By Michael E. Brooks
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5 NKJV).
One of our students playfully asked the two year old son of a guard and housekeeper couple on the KBC campus, “Ridoy, what would you give Jesus to eat if he were to visit you?” Ridoy answered, “Baht, dim, alou.” That is, rice, egg, and potato. Those are Ridoy’s staple foods, what he eats every day. He would gladly give Jesus the same that he eats. Perhaps he was even thinking, “I would give Jesus my food.”
We read often in the Bible of a special guest being fed the fatted calf (see 1 Samuel 28:24-25; Luke 15:23). The fatted calf was an animal being specially fed and prepared for a feast or a sacrifice. It was the best the family could offer, the finest food available. The prodigal son’s older brother stated that he had never been given so much as a goat to eat with his friends, much less the fatted calf (Luke 15:29-30). The status of and honor given to a guest might be measured by whether he was given the fatted calf for his dinner.
If asked the question given to Ridoy, most of us would probably answer immediately that we would feed Jesus the finest meal we could provide. Whether our favorite is steak or sea food, or a special recipe handed down from our grandmother, we would want to honor our guest with only the best.
That is understandable and certainly has merit. But I wonder, is Ridoy’s answer not even better? Would Jesus not prefer to simply have what we are accustomed to? Would he not prefer to be treated as one of us, in perfect fellowship with us? Consider the implications of the following words,
“For both he who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren. . . Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil” (Hebrews 2:11, 14).
Jesus became like us in order to become one with us. Yes, we honor and glorify him. But we must not distance ourselves from him so much that we are unable to partake of his wonderful gifts. Our desire to offer our guests the very best dinner we can provide limits the occasions when we can have guests. Most of us simply cannot afford that kind of food very often. Like the families in Biblical times, we only have so many fatted calves. Do we want to limit Jesus’ visits that way?
Jesus’ humanity is God’s gift to sinful mankind, given to sanctify, to reveal the divine nature, to instruct in proper living, and to provide comfort and help in that life. He has gone where we go, done what we do, and eaten what we eat. It is when he is one with us that he can bless us. He becomes one with us, when we become one with him.
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Our feeling of intimacy and fellowship with Jesus makes his help immediately available, and offers extra motivation for our service. In the words of Paul, “the love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
We must also ask the question, “Would Jesus eat what we eat?” In Old Testament times under the Law of Moses a faithful Jew could only eat certain foods, and even those had to have been prepared in special ways, so that they would be clean in God’s sight. Since Jesus lived as a perfect Jew, without sin (Hebrews 4:15) under the Law, one who invited him was obligated to serve only clean foods. That is no longer an issue today, as Jesus himself proclaimed all foods clean (Mark 7:19).
But our food is also representative of our lives and our hearts. An old proverb states, “A person is what he eats.” This has literal application to health. It also has symbolic application to one’s attitude, priorities and spirituality.
Anthropologists study evidence of an ancient people’s diet to draw conclusions regarding all aspects of their society. So we may reveal much by what, how much, and with what attitude we eat. If Jesus were to sit at our table what would we need to change? How much differently would we talk, decorate, or serve? Would we eat as much? Would the food be more carefully prepared? What other differences might we make?
Should we not conduct ourselves always so as to be prepared to receive him as a guest? If every meal is suitable for him, would it not also be most suitable for us? Remember, the question is not “If Jesus comes”, but rather, “When he will come.” To consider what we would feed Jesus is to ask whether we are ready for that day. Ridoy would feed Jesus at his table without a second’s hesitation. Would I?