Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. — John F. Kennedy
If you were to ask me about my earliest memory of food around the table, I’d tell you about that time I was seven. I’d tell you about Lucky Charms.
My sister and I were angry, our little hearts bubbling with hurt. I’m not sure what we were mad about, but the only answer seemed to be to run away. We vented loudly about our plan as we packed our tiny backpacks. We weren’t trying to sneak out; we were trying to send a message. And we were going to send that message by walking out the front door in broad daylight.
We flung open the front door, proclaiming, “Goodbye!” But before our tiny feet went from home to the outside world, my mom emerged from the kitchen. Calm and gentle as ever, holding two bowls of our favorite cereal. We predicted she was about to plead for us to stay, but she simply invited us to eat.
“Before you go on your long journey, perhaps you want to have some breakfast first? Surely you will need some nourishment. And then you can be on your way.”
My sister and I looked at each other, both starting to feel the growl of our tummies. Yes, food first. We dropped our bags and sat at the table, spooning cereal into our mouths. What was breakfast for us was a gracious offer of nourishment and a nudge toward peace from my mom. Whatever we were upset about seemed to fall into the pit of our stomachs with that meal. Sweet conversation arose, perhaps sweeter than the milk after all that cereal was gone. We lingered. After we got up from the table, we decided that perhaps today was not a good day to run away. It might rain. Or, maybe by the time we got on with it, lunchtime would be nearing. And how could we go on a long journey without lunch? So we unpacked our bags and settled in. To my recollection, we never tried to run away again.
That was the first meal I received as a peace offering, a meal that didn’t primarily serve as physical nourishment, but instead was used as a pathway to peace. This is the power of a meal, even something as simple as a bowl of cereal, and my mom knew it. Jesus knew it too. I think He knew food could be used to proclaim peace every time He stepped into a tax collector’s home. He knew food could be used to offer peace every time He reclined at a table with those who were known as notorious sinners. He joined them in the necessary and vulnerable act of eating a meal, and through that He brought peace.
The apostle Peter seemed to be a man who needed the peace of God repeatedly — especially in those days following the crucifixion of his beloved Master.
After Jesus’ sacrifice and the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee. I wonder if it all felt like one big adventure that had ended with too many questions and the unimaginable, gaping void of Jesus’ presence. Peter and the disciples went back to the existence they’d had before Jesus had banged loudly into their lives. Maybe they were groping for a little familiarity after such a heart-shattering and, ultimately, humanity-shattering week. Failure can drape any vestige of peace in a dark, thick veil, leaving a heart without a compass.
I can only imagine what Peter must have felt as he stayed up late into the night, fishing, participating in an activity that belonged to his former life, before Jesus had called him. Maybe he felt like he had lost his way. After all, he knew he had forsaken his Lord. Peter, the devout and confidently committed disciple, found his last stand for Jesus soaked in denial. Repeated denial. Denial just the way Jesus had predicted it. It must have been a night of mental gymnastics, tossing and turning with regret and failure. Maybe he wished for a do-over.
That night had to have been long, but maybe Peter found comfort in the familiar sway of the boat in the water. Maybe he thought, This is where I belong. This is what I know. And what sorrow daylight must have brought when he found his net empty and saw failure even where he had once been an expert. But the thing about Jesus is, He overcomes. And He shows up in this gray scene. He comes with a meal.
Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Master.
Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown Himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead. (John 21:12-13 The Message)
What an outbreak of peace and comfort Peter must have experienced when he saw his Christ on the shore, preparing a meal of bread and fish. This would not be a short encounter. It would be one of provision. Lingering. Eating. Conversation. Jesus fed Peter’s weary body after a night of laboring, relying on his own efforts. And then Jesus reinstated Peter, reminding Peter to feed his sheep and creating space for Peter to proclaim three times that he loved Jesus. Three times, each one an eraser for the three denials he’d voiced at Jesus’ trial.
I sometimes wonder why, during Jesus’ repetitive question to Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” Peter never interjected and asked, “But, Lord, do You still love me?” Peter had to have known that even though his rejection was severe and threefold, Jesus’ love was absolute and never changing.
Peter sat on that sandy beach with Jesus, shoveling pieces of flaky fish into his mouth, and he knew his Savior brought peace. Peter went looking for fish all night, and Jesus met him with more fish than he could have imagined. At that table on the beach, Jesus conveyed, “You’re still Mine.” He broke bread with Peter and affirmed, “My broken body is for you too.” Surely that day Peter put away his fishing net for good. Surely that day Jesus took Peter’s deflated and scarred heart and said, “I still call you to great things.” And he did this all beside the fire of a meal. A meal presented as an offer of peace to calm the turmoil in Peter’s heart.
If my table could look like this scene for my loved ones, it would be grand. To call my weary people to the table for a time of peaceful refreshing, complete with a meal that will nourish. To sit with them in their hurt and restlessness and what they feel might be failure at the end of the day. To remind them that Jesus calls them to great things. To take the net of their day and exchange it for His peace. That would be the greatest privilege.
Jesus knew how to host a meal. Even one on a sandy beach with a few fish and a loaf of bread. The meal didn’t have to be extravagant, because Jesus’ love was. Jesus’ love still is. And that’s all we need to walk in complete peace and assurance.
Prayer for the Table
Father, we come to You just as we are. We come home after a day at war with our flesh. We come home feeling like we may have lost a few battles, like we missed the mark of Your calling. But we look to You for our peace tonight. We look to You because we know You have not forsaken us. You have not called us back to our former life apart from You, but You draw us ever nearer, reminding us that we do, in fact, love You more than this world and what it has to offer. Fill us with Your peace that reminds us You won the war. Fill us with Your peace as we share a meal.
Excerpted with permission from Come and Eat by Bri McCoy, copyright Brianne McCoy.
Author Bri McKoy personally invites you to come and eat!
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What do you most want people to leave your table feeling? Is it peace? Did you find peace at your table growing up? How can we usher the peace of God to our table? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily