The Lord’s Supper in Luke’s Gospel

Commenting on Luke 22:14-20, Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh write: “The critical importance of table fellowship as both reality and symbol of social cohesion and shared values cannot be overestimated in this passage (Social-Scientific Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, 402). Malina and Rohrbaugh say the same of parallel accounts of the Last Supper in Mark 14:17-25 and Matthew 26:20-29, but distinctive features of Luke’s account make the authors’ statement particularly applicable here.

  1. Compare Luke’s account of the Last Supper with Mark’s account. In particular, note how Jesus’ words in Luke 22:24-30 have a parallel in Mark 10:42-44. Luke’s account of Jesus’ journey from Galilee to Jerusalem is substantially longer that that recounted in Mark 10:32-52 where Jesus’ discussion of “greatness” occurs in connection with a third passion prediction and a special request from James and John. Luke does not recount James and John’s request nor Jesus’ response to them (see Powell’s discussion of parts of Mark absent from Luke, 155). Note language in Jesus’ response to James and John (Mark 10:38-40) that evokes images of a meal where a ritualistic expression of solidarity occurs. How might this explain Luke’s location of Jesus’ teaching about genuine greatness? Without an account of the request of James and John, which arouses anger among the disciples, what in Luke’s account of the Last Supper indicates actions or behavior that threaten the solidarity between Jesus and his disciples?
  2. Some interpreters regard Luke 22:24-30 as a precis of Jesus’ teaching that is, a summary of teachings that captures their essence. Noteworthy is how this precis is part of what might be characterized as Jesus’ “farewell address” (see the interpretative note to this passage in NISB). How is 22:24-30 an effective precis, as defined above, for Jesus’ teachings in Luke’s Gospel, particularly the teaching found in the Travel Narrative? How does Jesus’ institution of what comes to be called the Lord’s Supper provide his disciples with direction and strength to care on in his absence?
  3. Consider how what Jesus says to his disciples in Luke’s account of the Last Supper prepares them for their apostolic mission which Luke recounts in the Book of Acts. (Murphy provides a brief overview of Acts at the end of the chapter on Luke.) Contrast the setting of Jesus’ saying about his disciples judging the twelve tribes of Israel in Luke with its setting in Matthew (19:28). How does the inclusion of this Q saying what appears to function as Jesus’ farewell address provides a bridge between the gospel and Acts? Recall the forum in Unit 5 where we discussed how sayings and parables of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25 intensify the eschatological urgency of Mark’s apocalyptic discourse. Some of these sayings and parables come from the Q source and others are unique to Matthew. Luke records a saying of Jesus that exhorts hearers to be prepared lest the day of judgment come upon them “suddenly like a snare” (21:34). However, it seems that Luke is not as concerned about the nearness of final judgment as are Mark and Matthew? (See the section, “Delay of the Parousia,” in the Murphy textbook, and Powell’s discussion of the present aspects of salvation, pp. 163-165.) Consider how the teachings and parables in Luke’s Travel Narrative focus on manifestations of the kingdom of God in present world that believers encounter daily; note for example: 11:1-8; 13:27-30; 17:20-21. How is “judging the twelve tribes of Israel” related to the disciples’ mission of forming a new type of religious community–a community with Jewish roots where Gentiles experience full inclusion–within the present world order?
  4. In our churches today, does the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion function as a ritual of solidarity offering direction and empowerment for mission in the manner that Luke describes the Last Supper functioning for Jesus’ disciples? Explain.

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