Lock Number Four : Breaking The Bread

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”[1] 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.”[2] 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.”[3] 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.”[4]  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”.[5] 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,[6] 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.”[7] 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”.[8]

[1] Lk. 24:30,31

[2] Lk. 22:10

[3] Lk. 22:17,19

[4] Lk. 22:14,15

[5] Lk.24:28

[6] Mk.1:22

[7] John 13:7

[8] Lk. 24:31

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. Jesse Kana Dass

    Thanking all the teachers of HIS WORD from jewishstudies eteachers. We are amazed by your teaching and revelation, it throughly enlightent our understanding from Hebrew perspective.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Jesse, for your kind words! Happy New Year and many blessings! I hope, in 2017 you will keep following the blog and keep finding these articles interesting and helpful.

  2. John miller

    Difficult to assess any Essene influence in Jesus/His disciplines & ministry, as they were a separated group, wearing white and given to much ritual, washings and fasting. John, the forerunner, similarly had nothing in common with their society. Jesus glorified after the resurrection left all speechless/unknowing as first encountered. The supernatural seems always to enshroud Him… no surprise.

    1. Julia Blum

      You are right, John, it is very difficult to estimate an Essene influence in Jesus/his disciples life and ministry. However, we do have this hint” about a man with a wated jar” and based on this hint, we can assume they entered Jerusalem through Essene gates and therefore had the Last Supper in one of the Essene rooms.

  3. Sharon Stern

    Well, I have missed this discussion for several weeks, but am able to re-engage with all of you. I have enjoyed reading your comments as we find the locks that our preceding keys belong to. Luke tells the story of the Yeshua’s Pesach Seder with different details than the other narratives. I am struck that He starts by reminding his talmudim/disciples once again, that he is about to suffer; something they refused to believe or understand. He tells them they are to divide the bread and the wine amongst themselves after He has said a blessing over them – a blessing with authority; and that He will not partake of it again until “the Kingdom of HaShem has come (which was His role to begin with – to usher in the Messianic Era if He had been accepted, but He wasn’t!). He even tells them that He is pouring our this cup of wine they are dividing amongst themselves as a NEW COVENANT in MY BLOOD — a dramatic expression of his impending death. The bread is given as a remembrance of HIS BODY which is about to BE GIVEN FOR YOU – another expression of his impending death. And He asks them to REPEAT THIS EVENT – the Pesach – IN REMEMBRANCE OF HIM!

    Now, for centuries, the nation of Israel has been faithfully repeating the Pesach as commanded in Leviticus 23 in remembrance of their freedom from slavery in Egypt and the beginning of their journey home again. The blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes in Egypt was a one time event only, never repeated again. It only took the blood of the lamb being applied to their doorposts in Egypt ONCE to gain their freedom from the angel of death ‘passing over’ – ‘pesach’. And it only takes one application of the shed blood of Maschiach ben Yosef, the suffering Messiah (Yeshua/Jesus), to atone for our guilt, our transgressions of Torah, for we are all transgressors/sinners and we all fall short of the Glory of HaShem.

    But His body, symbolized by the bread, we are to continue to partake in — symbolically, spiritually – as He tells us over and over that He is the Bread of Life —- Just as the Israelite’s fleeing Egypt on that first Pesach partake of the flesh of the lamb to provide sustenance and strength for their journey; we too, partake of the nourishment we receive when we live our lives by following our “Bread of Life”, Emmanuel, HaShem in our midst who tabernacled with us to teach us the ways of the Father. He is the Torah made flesh, written on our hearts through a renewed covenant that is eternal.

    I thank Dr. Luke for shining a light on this critical role our Messiah walked out for us through His atoning sacrifice for all mankind. And I suspect that many of us are no different than those disciples who walked with Yeshua while he was alive and those who saw him resurrected. Hindsight is often clearer than what we see in real time. And I like Mary agree through these revelations as we take the keys and unlock the locks, we see the glorious tapestry that HaShem has designed to weave all of mankind together in Maschiach.

    1. Julia Blum

      Dear Sharon, so glad to see you back here! Thank you so much for your profound comment. Yes, you are absolutely right: Hindsight is often clearer than what we see in real time. it is very important for us to understand that: what seems to be so obvious and clear now, was not so obvious and clear in the real time. We have to have this understanding if we try to answer the question why His own received Him not. . Of course, this is not the only answer to this question – but this is undoubtedly a big part of the answer, and we have to be aware of that. Thank you!

  4. Mary Yeh

    “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.” Is not this the Messiah whom we follow today? He has each of us come to Him directly and that is the opening of our eyes personally. I love Him dearly for this. Always fresh, living and operative and His Words always separates our thoughts from our carnal earthly thoughts to Him on High and within our spirits. No one tomorrow, yesterday and even today, cannot put Christ Jesus in a box. And we certainly cannot put God’s chosen people through the ages in a box or of us today who bow in worship before this King Jesus seated with glory in the heavens! He is drawing us together to Him. He just proves from these keys, HE IS THE KEY!

    1. Julia Blum

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

  5. premkumar samuel

    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.
    in the end time community ,were the essenes expecting a Priest to pronounce the Blessing ,even when Messiah is there ,Can you through some more light on what these end time community were thinking about their Messiah?

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Samuel, here is a very brief “review” of the Dead Sea Scrolls eschatology. It features two messiahs, the “anointed one of Aaron” and the “anointed one of Israel” – and the anointed priest is seen as first in dignity and authority. For instance, before the communal meal, the priest extends his hand and blesses the bread and the wine, then the messiah of Israel blesses the bread and the wine. In some texts, these two figures merge, in other texts, they are very distinct. Of course, this “two messiahs” concept differs a lot from NT understanding, and that is why Yeshua had to make sure that He was not “the Messiah of Essenes”.

  6. catherine britt

    thank you Julia
    Beautiful to understand this

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you so much Catherine!

  7. Iathane

    thank you for your valued course hear well done, although i do find you have missed out a lot in scriptures related to the “breaking of bread”?

    from Dr Cromwell Judean Messianic Jew (Hebrew) Christian

    1. Dorothy Healy

      I concur Iathane that we are receiving some valuable insights here, but as we keep learning together, perhaps you would like to expand on the ‘breaking of bread’ aspect for us. Clearly this is very key to fully understanding the scenario and is more than a mere reminder – for ‘when we eat this bread and drink this cup we (continue to) PROCLAIM HIS DEATH until He comes in glory.’

      1. Julia Blum

        Dear Dorothy and Iathane, I think we need to change a vantage point here. As you know, at the moment we are talking about, the New Testament was not written yet – and therefore all the NT scriptures related to the “breaking of bread”, didn’t exist yet. Of course, today when “we eat this bread and drink this cup we (continue to) PROCLAIM HIS DEATH until He comes in glory” – but this very verse that you quote, was not there yet! It was indeed the very first “breaking of bread” after the Last Supper – and while it is absolutely clear for us today that His body is symbolized by this bread and the breaking of bread symbolizes His suffering and death, God had to open their eyes then, for them to be able understand this message and to recognize Him. As Sharon wrote here, “hindsight is often clearer than what we see in real time”.

    2. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words, Iathane. I didn’t intend to review all the scriptures related to the “breaking of bread”, it’s not the point of this article. My task was to show how and why Yeshua was recognized while breaking the bread , how they saw it and perceived it and what it reminded them of. By the way, all the New Testament scriptures related to the “breaking of bread”, as you know, didn’t exist at this point yet.


    Thank you