“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” Luke 24, 30-35, NIV
Today’s message can be summed up with this one sentence: “They recognized Him when He broke the bread.”
In the Bible, the expression "breaking of bread" is a way of describing a shared meal. If you ate alone, you would not need to break the bread, because there was nobody to share it with. However, if you are eating with someone else, the loaf of bread had be broken into pieces so that everyone can have some. Do you break bread with someone each day?
When I was growing up Sunday dinner was the most important meal of the week. It was always the biggest and the best—-and always right after church. Supper, later on that night, was always left-overs or sandwiches. It was a tradition. Back then a dinner was almost always in a home versus being taken to a restaurant. We broke bread together every night.
I noticed in France how tightly knit families are, how they spend time together on weekends and throughout the year. But I noticed that they rarely went to restaurants as a family. So I asked several families, “How often does your family go to a restaurant for a meal?” They all replied that they went out at least two or three times——- a year! The average family in the USA goes to a restaurant 2.4 times a week!
There’s a difference between eating food and breaking bread together. When we just “eat food”, we’re devouring it because it’s part of our routine, maybe we’re by ourselves or with others, but we’re not really present with them; we’re often tuned into the television or too preoccupied in our own thoughts to enjoy being with someone else. When we share meals, we do it for the experience. We make eye contact, we share stories, we discuss ideas. That’s Jesus did!
Meals were meant to be shared; just think about Jesus and the Twelve Disciples during The Last Supper, all congregating to share food and fellowship out of love for one another and their Teacher. Meals are shared during celebratory times; imagine going to a wedding reception or birthday party without a meal or some sort of cake or refreshment. Even in mourning, meals are delivered to families to be shared together. It’s important to break bread together.
Our greatest national holiday, surrounded by food and breaking bread together is Thanksgiving. You might not know it, but Modern Thanksgiving was proclaimed for all states in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. Influenced by Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote letters to politicians for approximately 40 years advocating an official holiday, Lincoln set national Thanksgiving by proclamation for the final Thursday in November, explicitly in celebration of the bounties that had continued to fall on the Union and for the military successes in the war, and also explicitly in "humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience."[Because of the ongoing Civil War, a nationwide Thanksgiving celebration was not realized until Reconstruction was completed in the 1870s. On October 31, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a presidential proclamation changing the holiday to the next to last Thursday in November, for business reasons. On December 26, 1941, he signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday in November.
I’ve even told that oftentimes the elderly stop eating because they have no one to share it with; eating becomes a lonely burden, not an experience they enjoy. A common meal with people you love is an exercise in maintaining purpose and life and usually leads to a longer and healthier life.
There are at least three things eating together, at home, with your family, reinforces in the lives of adults and teaches our kids—and watching kids today it’s obvious we’re not eating at home enough:
1. We learn to have proper manners. That means not talking with your mouth full. Learning how to slice meat and how to swirl pasta on your fork. We learn the purpose of a napkin and the inappropriateness of elbows on a table. I once had a teenager in my home from South America that never ate a meal with his family—-always in bed or in front of a television. His parents were successful professionals, but they had no time to break bread together. The boy was as kind as he could be, but he had no manners, no communicating skills, did not know how to say please, or thank you. He was a lonely young man—socially handicapped.
2. We learn how to listen. Most of us know how to talk, but very few know how to listen. Sharing meals teaches how to invest in what the other person is saying. Not only should we do this out of support for others we care about, but also to recognize different ideas we hadn’t previously considered. We become educated and knowledgable by listening to even the youngest at the table.
3. We learn that others are just as important as we are. As we share and talk at the dinner table, we are recognizing that everyone else’s days, thoughts, or struggles are just as valuable and worth sharing as our own. I am certain that at meals Jesus talked and taught, but He also listened and was warm to those that ate with Him.
There are seven meals, or festivals, in the Old Testament that Jews still observe. Each involves “breaking bread together”—they’re all around a meal! Amazingly, each in some pointed to Christ’s life and work. There’s significance to eating together:
The feasts were:
Festival of Weeks
Feast of Trumpets
Day of Atonement
Feast of Booths
(And After the Old Testament was written the Jews added Chanukah)
Read the gospels and its astounding to see the number of times that Jesus was invited to a home for a meal or how his teachings were during a meal or referenced a meal. Meals meant something in the Bible.
Okay, so you get the idea. Feasts, eating together, breaking bread is an important idea that God came up with for us. Think about it. It’s God’s idea to have eating a meal to be anchored to a celebration or important event. It’s not just a thing we do because we have to, it’s supposed to mean something.
Let me add, there’s nothing more important that we purchase than our food, and there’s nothing we should be more selective or attentive to than the food we eat. There’s nothing you do each day with your family more significant to their emotional health and social education than sitting down and eating a meal with them at least once a day. Tommy and Tyler can properly set the table, and whereas they might not exercise good manners, they hear it every single time we sit down.
To break bread with Him means that you have chosen to become intimate, honest, plainspoken and direct. Being properly taught to set at a table means that your manner of eating does not cause indigestion when others are eating with you.
Remember, Jesus ate with people all the time. He’s not just some other-worldly God that does not understand us, He was hungry and said so. He ate and drank with them. I believe He also smiled and laughed with them. They listened to Him and He listened to them. That’s what you’re supposed to do at a dinner table. Put the darn iPhone away, remove those earplugs and turn the TV off!
Let Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, birthday parties mean something by the focus you place upon them. Take pride and care on how you set the table, how you purchase your food and you prepare it. We give too much attention to entertaining ourselves or glued to a TV and too little time focused on the human activity that draws us closer to the hearts of those we love and the mind of Christ.
As strange as it may seem, Jesus may have been killed because of his eating habits. Not that He had bad manners but rather with whom He ate. Dining together is more than a biological necessity; it is a social activity with socially understood rules. And one of the rules is that we do not eat with people that disgust us. Can you imagine anything more unpleasant or stomach-churning than sitting down to dinner directly across the table from someone you despise and can’t tolerate? We just don’t do that. We eat with people we are comfortable with, people whose company we enjoy—people we like.
“This man eats sinners,” they said, “and eats with them.” And they were right. But here’s what they did not get: Jesus knew they were sinners and He still loved them. They did not disgust Him or cause Him indigestion. I am a part of the family of God, right now, because Jesus is not disgusted with me and was happy to come into my heart and eat with me.
But here’s the main point, and please remember this: He opened their eyes after He broke bread with them. HE has to open your eyes. And He can only do this when you’re ready to break bread with Him. YOU have to be hungering for Him. Has He opened your eyes? Are you ready to eat a meal with the Master?
He will open your eyes, expand you mind and let you see others at the table as He sees them.
Open our eyes Lord. Come and break bread with us! Bring others into the lives of our families and the life of this church that we should be sharing a meal with! Remind us of what matters in our families and in our daily routines and forgive us for being too busy.
Let me close with quoting one of the last things Christ is recorded to have said in scripture:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20, NIV
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