Barry Newman's Blog

October 29, 2012

The Sacraments (part XIII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:26 pm

Re: Luke 24: 30

The text reads, “And it came to pass as he reclined with them having taken the bread he gave thanks and having broken (it) he gave (it) to them.”

The setting is that of the two disciples who unbeknown to themselves are accompanied by Jesus for part of the way as they travel from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. A discussion takes place concerning the death of Jesus and the report that he was now alive with Jesus, the unknown fellow traveller, speaking of these events as being the fulfilment of the writings of Moses and the prophets. Jesus appears to be going beyond the Village but they constrain him to spend the evening with them and have a meal. For some reason, perhaps related to his authoritative and learned manner they allow Jesus to act as host. He takes some bread, breaks it and distributes it to the other two. (24:  13 – 30).  At this point the text reads, “Their eyes were opened and they recognised him and he disappeared from them. (24: 31) That same night they return to Jerusalem and inform the eleven that he was known to them in the breaking of the bread (24: 35).

As mentioned earlier and in an earlier blog series, bread was an important component of most meals, particularly simple meals.  It normally was prepared in the form of a large loaf which in order for it to be distributed had to be broken.  The phrase, “broke bread” means precisely that.  It has no overtones in itself of any special ceremony being performed.  The Classical literature of the time has references to “broken-bread”, that is pieces of bread, being distributed in formal meals. What precisely the disciples saw or perceived when Jesus broke the bread that was associated with their recognising him for whom he was, we do not really know.  The reference to “Their eyes were opened” is indicative that by some means or another they were partially “blinded”, as it were, both as they travelled with Jesus and as they began the meal with him.  It is possible that it was the precise words that Jesus used in his giving thanks, or the appearance of hands that bore the marks of crucifixion that gave them the clue as to identity. However the text is silent on the details and seems to carry with it the notion that, as it were, a “veil” was lifted with perhaps the suggestion that the lifting of the “veil” was extraordinary in itself.

There is nothing in this account that is in any way suggestive of a celebratory meal being performed by the disciples.  A mention of wine might have gone a little way to assist in drawing such a conclusion, but even then the use of wine in the meal would not have been unusual.  However there is in fact no mention of wine.

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