The Ministry of Pancakes
by Erin Davis
I was nine months pregnant with my second child when a plate of pancakes saved my life. If that sounds dramatic, perhaps you’ve not experienced (or forgotten the challenges of) carrying an 8-pound baby inside your body, while a 25-pound toddler constantly clings to the outside of your body.
I needed a nap.
I needed a friend.
I needed a heavy dose of hope and perspective.
I found all three in a perfectly prepared stack of buttermilk pancakes.
Mandy and I were acquaintances at church, just familiar enough to wave sheepishly if we saw each other in the grocery store. So imagine my surprise when Mandy called me late one evening and said, “Come over in the morning with Eli.” (Eli is my firstborn.) “Stay in your jammies. I will make you breakfast.”
Though I’m not ordinarily the kind of woman who moseys over to the house of an acquaintance with my hair unbrushed and my child still wearing his overnight diaper, the invitation was so irresistible, I complied. The next morning, there we stood on Mandy’s doorstep. Unkempt and unpretentious, longing to be fed.
As Eli played with Matchbox cars and Lincoln Logs on the floor, Mandy served me a plate of buttery pancakes. It was one of the most significant meals I’ve ever eaten. Every bite preached a sermon to my weary heart:
You are seen.
You are beloved.
You have been commissioned for this assignment.
Jesus has not abandoned you.
It’s not like Mandy opened her Bible and started teaching from the epistles. She simply gave me the gift of her presence—with a side of comfort food. And I have a hunch, all these years later, that she prayed for my heart to be strengthened as she watched me take each bite.
“Come and Have Breakfast”
Imagine my delight when I found a story of Jesus serving breakfast embedded in a familiar part of the Gospel of John. Open your Bible to John 21. You’ll find Jesus loving others well with the gift of a hot meal.
In some ways, this chapter of Scripture represents every moment of despair, defeat, discouragement or disappointment we’ve ever felt. The preceding verses describe the most significant and hope-filled event in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sin and death had been conquered, and yet our broken planet kept spinning on its tilted axis. Jesus has saved us! We have true, transforming hope in Him. Yet we remain broken people traversing a broken planet. Our lives have aches and pains that range from the obnoxious to the overwhelming. John 21 displays the tenderness with which Jesus responds to our chronic state of need.
As the disciples wrestled with all that had transpired and tried to understand what it meant, they used a coping mechanism I’ve deployed often myself; overwhelmed by all they didn’t know, they stuck to the familiar. They went fishing. I imagine they dropped their anchor in their favorite fishing hole and cast their nets in hope that their proven patterns of success would not fail them.
But that night they caught nothing (v. 3).
It was insult added to injury, salt poured into their gaping wounds. But Jesus was already stoking the fires of redemption on the shore.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread (v. 9).
Jesus helped His friends catch the fish they were after (v. 6), but clearly, He didn’t need the contents of their nets. He already had fish starting to sizzle beside a loaf of freshly baked bread.
The God Who Fills Us
This is a rich passage! There are many important themes worth meditating on, but let’s not miss the significance of this simple fact: when Jesus’ friends were hurting, He cooked them breakfast. Though still reeling from the disorienting whiplash of the arrest, death, burial and resurrection of their Savior, this moment was surely a respite. As that warm food hit their grumbling bellies, they must have felt:
Good food was their reminder: Jesus has not abandoned us.
Jesus may not cook your breakfast this morning, but He is offering you the gift of His presence—a deeper kind of daily bread. Jesus deserves the glory for the food on our plates and the freedom of our souls. Every bite of food you will ever eat has been gifted to you by the kind of Savior who goes to the cross for sinners and cooks breakfast for downtrodden friends.
You are free to face your day with the confidence that comes from knowing that Jesus is attentive to your every need: your spiritual needs, your physical needs, your emotional needs, your relational needs . . . Jesus does not force rank.
Do you want to be like Jesus today? (Of course you do!) Perhaps it’s not as complicated as you think. Turn toward someone who needs Christ-infused hope today—your family, your neighbor, that tired momma you know from church—and repeat after Jesus, “Come and have breakfast” (v. 12).
Note: This post was adapted from Erin’s latest book, Fasting & Feasting: 40 Devotions to Satisfy the Hungry Heart.
Erin Davis. Erin is a writer and teacher passionately committed to getting women of all ages to the deep well of God's Word. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, including Connected, 7 Feasts, and Fasting & Feasting. Erin serves as the content director for Revive Our Hearts and hosts the Women of the Bible podcast and Grounded videocast. Hear her teach on The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.