks every major occasion of our lives. It’s something we’re all familiar with instinctively. At our birth, there are parties with food, and each year we remember our birth with a cake. We have a big party with food when we turn 18 or 21. Christmas is usually marked with a special banquet. When we marry, it’s traditional to have a feast and cut a special wedding cake. And when someone passes away, even in the midst of all the grief and formality, someone is organizing a buffet luncheon for the occasion. Anytime something important is happening, there’s usually someone nearby setting up a table with food on it!

Eating together can have cultural value. During a visit to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as our bus rattled into a dusty desert hotel, the tour guide pointed to a group of bedouin who had set up their tents just outside the hotel entrance. He told us that if we met any bedouin during our stay and they invited us to eat with them, we must say yes. To refuse to eat together could be taken as a social slight and might cause offense. Eating with someone communicates trust.

Eating food from a different culture gives us insight into a whole new people group.

Starved for company

Food brings people together unlike anything else. But recent statistics suggest that Westerners are missing out—not from a lack of food but from a lack of experience in eating together. A 2018 Cigna/Ipsos study found that just under half of those surveyed (46 percent) reported feeling alone and/or feeling left out “sometimes” or “always” (47 percent). At least two in five of those surveyed felt that they sometimes or always lacked companionship (43 percent), their relationships were not meaningful (43 percent), they were isolated from others (43 percent), and/or that they were no longer close to anyone (39 percent).

The consequences of this loneliness are sobering: it has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity! Loneliness has been shown to lead to health problems and social issues. It seems as though we aren’t spending as much time with each other as we used to. Thus, socializing through food isn’t just something that’s nice to do. It can be a lifesaver!

In memory of Me

It’s no coincidence, then, that Jesus often chose to compare Himself to food, particularly bread and wine. These items were dietary staples at the time. Jesus wanted people to think of Him every time they ate a meal! In fact, it was the last thing He chose to do with those closest to him. He sat with His twelve disciples at their last supper together and carried out some simple but profound actions.

First, He washed His friends’ feet, which had become dusty from the road, so they would be clean for the meal. Washing someone else’s feet doesn’t sound like something we would do these days, but He did it to show He wasn’t lording it over anyone, that He was actually there to serve them. He was their Servant! He brought Himself down to their level to show His love for His friends. You can read the story in John 13:1–17.

Then Jesus took some bread and wine, said that they represented His body and blood, and broke the bread and shared it among His disciples along with the wine.

“Do this in remembrance of me,” He said (1 Corinthians 11:24).

That last supper is formalized now in many churches as the Lord’s Supper, but at its heart, it’s just eating together—Jesus sitting with those He loved and sharing food and drink with them. He knew the importance of the shared meal, and His bread and wine added extra symbolism to this most essential of human activities.

He knew that every time His followers would sit and eat a simple meal of bread and wine, their thoughts would go back to that last supper, and they would remember Him and His love for them. After Jesus’ death on the cross, the bread and wine took on even greater meaning for His disciples, and His words began to make sense. His body, the bread, had been broken. His blood, the wine, had been poured out.

And you and I are invited to take part in the Lord’s Supper—a shared meal just like that last supper where we also come together, remember that last meal Jesus had with His disciples, and especially remember the cross where He died.

By sharing food with each other, we will find ourselves getting closer and forming a bond that wasn’t there before. When I share quandong pie with someone, I’m passing on something I got from my father, a bond of affection that draws people closer through food. I think that’s a good solution to the loneliness in our society. And the shared meal that Jesus introduced to His disciples is the only solution for our broken world.

Maybe we can’t be a knight at King Arthur’s round table, and some may not yet be ready to accept the bread and wine that Jesus is offering, but we can all still open the tables at home to our circle of loved ones and friends, or perhaps even lonely neighbors who might appreciate eating together, and share the warmth of a good meal.

Remembering the Lord’s Supper

All four Gospel accounts retell the story of Jesus’ last meal before His crucifixion, but we get different details from each one:

  • Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7 tell us that the meal was held on the day a lamb was typically sacrificed as part of the Jewish Passover festival. This event has deep historical and spiritual significance. You can read the story of the first Passover and the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Exodus 12. Jesus the Messiah is linked with the sacrificial lamb in Isaiah 53:7, John 1:29, and Revelation 5.
  • Matthew 26:20 and Mark 14:20 tell us that it was Jesus’ core group of twelve disciples who were present with Him rather than a larger group.
  • John 13:1–17 tells us that Jesus washed His disciples’ feet during this meal, but John doesn’t mention Jesus’ words about the bread and wine. Nevertheless, we know John is recalling the same meal because of the other details that are similar, such as the revelation that Judas would betray Jesus (Matthew 26:21–25; Mark 14:18–21; Luke 22:21–23; John 13:18–30).
  • Matthew 26:26–28, Mark 14:22–24, and Luke 22:19, 20 recall Jesus’ words about the bread being His body and the wine being His blood. Luke records Jesus asking His disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.”
  • The apostle Paul, one of Luke’s traveling companions, uses the same phrase as he reminds his readers about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25. And we know from Acts 2:42, 46 that the early Christians followed Jesus’ instructions and ate together regularly.

Justin Bone pastors two Adventist churches in Melbourne, Australia. He’s married with one daughter and is passionate about helping young people understand the Bible better.

* Quandong pie is made from the red quandong fruit, which is native to the South Australian outback. A recipe can be found on the G’day Soufflé website at http://www.gdaysouffle.com/quandong-pie-from-outback-australia/.

Eating Together

by Justin Bone
  
From the April 2019 Signs