In the Breaking of the Bread

by Matthew W. Bassford

In the gospel of Luke, the primary resurrection appearance of Jesus is when He reveals Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. After they explain the events of the past few days to Him, not realizing that He is Jesus, He takes over the conversation. The rest of the account appears in Luke 24:25-35.

Within this story, several things stand out. The first is that He upbraids His disciples for missing the significance of His crucifixion and resurrection. He makes an extremely strong claim, that the promised Messiah had to suffer before entering into His glory.

Then, He backs up that claim by interpreting for the two disciples everything that the Scriptures said about Him. I don't know about the rest of you, but I would have purely loved to have heard that!
They arrive in Emmaus, sit down to supper, and as Jesus so often does in the gospels, He blesses the bread, breaks it, and distributes it to His disciples. Then, He reveals Himself and vanishes. Later, the disciples report that Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

This is our goal too. As we partake, we want to recognize Jesus. In this, we can do far worse than following the Lord's outline. We must accept Him as the Messiah and remember His sufferings and glories, as predicted by the prophets. Let's consider how He can reveal Himself to us through these things in the breaking of the bread.

The first such prediction allows us to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Let's look at both prophecy and fulfillment in Luke 4:16-21. This too would have been an awesome scene! A man who had grown up living in Nazareth and worshiping in its synagogue reads a Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 61 and announces that He has fulfilled it.

To modern audiences, it is not immediately obvious that Jesus is claiming here to be the Messiah, but the Nazarenes would have taken His point immediately. We look at “Christ” and see Jesus’ last name, and “Messiah” is just a weird word that means “Jesus”. However, both of those words in their original languages carry the meaning of “anointed one”. In the old Israelite kingdoms, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed.

In those cases, the chosen were anointed with oil, typically by another prophet. However, the subject of the Isaiah 61 prophecy has been anointed with the Holy Spirit. This can only be the capital-M Messiah! Indeed, only someone who could back up this claim with undeniable miracles could get away with making it.

It's equally important, though, for us to recognize who the beneficiaries of the Messiah's message are. It's not a very impressive group! Instead, the Messiah is bringing the gospel to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. If people weren't in those categories, the Messiah wasn't for them.

The Jews of the New Testament didn't like hearing this. In the gospel of John, they explicitly reject the notion of being captives or blind. They had too high an opinion of themselves. In doing so, they also rejected Jesus.

Today, we can have the same problem. Like the Laodiceans, we can conclude that we are wealthy and in need of nothing. However, believing it doesn't make it so. As we share in the Lord’s Supper, then, we should remember not only Jesus but also our great need for Him.

Next, we must contemplate the suffering of the Messiah. Our story here appears in Acts 8:27-35. We can describe this as a coincidence exploited by providence. The Ethiopian eunuch happens to be reading from what we call Isaiah 53. Nudged by God, Phillip approaches the chariot and happens to overhear him. Then, the eunuch invites Philip to explain the perplexing prophecy.

It's easy to understand why the eunuch was perplexed! We tend to think of Isaiah 53 as an isolated prophecy, and its significance has been drummed into us by countless Scripture readings before the Lord’s Supper. However, that chapter is only part of a much larger prophecy called the Song of the Servant, and without the benefit of hindsight, its meaning is not at all clear.

Is Isaiah talking about himself? The nation of Israel? Somebody else? If I were a first-century Jew, I don't think I would have understood it either.

However, Philip explains this confusing text by proclaiming the good news about Jesus. To us, it may seem odd that the news from Isaiah 53 is good. Sometimes, we fall into the habit of treating the Lord’s Supper like a funeral service. We mourn that all of the horrible predictions in that chapter were fulfilled by somebody who didn't deserve for any of it to happen to Him.

That's true, but it's incomplete. Despite the gory details, Isaiah 53 is good news! He became a curse for us so that we could receive blessing through faith in Him. He Himself didn't stay in the rich man's tomb. Instead, He was raised from the dead to demonstrate the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice. We should mourn at the thought of what Jesus endured, but as we partake, we also should rejoice.

Our final fulfilled prophecy concerns the glories of the Messiah. We find it in Acts 2:22-33. This is, of course, part of the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost. Here, Peter is using a prophecy from Psalm 16 to show that the resurrection of Christ was foreknown long before He was born.

This is one of the characteristics of Old Testament prophecy. It usually doesn't make sense outside of its fulfillment in Christ. In this case, as Peter points out, even though David speaks, it is not true of him. David did see decay! This passage is only true of someone who rose from the dead never dying again, and that description only applies to Jesus.

Also in this text, we see the three-legged stool of Acts 2. Peter doesn't only rely on prophecy to prove his claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Instead, he also employs two other forms of proof.
The first of these is the eyewitness testimony of the disciples who saw the risen Lord. interestingly, this proof is stronger for us today than it was for Peter's audience on Pentecost. After all, we know what those people did not. We know that the early witnesses to the resurrection of the Christ were so sure of what they had seen that they were willing to die defending that truth. It's hard to reject the testimony of a witness like that!

Finally, Peter uses the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a third proof. All the people in the crowd had heard a bunch of Galileans speaking in a multitude of foreign languages. They certainly couldn't have done that on their own! Instead, they clearly have been endowed with power from on high, and Peter identifies Jesus as the One who has poured out the Spirit. That too shows His glorification.

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we need to remember Jesus not only as a humble sacrifice but also as a triumphant Lord. The narrative of the crucifixion does not end with Him in the tomb. It ends with Him seated at the right hand of the throne of God. When we remember Him, then, we ought to reflect not only on what He has done for us but also on what we must do for Him.

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