“Give them Something to Eat …” –
Lent and food (3-2-2020)
In his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, theologian Stanely Hauerwas reads the feeding miracles and writes, “food and scripture are inseparable” (p.139). Does this mean we need to keep a bowl of peanuts handy for whenever we read the Bible? Not necessarily. Rather, what’s important is to be God-aware all the time, including when we eat.
We don’t have to think about eating. Instinct tells us to do it. Hunger drives us to open our mouths, chew what goes in, and swallow. During Lent, some Christians might include fasting as a spiritual discipline. In this act we go against our nature. For the sake of clarifying our focus on our need for God, we go without the food our body craves for periods of time. Does doing this really help us grow in faith?
Jesus fasts as a spiritual discipline. His effort is almost superhuman, going 40 days without eating (Matthew 4:2). The devil tempts Jesus to quit the fast by miraculously producing food for himself, but Jesus responds, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 “One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Inseparable indeed; Jesus believes God’s word is more essential than food for life.
In Matthew 14 & 15, he is teaching large, large crowds, gathered in the wilderness, away from settlements. No time limits govern him, and he expounds upon life and God’s word and faithful living, speaking up to and through the time of the meal. He feels that what he teaches is as important for people as the food the crowd needs to eat. Then, demonstrating the power of God and the importance of staying attuned to God’s word, he blesses five small loaves (picture circles of pita bread) and two fish. Thousands are fed to the point of being full, and there are baskets of leftovers. The goodness from God will never run out.
The idea of endless provision is one take-way from the miracle feeding stories in Matthew. Another takeaway is the high value Jesus places (and we should place) on the word of God. Tying food and word together, Jesus demonstrates that there is no separation between body and soul. In Christ, we are embodied. Our bodies are not shells to be shed, but parts of ourselves. In resurrection, our bodies are redeemed and made ready for the eternal kingdom of God.
So, fast sometimes and feast at other times. In times of fasting and times of feasting and times in between, be awake to God’s presence. Be attuned to who you are in Christ. The normalcy of life is bathed in our faith when we give ourselves to Jesus. No place or activity is truly profane when the Holy God is always with us.
Allows these stories of Jesus from Matthew to awaken you to His presence in your life.