Key Number Four: Blessing The Bread

 

 

Last time we saw that after the two disciples “constrained” Yeshua, “He went in to stay with them”. Then we read:

Luke 24:30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them

Luke 24:31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

First of all, let us understand how this meal looked from the traditional Jewish point of view. Sharing meals has always been a very important part of Jewish community life. At the beginning of the meal, the traditional blessing is always said as the bread is broken: “Barukh attah ‘Adonai ‘elohenu Melekh ha-olam ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz” –
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth”.

Since it was the Passover week, it would have been matzah, not regular bread, so the Blessing on Matzah would have been added:  “Blessed are You, our Lord God, King of the Universe who makes us holy through Your commandments, and commands us to eat Matzah.”

The one who recited the blessing, did so while literally breaking the bread – exactly as we are told Yeshua did. In this sense, it was a traditional Jewish meal of Chol Ha-Moed  (Passover week).  Or was it?

In the Babylonian Talmud, we read: “The host should break bread” (Berakoth 46). In Jewish tradition, the host – the head of the household – is the one who always says the blessing and breaks the bread. Strangers who are invited to the meal usually wait for directions from their host and quietly receive what is set before them.

However, that is not what we see here. Clearly this was not a regular guest!   Instead of waiting for his host’s direction, this stranger is taking the host’s place: He is saying the blessing and breaking the bread! We can imagine that this behavior must have caught the attention of everyone in the house.  Where did this authority come from?

Here I would like to quote a passage from the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The Qumran Sectarians seemed to believe in the eternal Savior (they believed it was Melchizedek), who would come as man and was known to them as the Teacher of Righteousness.  The Teacher of Righteousness was a priest. Let us have a look on a fragmentary document 1QSa (sometimes called The Messianic Rule) and see what this text says about the Priest; [the Mess]iah of Israel shall [enter] … and [no-one should stretch out ] his hand to the first fruit … before the Priest, for [he is the one who b]lesses the first-fruit of the bread and of the new wine … …  (column 2, lines 18-21).

‘No-one should stretch out his hand to bless the bread’: it means that, in the days of Yeshua, there was an understanding that when the Messiah came, no-one should stretch out his hand to bless the bread before Him. The authority to bless the bread first clearly belonged to the host – or to the Messiah.  And when, in our story, this stranger acted in the house as one that had authority,[1] we can imagine that, even though the eyes of the disciples were still restrained, their hearts, that had been burning along the way, were now filled with excitement and anticipation. His behavior was a definite sign to them of His messianic dignity.

But there is something even more significant going on here – something that the Essenes didn’t know and the disciples had not yet understood – but Luke makes   very clear for us here. There is no question that, even in early Christian tradition, the blessing of the bread was a reminder of the last supper Yeshua had with his disciples before his death, and therefore a reminder of his suffering – and this is something that Luke is really stressing here: that Yeshua is recognized while he is blessing the bread, means that the Messiah is to be recognized by his suffering.  It is highly characteristic that Luke introduces the concept of the suffering Messiah very strongly into the body of his writings. The expression for: Christ to suffer – παθειν τον Χριστον – appears five times in Luke-Acts: Lk. 24:26, 24:46, Acts 3:18, 17:3, 26:23.  Remarkably, although we also find the word suffer (παθειν) in the other Gospels, we never find it in conjunction with the word ‘Messiah’.  Luke is the only one who unfolds this concept concerning the Messiah; he is the only evangelist who explicitly says that the Messiah has to suffer. In his sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2:36, Peter says: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ,” meaning that God has made Yeshua both Lord and Messiah through Him being crucified and raised from the dead. The messiahship of Yeshua only became real (and recognizable) after and through His suffering and His resurrection.

So, before proceeding to the second volume of his work, Luke provides us with another very important the key to the whole story of Yeshua and His messiahship. This is our key for today, KEY NUMBER FOUR: Yeshua is recognized while breaking the bread – and this is the sign of 1) His messianic dignity and 2) His suffering.  First, His authority in the house in taking the host’s place and blessing the bread was evidence and proof that this was indeed the Messiah sitting before them; then, the blessing of the bread reminded them of the Last Supper and of His suffering. It is highly significant that in the beginning of our story, after Yeshua reproached the disciples for their lack of understanding, He began His teaching session on Tanach with these characteristic words:  “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory”? The Messiah had to suffer – and only then did the appointed time come for His messiahship to be revealed.

[1] Mark 1:22

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Paul Herman

    Thank you for these insights. I too thought that Jesus was recognized by the nail prints in His hands. This study shows that it was so much more: breaking the tradition, “political correctness,” of the day of having the host break the bread; the Messianic insights of the day as recorded by the Essenes; and the suffering Messiah as recorded in Luke and also Isaiah 53.

  2. Maureen Harrison

    So much more meaningful when you hear the Jewish thinking, understanding, and customs of the time.
    Thank you Julia for sharing your insights.

  3. Anita

    ” ‘In the Babylonian Talmud, we read: “The host should break bread” (Berakoth 46).” This was a bit of a distraction from what you had to say, as I understand Messiah having referred only to the Scriptures as authoritative instruction… (ie: Math 23:2 [listen to what is read from Torah]). Also, if there were only the 12 at Yeshu’a/Yehoshuah’s “last supper”, would these two have known this detail already? Perhaps. Thank-you for the insights you shared.

  4. Elizabeth (Lisa) Seibel-Ross

    As others have said, I’m also finding this walk down the road slowly, altering my perceptions as well (and I always thought I understood it pretty well 🙂 1) The idea of the two disciples constraining Yeshua reminds me of “ask and you shall receive”, “knock and the door will be answered” – when there is a reaching out by mankind to the Lord, He comes in and stays, then there can be the community/family gathering at table for nourishment and blessing. 2) I always wondered what the signs were that people were picking up on when they said that this Yeshua was teaching with an authority unlike any other. So it is so helpful to know that in this situation there was not only a surprising change in the ritual tradition of host vs. guest, but also what must have been the underlying understanding of these two disciples that we see attested to by the Qumran community that only Messiah is in a position to bless this bread. 3) Then lastly, as we’ve discussed before, their eyes are opened and He is recognized, i.e., He opens them and develops their thinking, only after the bread/His body has been broken. Thank you Julia for your teaching! I, like the disciples, need it, and am grateful for it.

    1. Julia Blum

      Great Lisa! I am so glad you find these posts helpful. And thank you for this wonderful juxtaposition of the two Scriptures: two disciples constraining Yeshua – and “knock and the door will be answered’. I think it is very powerful!

  5. George Barton

    Thank you Julia for sharing this insight. It is amazing what we are truly missing by not studying the bible ourselves. Thank you again.

  6. Susan Rodriguez

    Julia, how important it is to have emphasized the way the Word of God is perfect and complete in teaching us about the Lord Jesus! Thank you!

  7. Gustavo Perera

    Beautiful! Both insight and duality of meaning – The King that brings forth bread from the earth; and ”The Bread of Life.” לחם של החיים. Beautiful Julia.

  8. Peter K. O. Adeyemi

    Wonderful insight! Thanks Julia for this revelation

  9. Catherine Globun

    I love this picture that we get realizing that the broken bread points to Him the bread of heaven. As He said this is my body broken for you to the disciples it was a visual for them of the cutting of His flesh. Once the crucifixion took place then they were able to see Him as the resurrected Lord. Their eyes were opened after He broke the bread and the vanished possibly pointing to the grave itself and now His resurrected body. I am the resurrection… The fact that they invited Him in to sup with them and He accepted is a picture of when we invite Him in to our hearts and our eyes are opened to seeing Him for who He is. They did’t see Him as the unrecognizable person that just went into that grave just hours before but in a much recognizable state with the suffering nail scared hand feet and side.

    1. Julia Blum

      So beautiful , Catherine! Thank you!

  10. Jo Ann Abreu

    Very interesting. I enjoyed reading this blog and have gained more insight into the book of Luke and the Messiahship of Jesus.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Jo Ann! So glad you find these articles helpful! Hope you will continue to follow the blog!

  11. Elizabeth Victoria Kane

    It is always touching to read the Emmaus walk. How the two were so enraptured as he unfolded the scripture. You can feel there amazement as they realized and understood what Messiah was saying to them. Their realization was reinforced by the breaking of the bread. They learned more by his acceptance of their invitation to join them at meat. That was truly a blessed feeling to be seated with Jesus/Yeshua, the Messiah and having him bless the meal.

    Julia Blum I would be remiss if I do not express my appreciation for how you related the narrative and how your reinforced the expression in the books of Luke and Acts.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Elizabeth, for your kind words, I am blessed to hear that!

  12. Ann Pryce

    Thank you so much for this information. It really opens up this encounter the desciples had with our Lord.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Ann! So glad you find these posts helpful!

  13. Annette Campbell

    I like this blog especially as I was reading about the story I had guessed that when he visited them for dinner they were reminded of the last supper as well as the words of Christ about his resurrection and return. Thank you Julia!

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Annette! I like hearing from you, and I am always blessed by your encouraging words!

  14. Arend Warmels

    Thank you very much for being a Guide to direct your readers attention to those ‘little’ wonderful details which such far extended significance in the Scripture, that completely change the perception of this well known story that is talked about each year. Looking forward to much more from you! Exciting reading material

  15. Paul Kristofferson

    Very enlightening , I found this very helpful in understanding Luke’s account of this incident. Thank you Prof Blum

  16. Fr Youssef

    Many thanks for this wonderful insight
    Especially explaining the Jewish tradition of the breaking of the bread
    What is Matzah , is this unleavened bread?

    1. Julia Blum

      Yes, matzah ( Hebrew: מַצָּה‎‎ ) is an unleavened flatbread. The Jewish people eat matzah during Passover festival, when chametz (leaven and the grains that can be leavened) is forbidden.

  17. jane z mazzola

    I have always loved reading this story, & imagining how these 2 disciples came to understand Jesus/Yeshua as the Messiah as he blest & broke the bread at table w/them. It takes on even more wondrous import, with your explanations, Julia, of the ritual courtesy that would have been observed & the symbolic ritual, almost liturgy, that was conveyed to them by Jesus’s taking this role reserved for the host or the awaited Messiah. Their awakening to the fact that indeed, it was Jesus/Yeshua in their midst & that He was this awaited Messiah who had suffered & was now alive with them.

    Thank you again.

  18. Militza Erceg

    I have read the four keys but the explanation for this one is amazing! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!!

  19. Bobbie Ann Cole

    This is most enlightening. I love the parallels that you draw.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Bobbie!

  20. James Ashmore

    Thanks Julia for the enlightening! Not to be critical, but I have a sincere question: I realize the Essenes understood Messiah alone had the authority to take the bread and bless it, but was that concept understood by all the Jews at that time as well? Is it true that the two disciples understood this? Thanks much.

    1. Julia Blum

      It is a very good question, James. The fragment I quote is taken from DSS – it doesn’t mean, however, that nobody else shared this understanding. Moreover, even if this belief was indeed peculiar to the Essenes only, the disciples still could have been aware of it: after all, there were many Essenes in Jerusalem and other towns as well, not only in Qumran. In any case, it gives us a wonderful explanation of otherwise unexplained detail: why Jesus, formally being “just a guest” who was kindly invited for the meal, – why and how , all of sudden, he would take a place of the host and would break and bless the bread. He did have the authority to do it – and this authority was recognized as Messianic authority.

  21. Ardythe Kropp

    Your teaching is such a blessing. Thank you for sharing with us!

  22. Dorothy Healy

    How amazing it is to walk through this very familiar story one step at a time – each step uncovering another profound insight. Thank you Julia for unfolding this story – one step at a time – so we can savour each step and forever see it in a brand new light.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you , Dorothy! I am always blessed by your comments!

  23. Henrietta Wisbey

    Dear Julia
    Just read this blog. Amazing So so amazing Thank you.
    I was doing a piece of writing for our church yesterday and I concluded with this short piece:
    And their eyes were opened
    deeply treasured words
    lay buried and unseen
    now laid bare and opened—
    These very sufferings
    These very things
    The gateway and the path to glory
    These things had come to pass.

    I had been writing around the phrases these things and it came to pass!!
    We serve an amazing Saviour.
    Henrietta

    1. Dorothy Finlay

      Wonderful insights Julia. I have always thought that Yeshua was recognised by the nail prints but never thought of the Jewish role of His Kingship and Lordship being thekey that ‘opened their eyes. Thank you for this Julia.

      1. Julia Blum

        Thank you Dorothy! It’s always a blessing to hear from you!