Pastoral Perspectives

Food, Glorious Food

In February this year, there was a pull-out guide by the Sunday Times on where to enjoy good food in Singapore. The guide came in a five-part series on the 100 best eats around the country’s north, south, east, west and central areas. I faithfully set aside the pull-out guide, aspiring to visit some of these stalls with Ai Tin on my off days.

Food makes me think of my Christian faith. Jesus says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54) The early Christians were accused of cannibalism when people overheard them talking about consuming the flesh and blood of Christ. Of course their eavesdroppers were mistaken!  

Eating and drinking are metaphors for believing in Jesus. The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus to help his disciples remember the purpose of his sacrificial death – “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (2 Corinthians 11:24-26)

When we partake of this sacred meal, we proclaim the Lord’s death. This means that we tell of the Lord’s death, which will include confessing that we believe in the atoning death of Jesus to be sufficient to pay the price our sin deserves, and to bring us into a relationship with God, which is when eternal life begins.

In the Ancient Near East, meals were shared among friends, people with whom one had a good relationship.  And we have an intimate relationship with Jesus. He goes on to say, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:55-56) This speaks of an inter-indwelling relationship we have with Jesus – he in me and I in him.

In the Lord’s Supper, we not only share a meal with Jesus, we also share it with his Body, i.e. fellow saints. We commune with our Saviour and with those whom he has saved even as we eat and drink together. That is why we also call the meal ‘Holy Communion’.

While physical food and drink, however yummilicious, cannot fully satisfy, Jesus being the true food and true drink will satiate our spiritual hunger and quench our spiritual thirst fully. Only in him can we be completely satisfied. St. Augustine echoes this truth when he says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Next, food is associated with the Word of God. After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days, the devil went to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:3-4)

Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. Human beings need bread but more importantly, they need a word from God. Just as we need bread to sustain us physically, we will need the Word of God to sustain us spiritually. Just as God provided manna, the bread of heaven, on a daily basis to the Israelites in the dessert, we too need to imbibe the Word of God on a daily basis so that we can be spiritually nourished. Otherwise, our spiritual growth will be stunted.

Therefore, there is a need to set aside time to read our Bible every day. Just as we do not skip our meals, we also do not want to skip our Bible reading. The meals I take may taste ordinary most of the time, and very forgettable, yet thousands of those forgotten meals have sustained me to this day. They are my daily bread.

Similarly, it is important for us to engage in the spiritual discipline of reading God’s Word every day and listening to the preaching of God’s Word every week. Some Quiet Time passages or sermons might be especially sumptuous because we hear God speak so clearly into our situations. But most of the time, they can just be ordinary or maybe on some days, even boring, dry or uneventful. What should we do? Just as we keep eating, we also want to keep reading and listening to his Word. This is how we receive our daily bread so that we can be sustained spiritually.

It is not just about reading and listening, but more importantly, living by every word that comes from the mouth of God – obedience! Otherwise, we are likened to the one who looks himself in the mirror and immediately forgets how he looks like the moment he walks away (James 1:23-24) or the one who builds her house upon the sand so that when the rain comes down and the floods rise, her house will come down with a big splash (Matthew 7:26-27).

Besides being linked to the Word of God, food is also associated with the work of God. Jesus was with the Samaritan woman at the well when his disciples returned with food from the town urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:31-34)

Jesus saw his ministry to the Samaritan woman as performing his Father’s will, and that was greater sustenance and more satisfying than any food the disciples could offer him. It was not the approval of the masses or the popularity that they accorded him but the joy of pleasing God and doing his Father’s will that gave Jesus satisfaction.

Jesus did not say “My food is to know the will of God”; he said “My food is to do the will of God. Obedience is again the key. Jesus showed his ultimate obedience when he laid down his life so as to fulfil God’s salvation plan for humankind. As Christ’s disciples, may we also walk in his footsteps, desiring to do God’s will as we partner him to carry out kingdom work, thereby deriving a great sense of joy when our hearts are full and God is glorified!

We are grateful to God that we have been given glorious food to eat – feeding on Jesus, our true food and drink, reading and obeying the Word of God, and knowing and doing the work of God. May the Lord sustain us and cause us to grow spiritually as we feast on and with him.

By the way, if you didn’t manage to put your hands on the pull-out guide and you wish to have it, feel free to approach me and I’d be glad to send you a copy via WhatsApp. Better still, we can meet at one of those recommended eateries for a meal so that we not only nourish our bodies with the good food we consume, we can also mutually edify our souls through our conversations and fellowship.

Rev Lee Kien Seng

May 1, 2022