the art of saying grace
You might think it’s weird, no one is watching, or it doesn’t matter. But it does.
Eating out is a favorite pastime of mine. I love few things more than loading up the car with friends and family and breaking bread at a restaurant.
Everyone knows the rules. After you’re seated, the waiter comes over and takes your drink order. Then they return with the drinks in time to take your food order. If you’re lucky, an appetizer might whet your appetite while you wait for the food to arrive. Cue the chips and salsa.
After a while, you see the waiter carrying a giant tray of steaming hot food toward you. Your heart rate starts to rise as you stare, hoping that they won’t stop at a table before getting to yours. At last, the food is in front of you, and everyone begins preparing to eat.
For the vast majority of tables at any given restaurant, the natural next step is eating. Many times, I’m guilty of going straight to the food; however, I missed a vital step.
I didn’t say grace.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up praying over each meal before we began to eat. We would even joke that bites of food taken before the prayer weren’t “blessed” and occasionally make the early bite offender say the prayer for punishment.
All jokes aside, I always understood that it was a good practice to be thankful for our food, but I never understood why it was so important to say grace each time we ate.
Recently, my small group did a 12-week study through the book of Luke. In our final week of the study, I walked through a story from Chapter 24 with which I was relatively unfamiliar. In Chapter 23, Jesus is condemned, crucified, and buried in a sealed tomb. Chapter 24 begins with Jesus’s resurrection and appearance to many. I remembered Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and many of the apostles, but I didn’t recall His appearance to two men walking down what is called the “Emmaus Road.”
Jesus’s physical appearance must have been different from prior because the men did not recognize who He was. The unrecognizable Christ joined their conversation and asked them what they were discussing. Since the events of the week regarding Jesus were incredibly significant throughout the entire region, the men are baffled that this man wouldn’t assume they were talking about Jesus of Nazareth.
“Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” they said.
Jesus played along.
“What things?” Luke 24:19 NIV
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning, but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” Luke 24:19-24 NIV
Rather than be flattered at His fame, Jesus instead began to rebuke the men.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Rather than be offended by Jesus’s rebuke, the men were astonished at his knowledge. They wanted to continue the conversation.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. Luke 24:28-29 NIV
Okay, you might be wondering. What does this have to do with saying grace? You’re about to find out.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Luke 24:30-35 NIV
Okay, let’s break this scene down. So, the men invited Jesus in to stay with them, and Jesus graciously accepted. Hungry from their journey, they immediately sat down to eat. Instead of diving straight into the meal, Jesus takes the time to give thanks. This very act of saying grace caused the mens’ eyes to open and recognize Jesus.
Once Jesus is recognized, He disappeared. Deeply moved by the entire experience, the men asked each other one of my favorite questions in the whole Bible.
“...Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32
These men realized they had just walked, talked, and broken bread with the Son of God.
Not only that, but John tells us “the Word became flesh” in Christ; therefore, these men had just received teaching from the written word of God by the living word of God! No wonder their hearts burned within them! Talk about an A+ small group session!
Anyway, back to the story.. The men rushed off to Jerusalem to tell the others what they had just witnessed.
“It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Luke 24:34
How did they prove it? They shared their testimony. They told the apostles about their experience walking and talking with Jesus. But, what made their story different from the others who Jesus had already appeared to that day?
The men told of how they recognized Jesus by the way he gave thanks and broke the bread before them.
The men discovered the truth about Jesus by the way Jesus said grace.
If others identified Jesus by the way He said grace, why would it be any different with us today?
You might not think anyone else is looking or even cares, but you’re wrong. I can’t tell you how many meals have been secretly paid for by other patrons at a restaurant or how many people have come over to our table and made positive comments simply because they saw my family or friends say grace before we ate.
Others are watching, and if we, as Christians, don’t take even a few seconds before a meal to thank God for His provision, why should anyone else?
How many times do we as Christians forfeit opportunities to reveal Christ in this way?
It’s not complicated. It’s actually very simple. It doesn’t take long, and it doesn’t have to be eloquent. It needs only to be genuine and thankful.
Nothing we have is our own, which means everything is a gift to us. You wouldn’t miss an opportunity to say thank you to someone who gifted you something on your birthday or Christmas, so why miss an opportunity to thank God for your food?
No passage of scripture is unintentional.
This passage in Luke is incredibly significant when it comes to our witness as believers. If saying grace mattered to Christ, it should matter to us. Next time you sit down for a meal, remember to say grace.
Not because you want to be recognized, rather because you want Christ to be.
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