Not long ago, we spoke about Key Number Four – how Yeshua was recognized while breaking the bread: “As He sat at the table with them, … He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him” We said that this recognizing Him as Messiah had to do with the authority He exercised in taking the place of the host at that meal. We also spoke about the texts from Qumran and the Essenes’ understanding that only a Priest and Messiah had the authority to bless the bread. In comments to this post, I was asked a question: Was that concept understood by all the Jews at that time? Is it true that the two disciples would have understood this?
This is what today’s post is about: How did the two disciples understand the Messianic authority of Yeshua? Were they familiar with the Essenes’ writings? Let us go back to the day of the Last Supper.
Just a couple chapters earlier, we saw Yeshua and his disciples approaching the Holy City. Jerusalem was swarming with people who had come for Passover. Every house had additional guests, every room was packed, yet Yeshua seemed strangely unconcerned about a place to eat the Passover meal. Confidently, He told His disciples, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters.” How did Yeshua know they would meet a man with a water jar? A man with a water jar was a very unusual sight, as this was ordinarily women’s work. Why would a man be carrying a water jar in Jerusalem?
The only group of Jewish men that traditionally did carry water jars were Essenes. Since Essenes were mostly celibate, their men did women’s work. Therefore, a man carrying a water jar could only have been an Essene. Essenes had their communities, not only in Qumran, but in various towns. They also had a community in Jerusalem. Josephus tells us that one of the gates of Jerusalem was called “the Gate of the Essenes”. Apparently, it was through this gate that they entered their community. From Yeshua’s words, his disciples understood they had to enter Jerusalem through the Essene’s gate. Also, since Essenes used a different calendar, their guest rooms were still available. That’s why the Teacher knew that a room would be available for the Last Supper.
In our Key Number Four post, we discussed the Essenic understanding of messiah’s privilege to break the bread during communal meals. Several texts from Qumran describe such common meals and the rules applied to these meals. For example, in QS 62-5, we read that they shall eat in common and pray in common … and when the table has been prepared for eating, and a new wine for drinking, the Priest shall be the first to stretch his hands to bless the first-fruits of the bread and new wine. And then, in 1QSa 2:17-21 we have a description of the meal for the end-time community that will have the Messiah in its midst: The priest shall say the blessing, and thereafter first the Messiah of Israel, and then all the others according to their rank. This regulation applied to a group of ten or more men.
We know that during the Last Supper, Jesus was the one who blessed the bread and the wine: He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” However, since they had this meal in the Essene room and within the Essene community, while breaking the bread, Yeshua could still be seen as an Essene Messiah. That is why He is making sure to tell them that He is not a Messiah of the Essene concept: He is linking this breaking of the bread to what was to come, to His impending suffering (even though they did not understand that at this moment) – something the Essene Messiah would not do: When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Thus, during the Last Supper, Yeshua made a statement: I am not a messiah of the Essenes, I am a different Messiah. You don’t understand now, but you will understand very soon, what kind of Messiah I am.
Now, back to the Emmaus story. We are told that “they drew near to the village where they were going”. We don’t know whether it was their home village or the house of their friends – but this stranger started to act in the house as one that had authority, assuming the role of the host and breaking the bread. The hearts of the disciples, that had been burning along the way, were now filled with excitement and anticipation. They were reminded of His Messianic blessing during the Last Supper – whether they saw it, or were told about it – therefore for them it was a definite sign of his Messianic dignity. They were also reminded of His words about suffering: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” His words: you will know after this, were being fulfilled right then and there; He had told them in advance that He would be a different, suffering Messiah – and now, finally, they understood it. Yes, He was the Messiah, but He was a different Messiah – not the Messiah that Israel expected; not the Messiah that the Essenes expected – and this is what two disciples realized while He was breaking the bread.
As I have mentioned several times before, Luke want us to see his Gospel in the light shed by this transitional chapter. Therefore, along with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, we understand two things: first, that Yeshua is the Messiah, and as Messiah he had the authority to bless the bread and the wine, and second, that he is a different Messiah, different from everyone’s expectations, including the Essenes. His Messiahship comes through suffering, and His blessing of bread and wine is a reminder of this suffering. I believe these are two main conclusions that Luke wants us to understand from this Transitional Chapter – because these are the two main things that the two disciples realized in the little village of Emmaus. That’s why, in that very moment, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him”.
 Lk. 24:30,31
 Lk. 22:10
 Lk. 22:17,19
 Lk. 22:14,15
 John 13:7
 Lk. 24:31