Salvation by Eating and Drinking
What is salvation? And what did Christ do to enact salvation for mankind? The most simple answer is found in the book of Luke. And it is often quoted as a clear cut mission statement for Jesus and subsequently the church,
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10, NASB)
This verse, however, only answers the question we put to it. Which means the question we ask of it is quite important. Does this verse describe the earthly ministry of Christ? Or does it describe his non-repeatable, sacrificial act on the cross? Put another way, is this prescriptive of Christ's ministry, and hence the church, or a standalone, unique activity by the Son of God?
I am quick to associate with the later position. I do not believe the two ideas need to be pitted against each other but I find Christ saying "my ministry, kingdom, and eventual death is for these." This is not something a covenant community would be expected to pick up and carry. This also would not have been surprising to a student of the law. Sacrifices in the Old Testament were for those who had committed sins. A select spotless sacrifice could save the sinful. A spotless Christ could save the lost. The fault of the religious people in Jesus' day was not that they were too focused on the law but that they were neglecting the most important part: the grace of God found in sacrifice. Christ came to demonstrate that the Messiah saves sinner. And then He did in fact save sinner. The church's mission is to proclaim that Christ did in fact, once for all, save sinners.
Well, since it is not the church's mission to pick up Christ's mantle in this regard what is the church to do? If the church cannot pick up "seek and save that which is lost" as its mantra what Scripture does provide guidance? The question put another way is: how does Christ's goal manifest itself in Christ's earthly ministry? And ultimately, can the church conform itself to Christ's ministry? Despite potential agreements on what Christ meant by these words in Luke 19:10, it should be clear as to how he accomplishes these goals,
"The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'" (Luke 7:43, NASB)
Recently, this concept has been helpfully illustrated by Tim Chester in A Meal with Jesus. Before the cross Christ was about eating and drinking with sinners. These were the precursor indications of who he would go to the cross for. This again should not have been surprising to student of the law. The passover sacrifice was central to a meal. Many elements of the sacrificial system indicate meal-like qualities (this explains the explicit meal-sacrifices of Judges). Christ ate with those who would eat him. This is how Christ makes himself known.
This leads to one of my favorite moments in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus has many important bread-breaking moments. He seems to be breaking bread throughout the gospel as a means of revealing himself. No experience is as descriptive as the last however. In revealing himself to the disciples traveling to Emmaus Christ remains obscured and hidden throughout his teaching. He is not known in his person, his words, or his distinct teaching. This of course is because Christ is shielding the disciples from knowing and understanding. It is only by grace that we recognize the resurrected Lord. In a paradigmatic moment for the church Christ reveals himself at the table,
"When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him" (Luke 24:30-31, NASB)
In language that echoes passover and the feeding of the five thousand, Christ makes himself known in the breaking of bread. Just as he has revealed his ministry and kingdom at the table for sinners, so now he reveals his risen identity through a meal. This is why the church has historical concluded its service with the supper. A reminder of God's manner of creating His kingdom. It establishes the kingdom in the midst of the church and then sends the church out.
Thus the church should focus on the simplicity of meals as an outworking of vocation. Vocation is the key to accurately seeing no division between sacred and secular. Eating is the outworking of vocation. We work to provide for our families. We expand the family of God by including people in our meals and inviting them to the Lord's table.