Meals in Luke’s Gospel

Luke’s Gospel is filled with eating.  There are 19 meals in Luke, 13 of which are unique to his account.  If you love to eat, Luke is your Gospel!

Meals are occasions for Kingdom dynamics, for the experience of redemptive realities.

They are occasions for healing and hospitality (9:10-17; 10:5-7) for fellowship and celebration (13:29), for worshiping Jesus and receiving forgiveness (7:36-50), for prophetic confrontation (11:37-54), and for reconciliation and the celebration of redemption (15:6, 9, 23-24).

Luke closes his Gospel with one final meal, the climax of a fascinating episode on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35).


“Supper at Emmaus,” Caravaggio

Jesus’ identity is hidden from these two disciples as they travel along the road.  When they stop for the night and sit down to eat, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (v. 31).

The two disciples immediately take off for Jerusalem to tell “the eleven” what had happened:

Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread (v. 35).

They don’t remark about Jesus’ amazing lecture or his miraculous disappearance.  They note their recognition of Jesus when they ate.

At the dramatic conclusion of his meal-filled Gospel, then, Luke emphasizes twice that the disciples recognize Jesus’ life-giving presence in the sharing of the meal.

Luke uses meals as a metaphor for church life.  The patterns of life and the community dynamics that should characterize God’s people are the things that take place at meals in the Gospel of Luke.

And when the church gathers and shares life together, Jesus is present.

Luke’s meals put the question to contemporary churches: Do your church’s corporate dynamics resemble a celebratory meal?  Do the habits and practices of your community bring about mutual refreshment and communal celebration?

When your church gathers, do disciples recognize the presence of Jesus?

6 thoughts on “Meals in Luke’s Gospel

  1. Andrew

    It’s striking how much of this meal imagery appears in the DSS related to the messiah and redemption.

    For example (and this is only 1) look at (1Q28a (1QSa) II:14–21):

    Then the [Mess]iah of Israel may s[it,] and the heads of the th[ousands of Israel] are to sit before him by rank, as determined by [each man’s comm]ission in their camps and campaigns. Last, all the heads of [the con]gregation’s cl[ans,] together with the wis[e men of the holy congregation,] shall sit before them by rank. [When they] gather [at the] communal [tab]le, [to drink w]ine so the communal table is set and [the] wine [poured] for drinking, [none may re]ach for the first portion of the bread or [the wine] before the Priest. For [he] shall [bl]ess the first portion of the bread and the win[e, reach]ing for the bread first. Afterw[ard] the Messiah of Israel [shall re]ach for the bread.

    Anyone reading either Luke or the DSS can’t miss the connection.

  2. Al Streett

    I would like to draw attention to SUBVERSIVE MEALS:An Analysis of the Lord’s Supper under Roman Domination, which is the most scholarly and up to date treatment of Jesus’ Lukan meals. Read unsolicited reviews and excerpts. Available on Amazon.

  3. Tim Cole

    Well said regarding the potential dynamics of breaking bread with people; good overview of the concept as well.

    Because I am currently working on Luke’s use of recursions, I couldn’t help chase down the phrase, “and their eyes were opened and they knew him.” Luke uses that same phrase to parallel the experience of two other people at an earlier meal: Adam and Eve. After eating, their eyes were opened to see their nakedness and guilt and were ejected from Paradise. But due to Jesus’ resurrection, Paradise is again open to human beings. Their eyes were opened (note: passive voice) (cf. his promise to the thief on the cross-you will be with me in Paradise) to see His identity. Check out the many parallels between the two narratives. Great study.
    Don’t you just love C. Wesley’s take on it: “Christ has opened Paradise…Hallelujah.”

    Keep up the good work, Herr Professor!

  4. Pingback: Baker Book House Church Connection | Around the Web

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