© 2018 Lynn Abbott
He decided to surprise me. He actually made a challenge of it each day on our sojourn: my husband looked for unusual and visually rich settings for our hotels and overnight stays.
He may not be a painter, but he’s certainly creative.
I usually like to know where I’m going, but I trust him implicitly.
Eventually, after a long drive and a trek down a dirt and gravel road, we arrived at a lovely villa, nestled among vineyards. My husband proudly announced that we would stay overnight. He hoped it would provide inspiration for future paintings.
It was all that I imagine “breaking bread together” to be.
It provided oh-so-much more. Our host invited us to dinner. And what a dinner it was! It included every course in the book … four hours of culinary delight.
Each course provided abundantly beyond what we needed for basic nutrition. Our host honored us with his attention to detail. His thoughtfulness allowed us the opportunity to slow down as well as to celebrate life with the other guests.
And celebrate we did. During those four hours of feasting, a great many stories were shared.
Much to my delight, my husband and I conversed with the couple to our left. Soon, they revealed that they both were artists. He, in fact, had exhibited his work in well-known, international venues and museums.
We represented different points on life’s journey. Yet, despite the artist’s amazing career, he humbly conversed with my husband and me. We exchanged stories of our travels. In addition, he and his wife encouraged me on my art journey.
And although we began our meal as strangers, we said “goodnight” as friends.
It’s amazing what can occur when we share a meal, story or celebration. I think that sometimes we tend to overlook the importance of story-telling, the significance of symbols that connect us.
But it’s no surprise to our God. Through the writer of the book of Hebrews, in fact, our Creator exhorts us to slow down and prioritize time for reviewing all the grace that God has shown to us (Hebrews 10:25).
And far beyond the experience that the vineyard owner gave my husband and me, our Creator-God has provided you and me with all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
Through Scripture, He has graciously presented us with a complete meal of Biblical history, teaching, stories and symbols. Each course offers us strength for today and hope for tomorrow.
Although we began our meal as strangers, we said “goodnight” as friends.
Jesus, of course, was the master story-teller. Parables served as the hallmark of his instruction. And He obviously understood the importance of evenings like the one we shared with new friends over a meal in a distant vineyard.
After all, He taught as He walked alongside His disciples and as they ate meals together. Those conversations not only inspired, but they also instilled the hope that the disciples hung onto in dark hours after Jesus’ crucifixion.
During their final Passover meal together, Jesus painted a profound visual of the days that immediately lay ahead, “…’Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.
You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy… Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy,” (John 16:19-22).
He also told them over that meal of bread and wine, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5).
Sure, dark days would come, but those days would usher in tremendous joy. And in Him, they would do great things.
He said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me,” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you…” (Luke 22:19-20).
Without a doubt, our Savior understood the role that shared symbols play in our lives. He knew the power of breaking bread together and recalling the work of God in our lives. Communion expresses God’s great love and grace toward us in a dramatic way.
Our Savior gave them a profound visual aid: the bread and the wine.
As a child, I used to wonder why my elders designated our mealtime prayers as “grace.” I think I understand now. You see, the food on the table not only represents the grace of God’s physical provision for us, but it also provides an opportunity for us to gather and celebrate the spiritual blessings or grace that we have in Christ.
Stories told; blessings recalled…when we assemble together.
Again and again, Jesus gave us vivid images of God’s plan and grace.
Through His parables and analogies, we learn that we are…
beloved sheep cared for by the Sovereign Shepherd ( John 10:14),
branches grafted into the Vine (John 15:5),
lost coins– treasured and found (Luke 15:10),
a bride waiting the return of her groom (Matthew 25:1),
a faithful servant rewarded upon the return of his master (Matthew 25:21),
a disciple celebrating the “Lamb of God” with wine and unleavened bread (Luke 22).
Again and again, Jesus gave us vivid images of God’s plan and grace.
Symbols and stories of God’s grace… After Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, the disciples often recounted those stories to one another, and before long their testimonies were recorded for those who would follow.
Through Scripture, God presents the perfect meal–the story of His prepared grace for humanity–comprehensive and intricate in its design. The Passover represented the work of the Messiah, and Jesus predicted His death and resurrection during His last Passover meal with the twelve.
Story upon story; layer upon layer.
Yes, our Savior gave His disciples hope through an object lesson expressed through a shared meal. But it wasn’t just any meal. Abba provided the symbolic setting–the Passover Celebration–to provide the ultimate context for Christ’s person, teaching, and work…God’s grace, unveiled.
It’s all there in glorious, intricate and meticulous detail.
From beginning to end, God reveals His plan and hints of the incredible future He promises to those who place their faith in His Son…
For this reason, we relish each flavor; we memorize each line. We rejoice and remember Abba’s goodness and grace as we walk along the way or as we break bread together.
Abba’s grace and great love are revealed in every line and stroke of His masterpiece.
And the encouragement we receive for our journey is greater than any I received that evening at the vineyard.
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up,” (Deuteronomy 11:19).
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” ~Hebrews 10:25