Breaking Bread in Luke-Acts VI: General Observations

The previous posts in this series (listed in the Serial Index under “Biblical Texts”) have focused on exegetical detail within the framework of Luke’s two volume narrative (Luke and Acts). This final post in the series will serve as a summary of what I consider some of the more significant theological ideas embedded in Luke’s narrative concerning “breaking bread.” I trust that my exegesis (both in Come to the Table and the previous posts) grounds my theological summary.  :-)

The church continues the ministry of Jesus. The early church did what Jesus did; they followed Jesus into the world teaching what he taught and doing what he did (Acts 1:1-3). Part of this ministry was “table fellowship,” and more specifically the “breaking of bread.” Jesus sat at table with saint and sinner, insider and outsider. He broke bread with thousands (Luke 9), with the twelve which included Judas the betrayer (Luke 22) and with a wider range of disciples in post-resurrection meals (Luke 24; Acts 1).  The continue continued this practice–they broke bread as a community and with outsiders. The church continues to break bread on the ground of what Jesus did, not on the ground of what the church did.  We imitate the church as it imitated Jesus. Looking beyond the few “breaking bread” texts in the Gospel of Luke, the church finds its model for table in the table ministry of Jesus itself.

The church eats a meal of redemptive hope.  Every “breaking of bread” in Luke-Acts is a redemptive and eschatological in character. Luke 9 is the eschatological presence of the Messianic Son of Man who feeds his people–the curse of hunger is reversed in that moment and the promise of a future aswell as the fulfillment of the past (the prophet like Moses has arrived!) is embedded in that moment. Luke 22 anticipates the coming kingdom of God and at that table Jesus announces it will come as a fulfillment of the Passover.  Luke 24 declares that the future has arrived in the presence through the resurrection of Jesus. Acts 2 inaugurates a communal reality upon which the risen Christ has poured his Spirit. Acts 20 declares the hope and comfort of the resurrection through the resuscitation of Eutyches who is a symbol of the resurrection hope proclaimed in Jesus who was raised on the first day of the week and broke bread with his disciples. Acts 27 is the assurance of hope through breaking bread and eating; it is the promise of salvation. Eating the meal (breaking bread) is a promissory act–God pledges the future to us. 

The church eats in the presence of Jesus.  While the meal promises the future, it also is an experience of eschatological presence of the living Christ.  When the church breaks break, they sit at the table of the Lord who is both the nourishment and the host of the meal.  He is both lamb and host; indeed, he is servant at the table as well. When Luke uses “breaking bread” in his Gospel, Jesus is always the living host. This is particularly significant in Luke 24. Jesus promised he would break bread with his disciples again in the kingdom of God and in Luke 24 he breaks bread with them. The church eats a post-resurrection meal with Jesus through the breaking of bread. Eating in the presence of the living Christ is not a funerary act or a sad memorial of his death, but a vibrant declaration of the gospel (good news) that Christ died and rose again for the sake of the world. But more than a declaration–it is, indeed, an experience of the living Christ himself. Thus, joy and celebration encircles the table rather than mourning and sadness. Why would anyone eat a post-resurrection meal with Jesus in sadness?

The church invites “others” to share the meal. When the early church follows Jesus into the world, it is for the sake of the world. Their table is not exclusive but inclusive. Their table is inviting and includes “others” at the table. Just as Jesus willingly and intentionally sat at table with “others” (Luke 5), so the church intentionally sets a table that welcomes all. There is no reason to presume that the “breaking of bread” in Acts 2 or Acts 20 only included disciples. As communal meals, just as the communal meals of Israel, the inclusion of “outsiders” (“aliens” in the Hebrew Scriptures) is consistent with the purpose and meaning of the table itself and demonstrated by Jesus himself. He sets the table etiquette of his kingdom table and he practiced it as the presence of the kingdom in the world. The table is not simply communal but also missional (more on that in the next post).



14 Responses to “Breaking Bread in Luke-Acts VI: General Observations”

  1.   Terrell Lee Says:

    Again, I deeply appreciate your thoughts. What you have written is in harmony with my thinking though you laid a much better theological foundation than I. Your ability to interact with such a broad spectrum (text, history, commentaries, etc.) is not only impressive and helpful but it shows the seriousness with which you approach your work. Thanks.

  2. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Terrell, you are too kind, my friend. And you are a bit biased. :-)

  3.   rich constant Says:

    i really don’t know when i will be able to free my self of the preconcieved predudices of my up bringing
    that “I know are wrong” …eat and drink with all!children!also so much more.
    to say nothing of…
    in a lot of ways it is nice to to find out just how missed up i never thought i was……..
    i am glad i understand rom.ch7 & 8

    thanks john mark i am begining to understand the “LORDS TABLE”
    SOMETHING THAT I NEVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD.
    STILL DON’T BUT I DO THINK I AM GETTING A HANDLE ON THIS KINGDOM FELLOWSHIP MEAL OF THE GOSPEL OF OUR LORD

    thanks john mark
    p.s.
    i have taken so many teachings for granted
    may god contenue to give us grace and mercy

    this little bit
    i wonder how many years of formulating john mark
    also how many side ways looks…

    much big blessings john mark

  4.   jel Says:

    congrats on your BLOGGING AWARD ;)

  5. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, Jel. It is honor.

  6.   randall Says:

    I had not heard the blog award results. I assume they are available on line. Could anyone direct me to the right site?
    Thanks,
    Randall

  7. Profile photo of Wendy Scott Cayless  wjcsydney Says:

    The Theoblogger 2009 Christian Blog Awards are here: http://www.hopeforyourfamily.com/2009/03/28/christian-blogger-award-2009-winners/

  8. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I heard about it from http://www.hopeforyourfamily.com/

    John Mark

  9.   Randall Says:

    WJCS and JMH: Thanks for the website info for the Theoblogger Awards. It is nice that they had different categories – some of which I am not familiar with at all. I must agree that JMH being named best theological blog is well deserved. I know of no other theological blog associated with the cofc that is close to being as good as this one.

    However, if there are other ones out there at or near this level I would appreciate knowing where I can find them.
    Randall

  10. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Randall, I believe–if I remember correctly–the other two nominations in the “theological” category were Jay Guin and Bobby Valentine. I would highly recommend both of their blogs for theological content. They are both on my personal blog roll.

  11.   randall Says:

    Yes, I had another senior moment. They come so frequently now. I appreciate Bobby Valentine’s blog very much. You guys write a good book when you’ve a mind to. Wonder when the next one will be published?

  12.   Robert Says:

    Dear JMH:

    Thanks for your work. How significant is the argument that in Luke’s Last Supper narrative that since Jesus breaks the bread, eats the full Seder meal, then offers the cup, and then tells his disciples that He has conferred upon them a kingdom that they may eat and drink at His table in that kingdom that Jesus viewed the Lord’s Supper as fuller meal? Also, isn’t there great weight in the name Lord’s Supper, itself? Is it a Supper or not? The very institution of the Lord’s Supper was a full meal. The religious community has not embraced this, so is this too overly simplistic?

  13. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I think there is great signfiicance in that. When Jesus said the Passover is fulfilled in his eating and drinking at his kingdom table, I don’t think he was simply talking about the bread and wine. He was talking about the bread, wine and meal itself. My argument is, as well, that the Lord’s Supper was intended as a full meal, a festive meal with bread, wine, and food. I don’t think it simplistic; it is on target, Robert.

  14.   Robert Says:

    Thanks! Since I just preached that message this Sunday, it’s good to know that I didn’t mess it up too bad. Your books and Ben Witherington’s book, Making A Meal Of It, were transformative to me, and to many, many others. You are making a big difference in people’s lives with your teaching. May God keep blessing you for that!

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