It’s the feast of St. Luke today. He has the special place in the Church as the only gentile who has contributed books to the Bible. His Gospel and Acts of the Apostles are two parts of one story taking Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, His death and Resurrection there; then from Jerusalem to Galilee and back again for His Ascension and from Jerusalem to the world as the Church is born and spread.
Luke is the one author who explains that Jesus sent out 70 (or 72) disciples in pairs to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and get some exorcisms done. They all came back amazed at the authority Christ had given them.
St. Hippolytus writes that St. Luke was one of the 70 and we get the impression from his writing that the disciple he went about with was Cleopas. You may remember that Cleopas was the husband of Mary the mother of some of the brothers of the Lord; James, Joseph, Simon and Jude. Some texts say Alpheus was the father of James and no one has worked out, as yet, whether Alpheus was a first husband of Mary or whether it was another name of Cleopas.
So it seems that Luke and Cleopas went out together. This makes me think Luke was probably a circumcised gentile convert to Judaism, who then followed Jesus.
According to Hippolytus and I have a vague idea that other Church fathers noted this, many of the 70 left Jesus and stopped going about with Him after His clear Eucharist discourse (John 6). This falling away when Jesus spoke on Himself as the Bread of Life that the people must eat to have eternal life.
The Jews had very strong laws over food and were understandably perturbed when Jesus started talking about eating Him. Worse still, for His listeners, was the strength of the language He used “chew” and “bare teeth down on”.
Remember, however, that only the day before Jesus had fed them, 5000 of them, with only seven items, five loaves and two fish. He had shown them that He feeds with seven things that are meat and bread. Then He asked them to accept Himself as the Bread of Life.
The Eucharist is a fulfilment of the way God fed Israel in the desert with meat (quails) bread – manna and water from the rock.
At the Last Supper Jesus consecrated the Bread and Wine of the Passover Liturgy into His Body and Blood to feed the world. Many scholars have noted that the Passover lamb, the centre of any Passover meal and liturgy, is never mentioned. While this had led to a question over whether the Last Supper was a Passover, there are those who note that the lamb was there in the Lamb of God giving Himself to the apostles so they could feed the world.
After His Resurrection Jesus walks with two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed one, probably Luke himself, to the house in Emmaus. Once they reach the house the two disciples, still unaware of the identity of their travelling companion, invite him in.
He takes bread, blesses it and breaks it and then vanishes from their sight. Luke says they recognised Him in the breaking of the bread.
Were these two among those who had stopped going about with Jesus because they couldn’t handle His teaching on the Eucharist? Had they drifted back or even come back because of the Passion? We don’t know. But we do know that if there had been any doubts in their minds before Jesus became the bread in their hands for them, they were gone from that moment as they knew Him in the breaking of the bread.
Accepting the Eucharist on Christ’s terms is still a challenge today.