Is it Edible? From the Shepherd’s Nook

By John Frye

Jesus at the Margins- 3

The Chinese have a proverbial question: Is it edible? The proverb is not about food. It’s about ideas, concepts, principles. If an idea is “edible” that means it is practical; it becomes a working part of life. It is not theory; it is concrete reality here and now. Edible.

Jesus was edible. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood.” He also said, “This is my body given for you.”

Jesus did not change the margins with ideas. He changed the margins with concrete actions. His meal-time practices were “provocative theatre.” You could see the people, smell the food, hear the laughter, even dip bread into the same dish with Jesus. You could actually live in the kingdom of God with Jesus. The kingdom of God was concretely and truly a new world: the last were first, the least the greatest, the powerless infant the proto-type, reigning disciple. You could breathe deeply the grace of God and see shame flee away forever.

Following Jesus was, by his culture’s 2nd Temple Judaism’s standards, an R-rated action movie, not a G-rated, purpose-driven Bible study in someone’s comfy living room. Jesus’ public actions went against the grain of good religion. We do not read about Jesus’ critics saying, “This man welcomes sinners and gives them new ideas.” We read, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Sounds Chinese.

With a thousand times ten thousand “kingdom of God” ideas and concepts permeating the world wide web, the church will not see one person converted. Are the ideas edible? Jesus did things. He broke bread with a violent fanatic and invited him to be a team member (a zealot); he called a tax-collector to be his follower and enjoyed festive meals with that tax-collector and all his traitorous friends. He allowed a known prostitute to touch him at an important and very public social gathering (a meal) in the home of Simon the Pharisee. Jesus touched lepers and dead people. He spit in dust and made mud. He whipped animals out of the Temple. And, he ate lots of meals with marginalized people.

American Christians want an inedible version of the kingdom of God. We want nice ideas to prop up our “Stuff Mart” smothered lifestyle. We desire a nice, sanitized version of the kingdom that won’t get dirt under our fingernails or snot on our clothes or blood on our hands. We would rather “believe” in Jesus than eat and drink him. That “meal” creates in many today, just as it did when Jesus first offered it, a response of “This saying is too hard for us.” Why?

Following Jesus is concrete, not conceptual. Jesus-living is having our culture’s social trash at our Martha Stewart tables. It’s sick people sleeping between our Downy-softened sheets. It’s being in very hot places without air-conditioning. It’s eating with people who don’t know what a fork is or what a Bible is. It is valuing those who are clueless about Jesus and Billy Graham and Mother Teresa. Jesus was edible; much more Chinese than American. What if we behave our way into authentic believing rather than believing our way into new behaving? Someone somewhere wrote, “Even the demons believe and tremble.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • mteston1

    Exactly! Sanitized faith!

  • Dawne Piotrowski

    I’ve been away from the blog for far too long – wow! Thank you for this message which both affirms my convictions and challenges me to go deeper in eating and drinking Jesus.

  • Luke Breuer

    A Brief Word Study on: Skuvbalon is a good example of this sanitizing. Here’s the NET translation of Philippians 3:8.

    More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! [1] – that I may gain Christ

    [1] tn The word here translated “dung” was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers. This may well be Paul’s meaning here, especially since the context is about what the flesh produces.

    Take a look at various translations; the word skubvalon tends to be translated ‘garbage’, ‘rubbish’, or ‘dung’. Do any of these words have ” a certain shock value” for you? Probably not. Here’s Daniel B. Wallace’s conclusion:

    In Phil 3:8, the best translation of skuvbala seems clearly to be from the first group of definitions. The term conveys both revulsion and worthlessness in this context. In hellenistic Greek it seems to stand somewhere between “crap” and “s**t.” However, due to English sensibilities, and considering the readership (Christians), a softer term such as “dung” is most appropriate. The NET Bible, along with a few other translations, grasp the connotations here, while most modern translations only see the term as implying worthlessness. But Paul’s view of his former life is odious to him, as ours should be to us. The best translation, therefore, is one that picks up both worthlessness and revulsion, and probably a certain shock value.

    (Emphasis added.) Our Bible translators—some of whom undoubtedly believe in inerrancy—think it’s just fine to mistranslate the Bible so that it is G-rated instead of PG13 or R.


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