I never saw the irony of Easter dinner as a kid.
After all, I was only a boy and had not yet been exposed to the rigors of a theological education. I was glad to sit down with my family after church on Easter and eat ham and deviled eggs for lunch. You know, just like Jesus did at the Last Supper. At the time, I was completely oblivious to the fact that Easter is the fulfillment of a Jewish holiday (Passover) in a culture where it was considered sinful to eat pork. (No wonder people are not converting to Judaism in droves. No bacon!)
That’s right. Jesus didn’t eat ham at the Passover. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he would never eat deviled eggs either. Can you imagine the Son of God munching down on something so satanically-dubbed? His Passover Seder would have consisted of roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and matzah bread. Each course had religious significance. The only significant thing about our Easter luncheon was the gluttony-inducing amount of food family and friends brought. Casseroles and cakes were aplenty. Vegetables and sweets abounded. But the two things I always remember having were deviled eggs and ham.
I recently conducted a very non-scientific survey of friends. “What foods do you traditionally eat on Easter?” While they didn’t all share my affinity for deviled eggs (Losers!), the answer was clear: “We eat ham!” This led me down a path of discovery. Where did the tradition of eating ham on Easter come from?
Boy, did I ever find some confusing stuff on the internet! Some people say that we eat ham on Easter because of anti-semitism. (That’s not true. I don’t have anything against seminaries!) Some say ham was considered lucky by Northern Europeans before their conversion to Christianity, so they syncretized that belief into their newfound Christian experience. Others purport that the eating of ham at Easter is tied to Baal worship. As Ham-Eater-In-Chief, I considered all of these options in a highly academic and theological manner befitting someone of my position. After weighing the theories, I identified a conclusive and unique reason why we eat ham for Easter lunch.
Because it tastes good. (I have a way with profundity.)
Ham is delicious. As I write this, my salivary glands are giving way to a Pavlovian response. Ham is not only delicious, but one could make an argument that it is distinctly a Christian meat. Many eastern religions generally abstain from meat consumption of any sort; Jainism is strictly vegetarian while Buddhism and Hinduism are strongly influenced by vegetarian principles. The moral to that story is if you think Uncle Jethro is potentially being reincarnated as a pig or cow or chicken, your chicken and dumplings will taste funny. Islam also forbids the consumption of pork, as does Judaism. It seems that of the major religions of the world, pork stands tall as a distinctly Christian delicacy. Christian, think about what that means. You get to enjoy ribs and pulled pork sandwiches and BBQ festivals. Unlike the Muslim or Jew, you can have fried pork chops or stuffed pork tenderloin. Of all the world religions, only you know the intoxicating fragrance of thick-cut hardwood-smoked bacon sizzling in the wee morning hours. Pork is yours, brethren. All because of Jesus’ act of redemption.
Yes, you heard me correctly. It was the work of Jesus that made pork our friend. (Can I get a hallelujah?!) I thank God for Acts 10. Peter, a faithful Jew who would never eat “unclean” things, finds himself caught up in a vision on a friend’s rooftop. He sees a great big canopy being lowered down to him. All types of unclean animals were ensnared in this canopy. A voice announced to Peter that he could eat any of the animals. Peter, taken aback by such a thought, declared, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” A second time the voice announced that he could eat the things that he though of as “unclean.” As if for good measure, the voice pronounced the same thing a third time. And the vision ended. And with that, the golden era of culinary Christianity was opened.
The point of Peter’s vision has far less to do with ham and dietary restrictions than we might think. Actually, this vision is preparing the way for the proclamation of the Gospel to the broader Gentile world. Jesus didn’t just die for the Jew; He died for his people in every tribe, tongue, and nation. So, this year when you sit down to eat your ham and deviled eggs, remember that God graciously included us Gentiles in His Good News message! He opened his covenant up to us! Not only do we get bacon. We get grace – amazing and undeserved. We get forgiveness – unmerited and complete. We get life – abundant and eternal. That is an Easter dish I can savor for a long time!
And in case you were wondering if you should eat deviled eggs with your ham this year, I’m sharing this recipe to win you over to my side:
Rob’s Bacon/Cheddar/Jalapeno Evil Ovums (Deviled Eggs)
- 12 eggs
- 6 slices bacon
- 1/8 Cup jarred jalapeños, minced
- 1 Cup finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/3 Cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 red onion, minced
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 T spicy or Dijon mustard
- Paprika to garnish
- Place eggs in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and let eggs stand in hot water for 15 minutes. Remove eggs from hot water, cool under cold running water and peel.
- Cook bacon. Crumble bacon.
- Cut eggs in half lengthwise; place yolks in a bowl. Mash egg yolks with fork. Stir in half of bacon, minced jalapeños, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, red onion, garlic, and mustard.
- Spoon mixture into egg whites. Sprinkle remaining bacon over eggs. Garnish with Paprika as desired.