Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV) The Walk to Emmaus
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
At first, what happens on the road to Emmaus seems almost humorous with the two disciples schooling Jesus in the latest news. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” they ask. I can almost imagine Cleopas adding, “Where have you been, man?” Jesus takes it in stride and lets them talk, but then turns the table and makes them listen.
If this were all there was to the story, we might learn nothing more than that we are often “foolish…and…slow of heart to believe” all that God has written. But the disciples do one thing right in this story – something almost so insignificant it is easy to miss. They offer hospitality to Jesus. “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” When Jesus does something as ordinary as sitting down at a meal and breaking bread with them, then “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
An ordinary act, to begin an ordinary meal, in an ordinary house, with ordinary folks. Nothing fancy. Just a simple meal. And it was then that they recognized their Lord. Recall all of the meals Jesus shared with tax collectors and sinners, Pharisees and disciples alike. Sitting around a dinner table together would have been a very familiar setting to the two who encountered Jesus along that Emmaus road. So I don’t think it’s at all coincidental that this is where they had their “aha!” moment.
I also find it fascinating that Jesus would appear for the first time after his resurrection (according to Luke anyway), not to any of the twelve disciples, or even to the women who went to the tomb, but to two of his lesser-known followers. Kind of encouraging isn’t it? It reminds us that the way of discipleship is open to each one of us. God is looking for ordinary people, open-hearted men and women, to receive His gifts of grace, forgiveness and love – and then to pass them on to others.
May God grant to each of us ordinary disciples, in some familiar moment like a simple meal, clarity of vision that comes from an encounter with the risen Lord. Amen.