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The Meal Ministry of Jesus

About this article

Jesus loved to eat! The Last Supper was the greatest meal that Jesus shared with his followers, but it was hardly the only one. The Gospels are filled with stories of meals and celebrations that Jesus shared with friends and strangers, indicating that these were sacred times for Jesus and all who partook in them. In this activity the students find the meal events in the Gospels and explore the meaning of the meals.
  1. Ask the students to recall their favorite meal celebration. What made it so special? What was the occasion? Where were they? Who was present? What did they eat? What else happened there? Invite them to share with the class the story of their all-time favorite meal.
  2. Tell the students that eating and celebrating happened to be among Jesus' favorite things to do, and that they are now going to explore some of the meals and parties in which Jesus shared. Divide the class into four small groups, distribute a sheet of newsprint and a marker to each group, and assign one of the Gospels to each group. Give each student a Bible and direct them to search through their group's assigned Gospel for all the stories of Jesus' partaking in a meal with an individual or group. Tell them to elect a recorder in their group and to have that person list the meals and the Bible chapter and verse (for example, Luke 5:27–32--the banquet at Levi's house, Matthew 14:13–21--feeding the five thousand) on the left side of the newsprint.
  3. For each of the meals the students find in their group's assigned Gospel, instruct them to discuss the following questions (written on the chalkboard) while their recorder makes notes on the right side of the newsprint.
    • What was the occasion of the meal?
    • Who was present? What was happening in their life?
    • Why was Jesus there?
    • What did Jesus do or say at the meal?
    • What was the deeper meaning or message of the meal?
    • What happened to the people who were present as a result of their having shared a meal with Jesus? What effect did the meal have on their faith?
    • What can we learn from this meal to help us grow as Christians?
    • If you had been there, what would you remember most about the meal?
  4. Call the groups to come together as a whole class and have the students name aloud the meals they discovered in their group's assigned Gospel. List them on the chalkboard in abbreviated form. Include all the meals so that the students get a visual impression of the number of occasions in which Jesus relaxed with others and ministered to them over a meal. Note that there might be different meals or different accounts of the meals in each of the Gospels. Then lead a discussion about the meals in light of the questions that the students discussed in their group.
  5. In their journal or as an assignment to hand in, ask the students to imagine themselves inviting Jesus to a meal. Use questions like these to stimulate their reflection:
    • What would the meal be like?
    • Where would the meal be held?
    • Who else would be there?
    • What would you eat?
    • What would you talk about?
    • How might you be different as a result of sharing this time with Jesus?
    • Ask the students to describe this meal in as much detail as possible.

Acknowledgments

From the Understanding Catholic Christianity teaching manual. Copyright © 2009 Saint Mary's Press. Permission is granted for this article to be freely used for classroom or campus ministry purposes; however, it may not be republished in any form without the explicit permission of Saint Mary's Press. For more resources to support your ministry, call 800-533-8095 or visit our Web site at www.smp.org.

Published September 7, 2001.