The sound of lawnmowers fills the air, and people across America are cleaning up their grills in preparation for the Barbeque Season. People in Kansas take their barbeque seriously. Some are devotees of convenience and rely on propane. Others prefer pellet stoves (“even heat”), while still others are committed to that ancient medium, charcoal.
Jesus himself grilled fish and bread on a charcoal fire, John 21:9 (anthrakia, ἀνθρακιά), but what is charcoal and how was it made? The Smoked BBQ source explains:
On a basic level, charcoal is produced by burning wood or other organic matter in a low oxygen environment. Doing so removes water and other volatile elements, allowing the finished product, the charcoal, to burn at high temperatures with very little smoke.
In small batches, charcoal can be made in either a pit or a pile. The wood is stacked, leaving a central “chimney” filled with highly flammable material. The stack is then covered with wet leaves, and dirt is packed around the outside. Once the central core is burning, it too is covered, so oxygen is excluded. The fire smolders for several days. The lump charcoal is then ready for use. Archaeologists believe people have been making charcoal for over 6,000 years.
Brisket, burgers, chicken, hot dogs, sausages, and fish all have their tasty place over a barbeque. Around 400 B.C., Creophylus of Ephesus tells us the fishermen in Asia Minor, as Jesus did later, preferred charcoal to grill their fish. The heat was even and produced little smoke.
I am always impressed by how little details in the Bible reinforce the stories. Hardwood makes the best charcoal, and Jesus, as a carpenter, would have had a ready supply. Is it possible that in addition to creating objects from wood, Jesus also produced charcoal from the scraps? This detail from John 21 gives the story the touch of an eyewitness.
I’m getting hungry as I write this article, but before we close, the Apostle Paul gives us something else to think about:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:18 – 21).
And barbeque with charcoal!