Jesus Is Not Keto

Proclaim Sermons
August 4, 2024
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary: While the Bible says nothing about the keto diet, it does speak a great deal about food. Jesus is the bread of life, and he encourages his followers to fill empty stomachs and souls.

The keto (ketogenic) diet is hot right now. Although controversial and not right for everyone, it has been linked to weight loss and health benefits such as improved blood pressure. If you want to go keto, you eat an extremely low-carb, high-fat diet.

According to the healthline website, the "goal is to achieve a metabolic state of ketosis, in which your body burns mostly fat instead of carbs for energy." You do this by eating meats, including bacon, sausage, fatty ground beef, fish, lamb, poultry and eggs. You focus on leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and romaine. And you make sure that your diet includes high-fat dairy products, as well as nuts and seeds.

So, what food do you avoid? For starters: bread! Stay away from bread, pasta, rice and other refined carbs. Don't consume beer or mixed drinks. Avoid honey, syrups, juice and sugary sodas. You should not even use ketchup or barbecue sauce. Too many carbs! If you want to go keto, eat food that is "high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs."1

While the Bible says nothing about the keto diet, it does speak a great deal about food. In the only miracle reported in all four gospels, Jesus feeds five thousand people with two fish and five loaves, and after the meal the disciples gather up twelve baskets of leftover bread.2 Then, the Gospel of John reports that the people pursue Jesus across the sea and say to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"

Jesus answers them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me ... because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." When the people ask for this food, Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry ...." Although the jury is still out on the keto diet, the Bible is clear that Jesus is bread. He is not keto.

Bread for the stomach

Jesus is always concerned about feeding hungry people. In John, he reminds the crowd that their "ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus performs the feeding of the five thousand as an encore performance of God's miraculous gift of bread to the Israelites. And while Jesus then calls himself "the bread of life" and shifts the focus from physical to spiritual hunger, he never loses his concern for giving people bread for their stomachs.

After the resurrection, Jesus cooks breakfast and asks his disciple Peter about his love for Jesus. "Yes, Lord," replies Peter; "you know that I love you." Jesus says to him, "Feed my lambs."3 When Jesus tells Peter to feed his lambs, he probably isn't talking about caring for livestock, cooking for youth groups or even fighting world hunger. But Jesus is saying that to love him involves more than words and emotions. If we are going to love God and Jesus, we need to do something. We need to put bread in the stomachs of hungry people.

James, the brother of Jesus, makes this point when he asks his community of Christ-followers, "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."4 Both James and Jesus expect us to show our faith and our love through action.

Food is a necessity, as essential to life as air, water and shelter. Much of the world's population, throughout history and today, have concerns about where their next meal will come from. For some people, food insecurity is an ever-present reality, and this is a fact even in our own churches and neighborhoods. Perhaps you have or are experiencing food insecurity. You are not alone. According to the United Nations, "Nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) did not have access to adequate food in 2020 - that's an increase of almost 320 million people in just one year."5

Despite all the technology we have developed since biblical times, providing bread for hungry people is still a constant challenge. Concrete actions can include contributing to a food pantry, cooking meals for a feeding program or taking action in the community to eliminate a "food desert" - an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. We feed the lambs of Jesus whenever we find a way to put bread in empty stomachs.

Bread for the soul

Jesus is not satisfied, however, by simply giving fish and bread to a crowd of hungry people. He tells them that "the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." The members of the crowd sense that this is precious bread, so they say, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus says to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

In the novel City of Peace, a Methodist pastor named Harley Camden is moved by his bishop to a tiny church in Occoquan, Virginia. In that new community, he meets a couple named Youssef and Sofia, Coptic Christians from Egypt. From the start, he is surprised that they are close friends with a family named the Bayatis, Muslim immigrants from Iraq.

"The Bayatis have become some of our closest friends here in Occoquan," Youssef tells Harley one night at dinner, "largely because we have shared so many meals. Back in Egypt, Christians and Muslims are getting together less and less, which has caused the animosity and violence to increase."

"Food is important to us," Sofia says. "Think of the many times that Jesus sat down to eat with people - even tax collectors and sinners. Christian hospitality is very important to Youssef and me."

"I do appreciate it," says Harley. "Think of how much better the world would be if people actually sat down and ate with each other."6

Harley Camden is right. The world would be a better place if people made efforts to sit down and break bread with one another. Shared meals have physical benefits, of course, but also emotional, mental and spiritual benefits. Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed the people around him that meals can feed the soul as well as the body. And today, he is present whenever we sit down and break bread together.

It is no accident that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is so important to Christian worship. "Take, bless, break and give" are the central actions involving the bread of Communion, and they are a model for the church's ministry and mission as well. Luke tells us that on the road to Emmaus, the risen Jesus comes alongside two disciples, but they do not know who he is. Then, when he sits down to dinner with them, he takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them. Then their eyes are opened and they recognize him - and he vanishes from their sight.7 They realize that their souls have been nourished by Jesus, the bread of life.

Take, bless, break and give

This story from Luke reminds us to feed the soul as well as the stomach. Such nourishment happened in Emmaus, when the eyes of the disciples were opened. Soul-feeding happens when the risen Christ nourishes us today, through the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Whenever the bread is broken, in a Communion meal or in a regular supper, we can open our hearts to the presence of Christ. When we eat together, Jesus feeds us and fills us with his power.

Jesus tells us, in the Gospel of John, that we perform the works of God when we "believe in him whom [God] has sent." We are challenged to believe in Jesus, on Sunday mornings and through the week as well. Jesus acknowledges that the manna from heaven was an amazing gift, but it is Jesus himself who is the "true bread from heaven."

The Emmaus story ends with the two disciples racing back to Jerusalem to share the news of their experience with the other disciples. They tell the others what happened on the road, and how Jesus "had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread."8 That is where they came face to face with the "true bread from heaven." Their story teaches us how to do something: To welcome one another around a table, to strengthen our bonds with Jesus and with each other and to feed each other in body and in soul.

Remember the words: Take, bless, break and give. Jesus is present every time we eat together, if only we have the eyes to recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Jesus is not keto. He is the bread of life. Whoever comes to him will never be hungry. Whoever believes in him will never be thirsty.