It is later on Easter Day, the day on which Mary Magdalene and the other women have discovered the empty tomb. As two of Jesus' followers walk to Emmaus, they talk about the day's news, the recent startling events. Eusebius, the first church historian, tells us that Cleopas was a relative of Jesus.
But the two disciples do not recognize Jesus. Why not?
Jesus asks “What things?” Their reply shows the limitations of their understanding of who Jesus is: they do realize that he is a prophet and, like Moses, “mighty in deed and word”, but they have no idea how much more he is. Jesus has disappointed them: they expected him to deliver Israel from Roman domination, and to begin an earthly kingdom of God (“redeem Israel”, v. 21). Three days have passed (long enough, in Jewish belief, for the soul to have left the body) and, despite Jesus' statement that he would be raised from death, nothing has happened!
The women told us that he is alive, but when Peter and John went there, all they saw was the empty tomb! Jesus tells them how slow they are to grasp how the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in him. Was it not God's plan (“necessary”, v. 26) that Jesus should be crucified and ascend to be with the Father? He interprets his life as a fulfilment of all of Scripture, from “Moses” (v. 27, the first five books of the Bible) to “all the prophets”.
The meal seems to be like the Last Supper: “he took bread, blessed and broke it”" (v. 30). Then, from Jesus’ interpretation and their hospitality to this “stranger” (v. 18) “their eyes were opened” (v. 31). At the Last Supper, Jesus said he would not share food with his disciples until God’s kingdom came. He has now eaten with the two, so the Kingdom has come.
Literally, the word "Emmaus" means "warm well." As I see it, a warm well runs closer to the surface. The deeper the well, the colder the water - perhaps, even, the more abundance of it. Shallower wells might run dry, depending on their source. The road to Emmaus is the way. That was the first name for the church, "The Way." We walk the roads every day and fail to see the God who is walking with us. The disciples simply failed to see Jesus, recognise him in every day life.
The events recorded in the text occurred on the day of resurrection
Companion means, Com (with); panis (bread) "people who have their 'panis', take bread together.
John Wesley-‘In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. ‘I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
The disciples were heading away from Jerusalem. They had evidently decided, despite what the women were reported to have said, that their part in the community of Jesus' disciples was over.
Why didn't they believe the women?
God has saved some surprises for us. But we do know it will be good because we will be with God and that we will still be us, though we will be different in ways we can’t know now, the important parts of what makes us will still be there just as we can still see Jesus who lived on earth in this figure.
According to Luke, Jesus chose to appear after the resurrection first to a couple of unimportant women and then to two all but unknown disciples rather than any of the 12. It’s another case of Jesus’ attention to those who are often overlooked.
The two travelers’ questions echo those of Thomas last week. Once again Jesus says it’s OK to ask questions. He does chide them gently for not figuring things out more quickly, but then he patiently explains exactly what happened with Jesus and what it means.
Jesus’ gentle treatment of the travelers echoes his treatment of the disciples in the locked room last week. The resurrected Christ does not ask those disciples “where were you?” or these disciples “where do you think you are going now?” Instead he meets each of them where they are and helps them figure out what is going on and where they need to go.
The people travelling on the road to Emmaus were engaged in their own conversation and did not originally notice and pay attention to Jesus. They were unaware that this was Jesus. As the story progresses, we find that the travellers eventually did realize that Jesus was there. Then their reaction changed. If we experience something in which we are guided or led or feel moved in a direction, can we realize that the Holy Spirit may be at work within us? So often, we feel these tugs in a certain direction and ignore them, not realizing the source. Such is the challenge of faith. What has happened in the world when people have responded to the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit? How can we make ourselves open to the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit? We need to be open, and not only accept this possibility but bid it welcome.
There’s a wise saying about life, that life is best lived in the present and understood in the past. When you think about it, there’s a lot of merit to that statement; if you spend too much of the present time planning for the future or worrying about the past, you aren’t able to see and enjoy the gift of each moment. And, it is only in looking back across the landscape of our past that we are able to make sense of the events and memories we hold.
the travelers on the road to Emmaus were caught in this all-too-human trap of not being fully present in the moment and attentive to the relationship at hand. Their hearts and minds were devastated by the crucifixion of Jesus. It had completely altered their lives, hopes, and dreams. On the road to Emmaus they were merely going through the motions, traveling through the day to get to the next one. Their hearts and minds were stuck in a memory loop of grief and pain–so much so that they couldn’t see the risen Lord walking right beside them. So maybe it’s not all that unusual that Cleopas and his companion fail to make the connection on a dreary walk away from the awful experience they’ve had in Jerusalem.
They see and recognize Jesus only in the blessing and breaking of the bread. This common act of hospitality, humanity, celebration, and nourishment sparks their neural synapses in Road to Emmaus, that words could not. It takes the tactile and gustatory senses to bring the Messiah into focus before them. All the shards of their shattered faith, broken dreams, and motley memories coalesce in the loving act of blessing and the simple pleasure of sharing a meal. Just as quickly the present moment passes, and the “rearview mirror effect” kicks in to put everything in perspective. Suddenly it makes sense, all the teaching, the blessing and breaking of bread, the body broken and restored, and the story that must be shared.
Are we too often like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, caught up in our own lives and situations, and not able to see Jesus Christ in action in our own lives and world?