Meals in Luke’s Gospel


Although the Synoptic Gospels have a similar structure and record many of the same events, they should also be noted for their distinctive account of Jesus, selecting and arranging the material in order to convey important themes and teachings. One of the distinctive elements of Luke’s gospel is the emphasis upon the table.

The table is one of the most common elements in the gospel of Luke. It progresses the narrative along, and it provides the setting for major teaching moments in the gospel. On at least eight occasions, Jesus can be seen sitting down to meals with others. In two additional accounts, a meal seems to be implied.

Scripture

Meal

Participants

5:27-32

Banquet at Levi’s House

Tax collectors and sinners

7:36-50

Dinner at Simon’s House

Pharisees, guests and sinful woman

9:10-17

Feeding the 5,000

Disciples and Crowds

10:38-42 *

Hospitality at the home of Mary and Martha

Mary and Martha

11:37-52

Dinner at a Pharisee’s House

Pharisees and Lawyers

14:1-24

Sabbath Meal at a Pharisee’s House

Pharisees, Lawyers and Guests

19:1-10 *

Hospitality at the home of Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus

22:14-38

The Last Supper

The Apostles

24:28-32

Breaking Bread at Emmaus

Two Disciples

24:36-43

Jesus Eats Meal in Presence of Disciples

Two Disciples

* This meal is implied in the narrative.

The meals in Luke 10, 11, 14, 19 and 24 are unique to the Gospel of Luke. The feeding of the 5,000 (Luke 9) and the Last Supper (Luke 22) can be found in all four gospels. The accounts in Luke 5 and 7 have some form of parallel in another gospel.

Meals, food and drink serve as occasions for other teachings throughout the gospel. Some of the more notable examples include the following:

  • The First Temptation of Jesus (4:1-4)
  • Question about Fasting (5:33-39)
  • Disciples Pluck Grain on Sabbath (6:1-5)
  • Mission of the Seventy (10:1-9)
  • Lord’s Prayer and Perseverance in Prayer (11:1-13)
  • Parable of Lost Son and Elder Brother (15:11-32)
  • The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31)

So, what role does the table play in the gospel of Luke? Some have suggested that it serves as an organizing structure for the gospel. Whether that is true or not, it is clear that Luke uses these meals as teaching occassions, providing lessons on evangelism, justice and the kingdom. Meals reflect the social values of the culture, revealing the importance of social class, prominence and rank. For this reason, they provide the perfect occassion to illustrate the counter-cultural message of the kingdom of God.

Table fellowship in the Gospel of Luke provides a fascinating study. I’ve previously prepared the material for a five day class on the subject, and I would love to expand the material. There’s a lot to be discovered from this important theme.

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12 Responses to Meals in Luke’s Gospel

  1. Patrick H says:

    I wonder precisely how Luke continues this theme in the book of Acts? That would be an interesting study. Obviously, both the Lord’s Supper and regular table fellowship play a big part in showing the closeness of the community. (And, of course, the conflict between Peter and Paul in Galatians and the Jew-Gentile issue ties in–though that conflict isn’t made quite so explicit in Acts.)

    • Jeremy says:

      Good question, Patrick. In Acts, there is the statement in Acts 2 about continuing from house to house breaking bread. There are the widows in Acts 6. There’s probably a couple more references, but for the most part, this theme doesn’t seem to be continued (at least to the degree it is in Luke). I’m not sure why that is. It could be the subject of the material. Luke considers the announcement of the kingdom and Acts focuses on the spread of the church. It could be that Luke was leading up to the Lord’s Supper as the culminating meal. It definitely causes one to consider why there is a difference. The rest of the NT seems to assume the communal nature of the meal, and when it is brought up, there is usually a conflict of problem. Lots to consider. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. jayewing says:

    Jeremy,

    Great breakdown! Any great books you would recommend in the “table fellowship” study?

    Blessings
    j.

    • Jeremy says:

      Sorry for the terribly late response. I wrote a paper on Table Fellowship for a class. I found some nice tidbits in various Luke commentaries (Bock, Green, Marshall, Fitzmyer). There was a chapter on table fellowship in The Social World of Luke-Acts: Models for Interpretation, edited by Jerome Neyrey. There was another chapter by James D G Dunn in Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Charlesworth. Lastly, you might check out a 1987 (106, no. 4) JBL article by Dennis Smith entitled “Table Fellowship as a Literary Motif in the Gospel of Luke.”

  4. Keith says:

    Eugene LaVerdiere, Dining in the Kingdom of God: The Origins of the Eucharist in the Gospel of Luke (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1994)

  5. Gordon M says:

    David P. Moessner, Lord of the Banquet: The Literary and Theological Significance of the Lukan Travel Narrative (Fortress, 1989). Links the travel narrative with the eating motif to illustrate that the “daily” motif in Luke’s call to discipleship is illustrated in the way Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem, eating with and associating with people of all kinds, regardless of social position, etc.

  6. Josh Reed says:

    Robert Karris – Eating Your Way Through Luke’s Gospel. Preaching through Luke, in chapter 14. Beautiful kingdom stuff at the table!

  7. Larry says:

    Your granddad loved sharing meals with fellow Christians and their families. Many great lessons taught around these meals. Your uncle Ron preached for us in Belle Glade (while in high school and college – he was preaching the day I was baptized into Christ ) and was one around those tables. Many bible classes taught and learned around mealtime at the table. Good lesson. Larry

  8. Sam da man👌👌 says:

    Thx bro

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