Meals with Jesus in Luke’s Gospel
In the Gospel of Luke, meals play a significant role in Jesus’ ministry. In approximately one-fifth of the sentences in Luke’s Gospel and in Acts, meals are mentioned. Meals with Jesus in Luke are often associated with evangelism, discipleship, and reconciliation. Here are some examples of meals with Jesus in Luke (taken from here):
Banquet at Levi’s House: Tax collectors and sinners were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about repentance.
Dinner at Simon the Pharisee’s House: Pharisees, guests, and a sinful woman were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about forgiveness.
Breaking Bread at Bethsaida: 5000 males were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about mission and service.
Hospitality at the House of Martha: Disciples were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about discipleship.
Noon Meal at a Pharisee’s House: Pharisees and teachers were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about inner life.
Sabbath Dinner at a Pharisee’s House: Pharisees and their friends were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about hospitality.
Hospitality at the House of Zacchaeus: Zacchaeus, the tax collector, and others were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about salvation for all.
*Breaking Bread at the Passover Meal: The twelve, including Judas, were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about thanksgiving.
Breaking Bread at Emmaus: Two disciples were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to reveal himself as the living one.
Supper with the Disciples: The eleven and others with them were present at this meal. Jesus used this opportunity to teach about the missionary community.
The meals in Luke are a pre-taste of the banquet to be shared in the kingdom of God. Those who share God’s gifts now and hope in his promises must not let complacency rob them of the fulfillment. The Christian community understands Scripture’s witness to Jesus through the light of Easter; the disciples recognize the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread.
A.M. Okorie explores the significance of meals in the Lukan presentation and identifies seven meals as type-scenes, which are meals with Levi (5, 27-39), Simon the Pharisee (7, 36-50), another Pharisee (11, 37-52), and the ruler of the Pharisees (14, 1-24). These four meals comprise the first cycle of meal-scenes which will be referred to as the Pre-Jerusalem meals. The second cycle of meal-scenes is the Jerusalem meals, which include the Last Supper. He establishes of a fixed pattern or type-scene which will serve to identify those scenes that can technically be called meal-scenes. The author argues that paying close attention to repeated type-scene patterns helps the reader to recognize what is similar and what is dissimilar, what is expected and what is unexpected.
The basic pattern for each type-scene is as follows:
- An invitation to dinner
- The meal scene is always cast with specific individuals, who are identified either by name, position, or description
- The meal takes place in a house
- Jesus does something that initiates a conflict in such a way that he is seen as the catalyst of the disturbance
- This conflict leads to teaching on the part of Jesus directed at his opponents
- The reaction of the antagonists to what Jesus has said
The first meal-scene is with Levi, a tax collector, who invites Jesus to his house for a meal. This meal is significant because it is the first meal-scene in Luke’s Gospel and it introduces the theme of table fellowship. The Pharisees and scribes criticize Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners, but Jesus responds by saying that he has come to call sinners to repentance.
The second meal-scene is with Simon the Pharisee, who invites Jesus to his house for a meal. During the meal, a woman who is a sinner comes in and anoints Jesus’ feet with ointment. Simon is critical of Jesus for allowing the woman to touch him, but Jesus responds by forgiving the woman’s sins and commending her faith.
The third meal-scene is with another Pharisee, who invites Jesus to his house for a meal. During the meal, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and legalism. The Pharisees become angry and begin to question Jesus about his teachings.
The fourth meal-scene is with the ruler of the Pharisees, who invites Jesus to his house for a meal. During the meal, Jesus heals a man with dropsy and teaches the guests about humility and hospitality. Jesus also tells a parable about a great banquet, which illustrates the importance of accepting God’s invitation to the kingdom of heaven.
The second-cycle set of meals are the Last Supper, the encounter with the travelers on the road to Emmaus (24,13-33), and the parting meal shared with the disciples upon their return to Jerusalem (24, 34-53).
The Last Supper, the fifth meal-scene, which is the most significant meal-scene in Luke’s Gospel. During the meal, Jesus institutes the Eucharist and predicts his betrayal by Judas. Jesus also tells his disciples that they must be servants to one another and that they will be persecuted for their faith. Different from the other meals listed before, at the end of this meal, Jesus end up alone praying and abandoned by his disciples.
The last two type-scene meals are identical and while the disciples are scared and heavy hearted, they open their eyes to the Resurrected Christ.
Meals hold a profound significance in Luke’s gospel, often serving as moments of connection, revelation, and spiritual significance. They are crucial in the narrative, showcasing themes of hospitality, fellowship, and inclusion. Here are a few questions for self-reflection:
- Reflection on Fellowship: How do meals in Luke’s gospel portray the concept of fellowship and community? How can the act of sharing a meal foster deeper connections and understanding among individuals in our lives?
- Symbolism and Spiritual Meaning: In what ways do the meals in Luke’s gospel symbolize more than just the act of eating? How might these meals represent deeper spiritual truths or lessons, and how can these insights be applied to our own lives?
- Hospitality and Inclusion: Reflect on the instances of hospitality and inclusivity during the meals in Luke’s gospel. How can the practice of hospitality, welcoming others, and sharing meals create a sense of belonging and acceptance in our communities and personal interactions?
- Revelation and Transformation: Consider how meals become pivotal moments for revelation and transformation in Luke’s gospel. How might our own shared meals or gatherings be opportunities for personal growth, learning, and transformation?
- Eucharistic Connection: How does the Last Supper in Luke’s gospel tie into the Eucharistic tradition? Reflect on the significance of this meal and how communion or shared rituals in our lives might hold spiritual importance.
- Act of Service and Love: Meals often involve an act of service and care for others. Reflect on the significance of serving others and expressing love through shared meals, and how this practice can enhance our relationships and connections with others.
- Reflecting on Listening and Understanding: The meal scenes often involve dialogue and the sharing of stories. How can the act of listening during meals foster better understanding and empathy, and how might this practice improve our communication with others?
- Remembering and Commemoration: The meals in Luke’s gospel are often linked to moments of remembrance and commemoration. How might we integrate practices of remembrance or celebration during our own meal gatherings to honor important aspects of our lives or faith?