Feasting creates the perfect atmosphere to demonstrate Jesus to friends and family. Pastor Aries Zulkarnain gives the church a new perspective on the purpose of eating together this Christmas season.
It’s two weeks to Christmas and on the weekend of Dec 7 and 8, City Harvest Church’s executive pastor, Aries Zulkarnain delivered a message on how Christians can reach out to their friends and family by learning from Christ Himself.
He began by sharing how the announcement of the arrival of the Messiah to the world was not through major news outlets, but through shepherds, by way of the archangel Gabriel.
“Why deliver this important news to the shepherds? It is because Jesus reveals Himself through personal relationships,” he said to the congregation.
The most effective way to spread the Good News of the Gospel is through personal relationships and heartfelt connections, the pastor explained. This was why the announcement of the Messiah’s arrival was made through shepherds.
Jane Goodall, a renowned primatologist and anthropologist, recently held a dialog session at the Annual Conservation Week in NUS Cultural Centre. She said that her form of activism and education involved connecting with people rather than confronting them.
“If you want to see change or influence people, the first thing to do is to form a bond with the people you are trying to reach,” quoted Pastor Aries. “We have to get the heart instead of the head.” Goodall told her audience that this was what her mother taught her: that change comes from connection, not from confrontation.
“The way Jesus changes lives is through connections,” said Pastor Aries.
STORY-TELLING: THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST
Stories are always about a person. The person of Jesus Christ, who has the ability to save and give hope to everyone in the midst of the darkness is what makes the story of Christmas fascinating and connects people back to Jesus.
“The way to get into people’s hearts and bring about transformation and change is through telling stories,” Pastor Aries emphasized.
He illustrated his point through the story of renowned writers JRR Tolkein, the author of The Lord Of The Rings, and CS Lewis (The Chronicles Of Narnia). Tolkein was instrumental in influencing Lewis to become a born-again Christian.
During their time in Oxford, before Lewis became a believer, they had a conversation about Jesus Christ. Lewis told his friend that the story of Jesus Christ and Christmas is just another story that points to the great truth.
However, Tolkien corrected him saying, “The story of Jesus is not just one more story that points to the truth, but it is the Truth that all great stories point to.” All stories point to the characteristics and the love of Christ.
He encouraged the congregation to tell the story of Jesus to someone who needs to hear it as Christmas draws near.
“Spend time fellowshipping and having heart-to-heart conversations through meals,” Pastor Aries said as he moved on to the main message of his sermon.
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER OVER FELLOWSHIPS AND MEALS
In Jesus’ own ministry, He spent His time fellowshipping and having meals with taxpayers, He reached out to Zacchaeus by going to his home and eating together with him.
“Turn your dining table into your mission field,” Pastor Aries suggested to the church. Meals may very well be the bridge that connects people back to God.
In the story of the restoration of Peter, Jesus invited him over for breakfast (John 21:7-13, NIV). There is significance in the fire Jesus built, as it reminded Peter of the time he stood warming his hands at a fire and denied Jesus (John 18:15-18).
The word “fire” used in the above verses is anthrakia in Greek and was only used twice in the Bible. While the fire reminded Peter of the shame of denying Jesus, it also became a place of restoration where he was reconciled back to the Lord.
Pastor Aries added that to repair broken relationships, it can be done through a simple gesture of having breakfast or a meal together. Meals and fellowship are where the broken can find peace and wholeness once again and are great tools to connect them to God.
ENCOUNTER JESUS OVER FELLOWSHIPS AND MEALS
In Luke 24:13-19 (MSG), two of Jesus’ followers were on the road to Emmaus after leaving Jerusalem. Jerusalem symbolized purpose, and having left the place, they left their purpose and were heading nowhere in life.
Similarly, in one’s walk, there are times one may let the thoughts of failures and missed opportunities cycle in their minds. “Jesus is here to bring us back to purpose,” Pastor Aries reminded the church.
The two men could not recognize Jesus even after He had taught them from Scripture (Luke 24:25-27 MSG). “That’s the problem; if you only know of Jesus, when problems arise, we won’t be able to recognize Him. We need to have a personal relationship with Jesus,” he urged the congregation.
They finally recognised Jesus when He broke bread and ate with them (Luke 24:28-31 MSG).
Pastor Aries encouraged the church to start spending time with their loved ones and stop being overly busy. Through heartfelt fellowship with them, they may be able to finally see Jesus this Christmas.
FELLOWSHIPS AND MEALS EMPHASIZE THE LOVE OF JESUS
The breaking of the bread reminded the two men of Jesus because it reminded them of the last supper. The meal was significant enough to leave a lasting impression on the disciples and it was what opened their eyes that Jesus was with them. The moments shared during meals are what people remember.
“When we have meals together, we are remembering what Jesus did with the disciples (Luke 22:19),” he continued saying, “It is hard to forget someone when He gave you so much to remember.” During the Last Supper, Jesus served them, washed their feet, prepared a table, ate with them and prayed with them.
Sometimes, remembering one moment with Jesus is enough to melt the hardened hearts and bring the prodigal back to Jesus.
JESUS IN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES
Why did Jesus want to have a meal with them and why did He need to open their eyes?
Jesus did not give up when they could not recognize him earlier. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were feeling hopelessness and were left confused that the Messiah whom they thought would save them died on the cross. They were having a crisis of faith.
“They needed to see Jesus in their circumstances,” Pastor Aries said, in closing. Sometimes, Christians don’t need a change of circumstances; what they truly need is a change of heart to see Jesus in their circumstances.
When Christians serve those in need and have meals with them, the broken are able to see that Jesus is with them and in them. Through the fellowships, the lost are able to experience the love of God and as a result, their hearts will be open to come back to the Lord.
In closing, Pastor Aries encouraged the church to “eat their way to Christmas”—connecting with people over meals to win them for Christ.