There’s a card in my recipe box from a decade ago when the kids were toddlers. At the top, in big letters, it says “Meals the Kids Will Eat.” It includes spaghetti, grilled hamburgers and chicken & noodles (with peas). I remember meals being exhausting and frustrating as we tried to coax each kid to eat a few more bites. I can’t say that things have changed much over the years…. they still gobble up homemade pizza but choke down vegetable soup. Only half of them will eat broccoli and the other half of them hate potatoes (Also, to further illustrate my point, I feel like you should know I have three kids).
“In the past few years, I’ve made a point to pay more careful attention to the answer when I ask my kids ‘What do you want for dinner?’ says Jenny Rosenstrach in her cookbook How to Celebrate Everything. “What I’m really asking is: ‘What foods will someday have the power to transport you back to your childhood?’”
I remember Sunday dinners. Somehow my mom found a way to get dinner in the oven before we left for the early service. We’d walk into the house after church, the smell of roasted chicken and potatoes hitting us at the door. To this day, mom always makes me the same apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting for my birthday. Cinnamon rolls at Christmas. Hot chicken salad. Grilled cheese with homemade bread. Sugary cereal on vacation. (She would like me to tell you that she made us plenty of vegetables and healthy foods… but I can’t seem to remember those). Even as an adult, when I go home, I want the meals that take me back to another time.
Our souls long for those familiar rhythms of childhood dinners, don’t they? For many of us, those times were simpler, the memories bring us comfort and peace. When everything seems to be a rushing, swirling mess all around us, wouldn’t it just be nice to have Mom hand us a big bowl of homemade chili?
Just before He was arrested, Jesus sent two of His disciples to make preparations to celebrate the Passover meal. It was a familiar meal to them; one they had all grown up celebrating with the same foods and the same rituals. I can’t help but wonder what Jesus felt as He sat with His closest friends.
What a pivotal night— a significant in-betweeness— He must’ve felt, torn between the memories of the past and the expectation of what would quickly come. I wonder what memories of His childhood years flooded back to Him… His mother, Mary, bent over making the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, the lamb? His Father, Joseph, leading his family through the history of the meal, recounting how their ancestors had fled Egypt, no longer slaves?
As they sat down for what we would know as The Last Supper, Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:14-16 MSG). Jesus, who knew all that would transpire over the next few days, took the time to be intentional, to build into His disciples one last time. He took what was familiar and He brought new meaning to it— a New Covenant. A new way to live.
Don’t you wonder how the disciples looked back on their final Passover with Jesus? Before everything changed… before Judas betrayed Jesus, before Peter would deny Christ, before Jesus was arrested and crucified. The Last Supper was the peace before the storm. Familiar rituals and familiar foods ushered in the most turbulent, life altering events of their lives. Jesus nourished their souls as He prepared to die.
“Open your mouth and taste,
open your eyes and see how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to Him.”
(Psalm 34:8 The Message)
Today, under my Bible and notebook as I write, there’s a grocery list and a meal plan. We’ll celebrate the Seder meal on Thursday, on Sunday family will gather for a traditional Easter meal. I’m struck with the enormity of Jesus’ last meal and the power of rituals. I’m struck with the power our childhood meals have to evoke emotion and comfort. And I’m struck with the simplicity of the meal He shared and the meals my kids ask for. Nothing fancy, gourmet or time consuming.
I find myself falling in love with Jesus even more, as I think of His last meal and the way He loved, even when the cost was so high.
So I’m curious about you. What meals do you remember growing up? What are your soul foods? What meals evoke strong memories to you, so that no matter where you are, you feel like you are home? And what does it mean to you that Jesus was excited to share His Last Supper with His disciples, while looking forward to His next meal— One that will include us— when He returns?
It’s impossible for me to know your details. I’m well aware that your childhood memories of food may be a painful subject. I also realize you may not be familiar with this story of Jesus and His disciples. So today, no matter what, may you know that you are deeply loved by a God who is waiting for you to run to Him, no matter the cost, no matter the circumstances.
It’s Easter. Let’s celebrate Jesus, who nourishes our souls.
[Want to read the Easter story? It’s found four times in the Bible, written from the perspective of four different writers. The details of each story are a bit different, but the basic outline is the same. Find it in Matthew 26:17-28:13, Mark 14:12-16:20, Luke 22:7-24:49 and John 13:1-20:31. Bible Gateway is a great way to read the Bible online if you’d rather read electronically.]