Communion Meditation: The Meal of Sulha

CommunionA few years ago a messianic Jew named Ilan Zamir was driving through an Arab village in Israel at night. He saw a dark blur and felt his car strike something. He stopped and jumped out, only to learn that he’d killed a 13-year boy, who’d darted out in front of the car. The Israeli police investigated and learned that the boy had been deaf and so hadn’t heard the car coming. The driver was found to be without fault.

But the incident weighed on him. Ilan desperately wanted to meet the boy’s family and apologize. His fault or not, he’d killed their son. His friends told him he was out of his mind. The boy’s family lived in the West Bank. West Bank Palestinians don’t like Jews, and he couldn’t count on Israeli law to protect him there. But he felt obligated and made arrangements to meet the family at a sulha — a meal of reconciliation.

And so Ilan sat down with the boy’s family for the ceremonial meal. He describes what happened this way,

The cups of coffee remained on the table, untouched. According to tradition, the father would be the first to taste from the cup as a sign that he accepted the reconciliation gesture, and had indeed agreed to forgive. The tension in his face had cast a shadow on the proceedings until then, but at that point he suddenly began to smile. The lines of grief softened. He looked at me squarely and his smile broadened as he moved towards me, opening his arms in a gesture of embrace. As we met and embraced, he kissed me ceremonially three times on the cheeks. Everyone began to shake hands with one another as the father sipped the coffee. The whole atmosphere was transformed, the tension at an end.

And the something truly amazing happened. A spokesman for the family said this to Ilan:

Know, O my brother, that you are in place of this son who has died. You have a family and a home somewhere else, but know that here is your second home.

(From Ann Spangler & Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, page 139.)

So here we are. We’re sinners, and we’ve killed God’s Son. He died because of our sins. We didn’t mean to kill him, but we did. And we desperately need to be reconciled with his father. And we are very much at fault.

And so, as we take this meal, we should know that God is here with us, eating and drinking with us. He accepts our apology and embraces us. Although by all rights we should be his enemy, he has made us family. We killed his Child, and yet in his incomprehensible grace he’s made us his children — and now his home is our home.

Enjoy this sulha, this meal of reconciliation.

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4 Responses

  1. In the post it says “So here we are. We’re sinners, and we’ve killed God’s Son. He died because of our sins. We didn’t mean to kill him, but we did.” I thought that both Jews and Gentiles (representing all of mankind) deliberately crucified Jesus. Are you suggesting this was done unintentionally – like a deaf boy that ran out in front of a car on a dark night? That seems almost excusable

    I do appreciate the idea that the family forgave the man and even offered/provided him a second home. I take it that is the thrust of your message – that God forgives us and takes us in and loves us like he loved the child he lost.

  2. To this day I forget many times how much MY sins were at fault for killing the Messiah. When I do start to think about it, it is hard to believe that God still wants me as part of His family — truly amazing.

  3. Did the Romans and Jewish authorities kill Jesus intentionally. Of course. Did I? Did you? My sins killed him, for a fact, but that was not my intent. That hardly makes me innocent, but it is nonetheless a parallel. Theologically, we sinners killed Jesus — not the Romans or Jewish authorities. Had we not needed his atonement, he never would have come to earth as Messiah, much less allowed himself to be crucified.

  4. The reality of God’s Spirit infuising men to live and express Himself thru these clay vessels really is expressed in this account increasing our faith in our Lord … the One who is and forever more our Life!

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