Two years ago in an interview with an Italian newspaper Pope Francis brought up his favorite movie - "Babette's Feast". The context for his citation was the opposition he's experienced to his ecumenical outreach; the same kind of rigidity portrayed by the townspeople in the movie.
For those who haven't seen the film, here's a brief synopsis. There's a small church in a Protestant town in Denmark that has been pastored by a very rigid and religious man. He and his congregation are so prominent and so legalistic that they have created a drab, scary village where men and women spend most of their days in austere judgment of one another.
After the pastor dies, his daughters are forced to lead the congregation. They had hoped to marry one day, but their father had strictly forbidden it. One day a French woman, Babette, comes to town and changes everything. While working as a housekeeper, she discovers that she's hit the lottery back in Paris. Instead of taking the money and returning home, she spends all of her winnings on preparing a French feast for all the townspeople.
At first most villagers think she's satanic, believing firmly that food should never be enjoyed. However, when they finally sit down at the table their preconceptions begin to fade and surprisingly joy and gratitude break out. By the end of the film everyone is eternally grateful to Babette for opening their eyes.
Someone has written, "After seeing the movie for the first time, many flock to French restaurants to experience first-hand the delicacies of a French feast. However, the meaning of the movie is far deeper than that, and Pope Francis knows it."
For Pope Francis the message is plain. First, the reaction to the feast is one of unbridled joy. Second, this joy is a foretaste of what heaven will be like. Third, Babette's example of total selfless giving is a portrait of Christ. Fourth, the change wrought in the hearts of the villagers is the product of the power of the Holy Spirit. Fifth, the general toast at the end of the meal perfectly summarizes the message of the Gospel:
“There comes a time when your eyes are opened. And we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.”
Have you ever stopped to realize the supremacy of the feast image in Scripture? Of all the metaphors God could use to describe His intentions in redeeming us, He picks the feast. Think of it. When He determines to save His people from bondage in Egypt, He sanctions a feast. The last thing Jesus does with His disciples before the cross is feast with them. And when He reveals the future to His beloved disciple John, in the final years of his life, what picture does He give him to describe it? A wedding feast - His and ours!
And where is this feast held? The same place Jesus prepares for His beloved – in the New Jerusalem. And that stands to reason for Jerusalem is the site of God’s greatest gift to us – the feast. In fact, the Bible begins in Jerusalem with a feast in Genesis 14 and ends with a feast in the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22. The significance of Jerusalem cannot be overstated. It is the center of the feast. It is the center of every intention God’s ever had. That’s why over the next six weeks, leading up to our fall series – “Nehemiah (a study in comfort)" we will be reviewing the centrality of Jerusalem in God’s eternal plan.
In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled, “Eat’n with the King,” you may wish to consider the following:
- Who is the first person in the Bible to be universally accepted as historically certifiable?
- What biblical personage is claimed to be the father of three great religions, confirming God’s promise in Genesis 12:2?
- How old is Abram in Genesis 14?
- What is the significance of Deuteronomy 26:5 in the Genesis 14 story?
- Where is the Valley Shaveh?
- What does Melchizedek mean?
- What roles does he play here?
- Why does he “bring out” bread and wine to greet Abram and the king of Salem?
- What is the significance of his statement in verses 19 & 20?
- Why does Abram tithe to him?