Formations 04.18.2021: The Breaking of the Bread

Luke 24:28-35

Gatherings with friends and family vary widely depending on who shows up. But they all have one thing in common: food.

At our murder mystery parties with close friends, everyone dresses up in a character role and reads script lines at appropriate times until we reach the final page and guess the “murderer’s” identity. But all the action centers on a big themed meal. At visits with parents, grandparents, and other relatives, everyone brings a consumable contribution, like John’s smoked meat, Nana’s baked beans, my slow-cooked macaroni and cheese, and Christy’s superb cake.

Board games with buddies? Chips and dips, cookies, drinks. Birthday parties? Pizza and cake. Friday night family dinner? Chinese takeout.

It doesn’t matter who comes or what we do. Food is the focal point. There’s just something about gathering with people who are dear to you and eating together. Conversation and laughter intermingle with the smells and tastes, creating a unique and memorable experience. Food—something we all need to survive—draws us together and makes us pay attention to each other. When we are intentional about eating, the actions of smelling, cutting, chewing, tasting, and swallowing help us slow down, take our time, look up from our plates, and listen to the people around us.

Maybe that’s why those disciples on the Emmaus road didn’t recognize Jesus until he was at the table with them. After everything that had happened to their Lord over the past couple of days, they probably felt like the rest of Jesus’ followers: sad, terrified, uncertain, confused, disillusioned. Jesus was the only thought in their minds, but they were so focused on their loss that they couldn’t see anything else around them—not even the risen Jesus himself—until they were at the table breaking bread with him.

We don’t know how Jesus looked to them, whether his appearance differed greatly or was somehow hidden or otherwise altered. But we do know what it took for them to recognize him. It took being with him in a familiar place at the table. It took smelling the bread as he broke it. It took hearing him say the words of blessing. It took their mouths watering with hunger.

Getting ready for a meal together opened their eyes, and they were thrilled and overwhelmed. Jesus probably knew they would be too excited to eat. He vanished, and so did those disciples! They got up and went all the way back to Jerusalem, where the other disciples were just beginning to grapple with the strange news that Jesus was alive. And “they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (v. 35).

In all our gatherings as we enjoy food together, may we recognize the presence of Jesus among us.

Discussion

• How important is it that you share food when you get together with people? Why?
• What are some special meals you remember having with people who are dear to you?
• What other stories in the Gospels depict Jesus eating with his disciples? Why were these meals meaningful?
• What are some ways you can recognize and honor Jesus’ presence as you eat together with those you love?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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