Currently we are living between Passover and Pentecost. The period in which Jesus repeatedly revealed himself to his followers after his resurrection, in preparation for his ascension and coming of the Holy Spirit. In Church tradition, Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in the Gospels are preached at this time. Here are my reflections on the story of Jesus’ appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.
These notes are the basis of my video ‘homily’ presented Sunday 3 May 2020:
On ‘Easter Sunday’, when Jesus rose from the dead, Cleopas and his wife were on their way from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus. He met and joined them on the road, though they did not know/recognize it was him. Jesus heard their sad story and re-interpreted it in light of his suffering and death, and resurrection to glory. Later he revealed himself to them in the breaking of bread. And disappeared! They immediately made the 11 kilometer journey – now evening – back to Jerusalem to the community of followers. They told them,
a) “what had happened on the way” (v35, The Journey Out),
b) “how Jesus was recognized when he broke the bread” (v35, The Pivot Point),
c) and their overwhelming joy all the way back (The Journey In)
Pope Francis, in his homily on this story, contrasts the journey out and the journey in. I have added a few other elements.
|The Journey Out
|The Journey In
|Journey away from Jerusalem
|Journey returning to Jerusalem
|In the daylight, mostly downhill, easy
|At nightfall, mostly uphill, tiring
(after 11 kilometers of the day journey!)
|A journey of sadness, away from pain
|A journey of gladness, because of joy
|They don’t walk alone, Jesus is beside them – but they don’t recognize/know him
|They walk alone and don’t see Jesus, but feel him closer than ever – they’ve recognized him
|They tell of “the (awful) things” that happened, disappointments, shattered dreams of death
|They tell of “the (amazing) things” that happened, the risen Lord, eternal life.
|The stranger re-interprets their pain in light of Messiah’s suffering, death & resurrection
|They realized their hearts burnt within them as Messiah himself opened the scriptures to them
|Their destination is safety in the lockdown of their home in Emmaus
|Their destiny is freedom in Jesus’ Family of Resurrection in the New Jerusalem
The Journey Out and Down – Three Movements
Receiving Jesus into their journey
Jesus came to Cleopas and his wife “on the way”, offering to join and companion them. They could’ve rejected his overtures because he appeared as a stranger – his identity was hidden from their eyes. Though they didn’t recognize/know him, where he was from or where he was going, they decided to let him walk with them. Perhaps, because they were so depressed, they needed someone to talk to beside each other. However, it was risky!
Jesus comes to us in the stranger, initially keeping us from seeing that it’s him in the ‘disguise’ of ‘the other’ (as Mother Teresa said, “Jesus comes to us in the distressing disguise of the poor”). Besides strangers, Jesus comes to us in friends, family, pastor, therapist, dreams, prayer, etc. He often comes when we are in need, offering to join us in our journey. Do we make ourselves vulnerable by inviting “the stranger to our pain” to walk with us? Hoping it might be Jesus? Or turn him aside in our isolation of inner pain? Some don’t want to talk, least of all when in pain. Then we live lonely and die alone. Only when we risk allowing others into our walk can we discover it is God helping us. How do you view ‘the stranger’? How has God come to you, to journey with you?
Receiving Jesus into their conversation & pain
They took the next step of receiving Jesus into their conversation, which meant inviting him into their narrative of pain. Their story was of “the things” (v14,15,19) that had happened to Jesus, their hoped-for Messiah-King. Yes, they felt sorry for him. But they wanted him to save them, now he was dead! It was, ultimately, about themselves, their shattered dreams of disillusionment and despair. Jesus entered their conversation. Listened deeply. Asked questions that made them “stand still” (v17), stopped them in their tracks, stopped them from walking away from their pain, from suppressing it. “What are you discussing?” (v17), “What happened?” (v19), “How are you feeling?” “Why do you see it that way?” The questions drew out their story, to relive the trauma, to own their feelings and perceptions, to disclose their confusion and dashed hopes, the rumours of resurrection, what to believe or not believe, fake news or conspiracy theories!
Having entered their conversation, the strange Messiah-King changes their narrative. He re-interpreted all of it in light of his own suffering and death, as per God’s plan foretold in the scriptures, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” (v27). How can a suffering and dying King save anyone? Yet, as Isaiah 53 foretold, that was God’s strange plan that “will bring you peace”; but because they rejected Jesus as their King, it was “hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42). However, his resurrection vindicated the meaning and purpose of his death – now the good news of salvation made known to all – the revealed reality that Jesus defeated the powers of evil. He overcame human sin, suffering and death, including corona pandemic, by taking it into his own body on the cross, and rising again to give life!
So, why not take the next step? Invite Jesus into your conversation. Into your anxiety and pain. Hear his questions. Tell him your story. Let him re-interpret all you’ve been through, what you struggle with, what has broken you, in the light of his suffering and death on your behalf. He suffered what you suffer. He understands, knows, has compassion. The Risen King changes your narrative by reinterpreting your perceptions in his promises and (sometimes mysterious) purposes. Your story finds meaning and destiny to the extent it is caught up and changed in God’s conversation of redemption, in God’s meta-narrative of transforming love, of resurrection life. What is your story? What dominates your thoughts, emotions, words? Receive Jesus into your narrative and interpret it in light of his death and resurrection.
Receiving Jesus into their home
“As they approached the village, (the stranger) acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly to stay with them” (v28). Why did he act as if he were going farther? To see their response. A test. Were they happy to merely receive his comfort and counsel, his help in their time of need? Or did they want to go deeper? To host and feed him? Have him stay with them? To get to know him for who he is, not merely for what he can do for them? They not only invited, but urged him to come to their home, their safe and sacred place. He graciously accepted – did not presume or force himself on them. Little did they know, it was that third step, on “the third day” (v19, Resurrection Day), that would be the pivot, the turning point that changed everything for them!
Take this third step. Jesus is not reluctant. He’s quietly longing to be invited, to go deeper with you. Receive him into your most intimate space, your heart, the center of your being. Yes, he comes to help us when we need him. However, don’t use him for that purpose, as a means to an end. He is The End. Host him as King of your heart to “stay with” you, to get to know him for who he is, and not (only) for what he can do for you. Then…
The Pivot Point
It as “nearly evening” (v29). They prepare a meal and take their seats. Suddenly, it all shifts and turns around. The stranger takes the initiative, becomes the host. He makes it his table, his supper – by taking the bread, giving thanks (says the Hebrew blessing), breaking it, and giving to Cleopas and his wife. “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him!” (v31). It’s Jesus! He’s alive! The Lord is out the tomb! Suddenly, everything made sense. And in that moment, everything changed for them… forever!
Perhaps they recognized him as he broke bread because they saw the nail prints in his wrists (his sleeves would have moved back from his hands). In all the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, he repeatedly identifies himself to his followers by the marks of the cross, marks that he will carry in his resurrection/glorified body throughout eternity, as witness of the unfailing everlasting love of God.
What has been your pivot point? Have you received Jesus into your heart? If you have, he then takes the initiative in all things. You are his home. Your table is his table. Your meal is the Lord’s Supper. He opens your eyes. Reveals himself to you. Shares his life with you, his body and blood. In so doing, he heals and transforms you, because he’s alive! He is risen in you, to make all things new!
The Journey Up and In – One Movement
Before they could do anything, Jesus disappeared! Wow! No worries! It simply adds to their overwhelming joy, now to be given to others. Immediately they journey up and in to Jerusalem, to their fellow followers, to say: “The Lord is risen!” All along the way they spoke of how their hearts burned within them, when Jesus opened and unfolded the scriptures to them. Step by step they recounted text by text, making sense of it all. Everything fell into place. And it was confirmed by their family of faith when they arrived in Jerusalem.
Two journeys. Which one are you walking?
Two stories. Which one are you living?
Two narratives. Which one are you telling?
One pivot point. Have you met the Risen Jesus?
Lord, stay with me! Lord, stay with us!
Yes! Here is my body, here is my blood.
BUT, go and tell everyone I’m alive!
I AM The Resurrected King.