Post #31 finished up this book’s chapter about the meals of Jesus during his earthly life. In this next chapter, we shift our focus to the meals (and food fights!) of the first Christians.
Luke ends his gospel with two fascinating scenes. First, two of Jesus’ followers, having walked with a unrecognizable Jesus along the road to Emmaus, invite him to stop and share a meal. Again, Jesus steps in to act as host by taking the bread, blessing it, breaking it, and giving it to the other two, who immediately recognize this “stranger” as the risen Jesus. This act, of taking, thanking, breaking and giving bread is the same thing Jesus did when he fed the 5,000, and again at his Last Supper. It’s a repeated practice at meals designed to sear into our minds that Jesus is always with us as host, provider, and savior. In other words, regularly breaking and eating bread together is a practice meant to make us think of Jesus, to recognize his presence at our meal fellowship, and to remember his incomprehensibly great love for us.
The Emmaus scene ends with the two followers running back to Jerusalem to report to the eleven disciples that Jesus lives, and that they didn’t recognize him until he broke the bread. And, as the thirteen of them excitedly replay the story amongst themselves, Jesus suddenly appears right in their midst. The disciples, already on an emotional roller coaster are terrified (after all, it is still Sunday, less than twenty four hours since the empty tomb was discovered). So Jesus shows them his pierced hands and feet to try and calm their fears, and then asks, “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:36-41).
Here stands the risen Christ alive, in the flesh, asking for something to eat, because the first thing he wants is to celebrate with them in table fellowship! This is Jesus’ way of convincing them he’s not a ghost, and this turns their fear into joy. In accepting and eating a piece of broiled fish, Jesus, who until now had always assumed the role of host at meals, accepts the hospitality of the disciples. First bread at Emmaus, then fish in Jerusalem- this is an echo of Jesus’ shared meal on a remote hillside when he commanded the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” (Luke 9:13)
Jesus leaves us with a model for our own meal ministry; Jesus will always be present at our meals, asking if we have anything to eat, and expecting us to be host to the itinerant, hungry, fearful, and doubting people in our world. By sharing a simple meal at our table, we break bread with others so that they too might recognize Jesus.
Next time, in Post 33, we will begin to scour Acts for clues about the meals of the early Church.
~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.
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