Here’s a topic we don’t typically get around to at church: Jesus enjoyed food. We catch glimpses of it all through the gospel narratives.
When only one small picnic lunch was available to feed a multitude, He didn’t send the people away to fend for themselves. Instead, He multiplied it and fed a crowd of 5000 (Matthew 14). He did it again for a gathering of 4000 hungry people (Matthew 15).
He attended weddings and dug into mezze platters with hummus and olives and figs (I assume) and drank wine.
He invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house — for dinner. (Luke 19)
Before He washed His disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, He ate the Passover meal with them (Matthew 26).
When He appeared to a roomful of disciples after His resurrection, you know what He did? He asked, 'Hey, you guys got anything to eat around here?' (or something similar) (Luke 24: 39-42)
When the disciples came back from a night of fishing, He grilled fish for them for an al fresco breakfast on the beach (John 21).
There is no question that the theme of food is sprinkled through the Bible.
As a man, Jesus ate because He needed food to live. But He also used food to invite people into His circle and as a way to be let into theirs. We don’t see examples of Jesus eating alone. Instead, we see food being a shared, communal experience.
Jesus reclined at tables with saints and sinners. He multiplied food for a huge crowd of 5000 (not counting the women and kids) and He had them sit in groups so they could chat over their fish fillet sandwiches. He served a bedraggled group of fishermen by cooking for them. And He sets a gracious and glorious example for us to follow.
As women, I believe many of us have a natural inclination toward hosting people and cooking for them. But, perhaps, the ministry of gathering around a table has been discounted and deemed 'less important' than the types of service that reach larger audiences like preaching or playing in a worship band. Yet Jesus shows us otherwise. He went out of his way to eat with his friends, with strangers, with outcasts, and even those who may have considered Him an enemy.
It wasn’t about the food — meals at the time were simple, possibly even frugal by today’s standards. It was about the open invitation and the warm welcome. It was about creating a sacred space for others to be included.
When we open our homes to friends and to those on the margins, we are inviting them to fellowship with us.
That word —'fellowship'— has slipped into Christian jargon as a synonym for 'eating together' — but it’s far more significant than just biriyani lunches in the church hall after Sunday service. The Hebrew word for fellowship, koinonia, means 'to have in common' or 'to share'.
When we gather around a table, we break barriers and cultural divides.
When we linger over a meal, we share a part of our lives with each other.
When we invite people into our homes, we represent the heart of Christ who invites us to His banqueting table.
Let me confess, though, that when I invite someone home, it can turn into a production. I fuss over the menu days earlier, buy the ingredients well in advance, craft my dessert about 12 hours ahead of the planned event, and then invest substantial time making sure there are enough appetisers and beverages and that the bathrooms are adequately sparkly.
But that’s not hosting people, that’s entertaining people. There’s a difference. A big one. Hosting people is about putting them at the centre of the story. Entertaining people is when I want the spotlight and yearn for the applause.
Of course, I’m not dismissing that we invest thoughtful planning into a meal. I’m not sneering at the idea of picking up our homes so our guests can find a spot on the couch.
But, if you’re like me, may we challenge ourselves to open our homes with the intent to bless and not impress. May we throw open our doors even when the kitchen is a glorious mess and the food is a bunch of leftovers thrown together with a creative twist. This isn’t about perfection. It’s about being present for others, even if it means eating off disposable plates and drinking from chipped cups. It’s about creating rich experiences with the simplest of fare. It’s about the sacred experience of connecting over a meal as Jesus did with His disciples and His dissenters.
May we learn to practice the grace of hospitality. Like the Lord’s invitation to His banqueting table, may the banner over all we do be love.
A Creative (And Not-So-Precise) Recipe For Leftovers: Kothu Paratha
Here’s (roughly) what you’ll need:
Rotis – the old, dry ones work perfectly well
Chicken curry leftovers
Any sabzi (dry vegetable dish) from the fridge
Here’s what you’ll do:
-Take the chicken (from the chicken curry) off the bones. Set it aside. (Don’t discard the gravy.)
- Cut up all your old rotis into bigger-than-bite-size pieces. Set it aside.
- Scramble the eggs with some salt and pepper in a big kadai (pan). Set it aside.
- In the same kadai, sauté some sliced onions till they are transparent.
- Add chopped tomatoes and sauté till they soften.
- Add the gravy of your leftover chicken curry.
- Throw in all the small katoris of sabzis you have lying around (Just to be clear: we’re adding the veggies in the katoris and not the katoris themselves).
- Add in the boneless chicken pieces. Throw in the very roughly chopped rotis. Finally, add your scrambled eggs and a whole bunch of coriander leaves.
- Mix in a little bit of ketchup.
- Voila! Serve your guests a somewhat authentic South Indian Kothu Paratha dish.