Knowing Christ in the Breaking of the Bread

“…Most important for our reflection on the nature of theological discourse is to understand how the disciples came to know that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God. Thereby, we can contemplate the coming Lord in that same way, and so remain within the apostolic tradition. As we have observed, they did not come to this knowledge through hearing reports about his birth, nor by accompanying him for a period of time.

This simply underscores the fact that the usual methods of human knowledge – scientific analysis, historical inquiry, or philosophical reflection – are inadequate when the desired object of knowledge is God. For God is not subject to human, physical, or mental perception, but shows himself as and when he will, just as the risen Christ comes and goes at his own pleasure. And, as we have seen, he disappears from sight once he is recognized, so that he does not remain as an external object for our scrutiny – even though we are to become his body, his tangible and perceptible presence in this world.

So, neither seeing Christ on the cross, nor the report about the empty tomb, nor the even the encounter with the risen Christ prompted the disciples, finally, to know the Lord: the tomb is empty, but this in itself is ambiguous, and when he appears he is not immediately recognized.

Rather, the disciples come to recognize the Lord as the one whose passion is spoken of by the Scriptures (meaning the ‘Old Testament’), and who is encountered in the breaking of the bread. Consuming Christ’s offering, they become his body. These two complementary ways – the engagement with Scriptures (understanding how Christ ‘died according to the Scriptures and was raised according to the Scriptures’[1 Cor 15:3-5]), and the participation in the Lord’s meal (‘proclaiming his death until he comes’ [1 Cor 11:26]) – specify what St Paul claims he had received then handed down, or ‘traditioned’ to later generations (cf. 1 Cor 11:23, 15:3).” (John Behr in Thinking Through Faith, pp 73-74)