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'Eating the meal' in Luke's Gospel

'Eating the meal' in Luke's Gospel

Jesus Christ
Oral and written tradition
The Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of John
The meaning for today

From ‘Notes on the Formation of the Gospels’, by John Wijngaards;
published in Background to the Gospels (Bangalore & Ann Arbor 1981)
and Together in My Name (London 1991).

Luke tells us that the two disciples recognised Jesus at the breaking of the bread (Luke 24,30-31). This shows the other side of the coin. We are not only people on the move who travel with Jesus; we also sit at Jesus’ table. No other Gospel has focussed so much attention on meals, banquets and table fellowship. Jesus himself is ‘always eating’. He always seems to be coming from a meal, at a meal or going to a meal. Sharing food and drink indicates a sharing of life.

The Eucharist thus becomes an image of our living together with Jesus and each other.

Once our eyes are opened to the meaning of this imagery of the meal, we begin to notice how Luke teaches us a lot about what a Christian community should be like.

  • Our community should be open. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners in spite of the criticism of the Pharisees (Luke 5,29-32; 15,1-2). God does not reject anyone; as Jesus shows through the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son (Luke 15,3-32).
  • Jesus orders us to invite the poor when we prepare a meal, because in his community all are welcome: the have-nots, the maimed, the lame and the blind (Luke 14,12-14).
  • Through the parable of the great banquet Jesus teaches that God’s invitation goes out to all. ‘Bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind and the lame’ (Luke 14,15-24).
  • It is in the community that people can experience love and forgiveness. This is brought out in the story of the woman who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair (Luke 7,36-50).
  • We should take the lowest seats in the community6 and even leaders should wait on others (Luke 22,26-27; see also 12,37).
  • The community makes us experience Christian joy. We are a happy family celebrating God’s goodness to us. ‘Bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let us eat and celebrate!’ (Luke 15,23-32). Zaccheus came down from the tree and received Jesus into his home with joy (Luke 19,6).

Our sharing food together marks us as a community of love. It reminds us of the banquet of joy for all nations announced in Isaiah 25,6-10.

Read about this theme in: J.DUPONT, ‘Le Repas d'Emmäus’, Lumière et Vie 31 (1957) pp. 77-92; E.GALBIATO, ‘Gli invitati al convito’, Bibbia e Oriente 7 (1965) pp. 129-135; J.NAVONE, Themes of St.Luke, Rome 1970, pp. 11-37; R.J.KARRIS, Luke: Artist and Theologian, New York 1985, pp. 47-78.

John Wijngaards

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