The gospel according to Chapati/Roti #1


© January 16, 2018 | Schulter Etyang

Growing up, chapati or roti (as its known here in South Africa) was a favourite meal in my family. My mother made chapati for us on weekends, and on special occasions such as birthdays, Easter and Christmas celebrations. When you saw her gathering the ingredients for making chapati, your heart beat with excitement and your salivary glands did a dance. It wasn’t until after I got married, that I really learnt how to cook chapati. I had assumed that I’d never need to learn how to make chapati until I discovered how much Jenny loved them.

Roti’s origins are traced back to the Indian subcontinent. In South Africa, roti is a main delicacy amongst Indians and the colored community. Jenny’s family lives in Durban, which is the epicentre of the Indian community. Indians arrived in South Africa in 1860 to work as slaves at the sugarcane plantations. It is proper to say that their influence has spilled over into many cuisines and dinner tables.

For those of us who don’t know what chapati or roti is – chapati or roti is a type of flat bread made from wheat flour, tepid water, salt and oil or ghee (combination of oil and butter). Some add coriander or grated carrot (learnt this from Queen a house-help who works for my sister). The chapati is then baked over an open flame or on a hot flat pan. 

I actually learnt how to make chapati from watching a YouTube video. Here’s the link 

Chapati at our house is served with a world-class beef curry that Jenny makes. Yum, yum, yum.

Kneading the dough

One of the processes of making chapati is kneading the dough. Kneading is simply stretching, pulling, knocking, punching and rolling over the dough in order for the gluten to stretch and to remove air bubbles from the dough. 

Through the years as I have cooked chapati, it’s always been an impression on my heart that kneading is synonymous with Jesus’ sufferings for us. What? Oh yes. For centuries Christians have believed that the sufferings of Jesus were a crucial part of his mission. 

Jesus’ sufferings begin way back when he was still a toddler. His parents had to flee to another city because of a hit job against his life. His hometown of Nazareth rejected him. To them, he was just a carpenter’s boy. They almost threw him down a cliff. Plots of murder by the religious leaders of his day were common. He cured a man who was beset by demons and the crowds implored him to leave their city. Judas, a close disciple of his, betrayed him. At the end of his life, he was in the garden and his disciples abandoned him. They slept through the night as he cowered in fear to the point of sweating drops of blood at the thought of what he was going to go through in a few hours. They arrested him. At the chief priest’s house, he was interrogated and falsely accused. When they couldn’t find any fault, they spat at him, slapped and beat him. He was brought before Pilate and Pilate ordered that he receive some serious whipping. Whipping that left him deformed. Finally, he was sentenced to death for crimes he didn’t commit.

Jesus suffered for us.

Baking the chapati

The final cooking stage is to bake the chapati over hot flames or on a hot flat pan. 

If his suffering at our hands weren’t enough, Jesus suffers at the hands of his God. His God forsook him at the cross. My God, my God why have you forsaken me, he cried. Then something happened to him that is unseen to our naked eyes. On the cross, God’s fire of indignation, wrath and punishment against our sin fell on Jesus. No one saw the fire but God did. Jesus on the cross bore the punishment for our sin.

Its Jesus’ sufferings that pave the way for us who were outcasts and enemies to be brought near to God. This is what is at the centre of the Christian faith. This is the gospel. Jesus’ sufferings brought us home.

Its Jesus’ sufferings that pave the way for us who were outcasts and enemies to be brought near to God

I wish you’d hear the sounds of satisfaction as Jenny eats chapati. Her face shines with joy. The only time you will see Jenny abandon her “highness” is when she eats chapati. She becomes one of us. The quest for calorie control is thrown out of the window. The waistline doesn’t matter at all. She eats with abandon. Oh, how she loves chapati.

That is exactly what happened to us because of what Jesus did on our behalf. Jesus suffered and died so that we could have and enjoy life. (John 10:10 AMP) Jesus is the chapati or roti of heaven. He delights us as we remember how he suffered for us. 

This past weekend I cooked some chapati for us. As we ate chapati with the world-class beef curry that Jenny made, we were reenacting the sufferings of Jesus for us. Unbeknown to us, God watched as we laughed, enjoyed and celebrated what His son did for us. As Eugene Peterson says, grace is everywhere. 

That’s what grace looks like




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Husband | Orthodox Charismatic Christian | Leads The Life Place | Enjoys meeting new people, reading, cooking, traveling and exercise | Loves Jo’burg

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