Jesus and the Sukkah

By Rob Goodman

Why did they have to build a church over Christ’s Table?

"Repas de Notre-Seigneur et des apôtres" by James Tissot

In the days before supermarkets, to celebrate a harvest was to rejoice in the fact of having enough food to go on living. But for generations of Jews, the harvest festival has also been a time to call to mind fragility and impermanence—by celebrating in a sukkah. Flimsy and exposed to the elements, the sukkot are huts that shelter observant Jews during a week of thanksgiving each fall. Families leave their homes to share meals under thatched roofs, open to the rain and stars. Weather permitting, some even sleep there. These sukkot, so easy to break down and pack up, are said to be a memorial of the huts that shaded the Exodus Jews from the desert sun. Though a lifelong Jew, I didn’t give much thought to an even larger meaning of these sacred meals—in places that are temporary and out in the open—until I found a similar one in the New Testament. 

As his final earthly act at the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus hosts a cookout. He’s seen at first from a fishing boat, waving from the shore in the gathering dawn, alive after all, yelling for Peter and his crewmates to haul in their nets and come ashore. Once on land—Peter dripping wet after swimming all the way, and the rest dragging the boat—they see that Jesus has already started a little charcoal fire on the ground, grilling fish with bread. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” This simple outdoor meal among friends, a breakfast to undo the Last Supper, completes the story. 

On the last day of a trip to Israel not long ago, I was there. Almost. Our guide said this was not the place itself; the Sea of Galilee—really more of a lake, I thought—had receded over the years. A little church, ten or twenty yards from the waterline, held what was said to be Christ’s Table. Inside the whitewashed building, standing in place of an altar with the brick floor built around it, smooth to the touch, was the rock where the cooking fire burned, labeled with the sign of a cross and the words “Mensa Christi.” 

Continue reading article at Killing the Buddha .

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