In my previous post, I delved into the idea of Jesus eating fast food. One of my conclusions (which might be a given) is that because some fast food isn’t really food, or at least good food, it probably would not appeal to someone who was so intimately connected with the land and creatures around him. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Some fast food chains and many restaurants on the whole are seeking to use better ingredients and more local and sustainable offerings on their menus. Just a few days ago, as I was watching the 2016 Olympics (of course), I saw a lengthy commercial from McDonald’s about how they are finally getting it and will be featuring better food options. They even committed to a future date when all of their eggs will be cage free. So bully for them. But there is something else about fast food that we should consider in terms of ethical eating and Jesus’ life. Is “fast” good for us?
So much of our culture in the United States centers on fast. I will admit, I am one of the most impatient people I know. I rage when driving behind someone going slowly (especially when they are in the passing lane!). I get anxious when people don’t respond to me quickly. I usually want what I want, and I want it right now. But, recently I have taken stock of this and found it to be not only a bad thing, but deeply spiritually concerning.
It is easy to read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and think that he was a really busy. He would heal someone, and then he would preach somewhere, and then he would feed a crowd. But a few things get lost in our way of reading and learning about Jesus. First, the gospels are not diaries or journals. They are not an hour by hour or day by day record of what Jesus did. In fact, most scholars believe the earliest gospel (most likely Mark) was written thirty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. So Mark (whoever he was) was drawing on memories from several decades back. Many things are left out, and it is difficult sometimes to know how much time passed from one event to another. Moreover, the gospels record between one and three years of Jesus’ life. We estimate he died at 33, so there are about thirty years where we have no idea what was going on (unless you are big fan of the Gospel of Thomas, and I’m not).
But, based on what we do read about Jesus, he doesn’t seem to be living at a break neck pace. Yes, Mark’s gospel has a great sense of urgency built in, so the Jesus we see there is more fast paced. But even in Mark Jesus retreats (Mark 1:35) and seeks time for rest (Mark 6:31). Interestingly, in this second passage, just before a miracle of feeding a multitude, it mentions that Jesus and the disciples “did not even have time to eat” because they were so besought by crowds. This is not the only time this is mentioned. Earlier in Mark, there is another reference of Jesus and his followers lacking time to eat (Mark 3:20). The assumption then is that eating takes time. It is not best done quickly.
I have been guilty many times of seeing food only as fuel. In these situations, I eat because I have to. I have purchased food at a drive thru and then basically swallowed it whole on the way to another appointment. Then there are times I skip eating altogether because “I don’t have time.” And yet food is deeply meaningful, perhaps even holy. And eating should be a sacred time set apart in which we give thanks for our food, savor it, and enjoy the company around us or the gift of quiet time as we eat alone. For our ancestors, life was primarily about one thing: food. The job was hunting, gathering, or growing food. This was all you did, and if you didn’t do it, you died. People still struggle for food throughout the world and many die of starvation. For those of us who generally know that we will eat today – likely several times – I believe it is worth taking our eating seriously enough to slow down, give thanks, and enjoy it. Food is indeed a gift to be treasured.
About the Author: Rev. David Hollis is an elder in the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and serves at the Wesley Fellowship for Belmont University in Nashville, TN.