Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Road to Emmaus

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

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.

- Luke 24:12-35

Tellingly, despite the skepticism from the men about the women's story (see yesterday's passage), it's Peter who nevertheless gets up and runs to the tomb. We don't quite know what happened there; the gospel doesn't tell us. We know, however, that Peter was amazed.

Then there is the passage written here of the trip to Emmaus. We're told that one of the men in this passage is Cleopas. He is reputed by tradition to have been the brother of Joseph, husband of Jesus' mother Mary - therefore Jesus' uncle. Again by tradition, the unnamed companion to Cleopas is the evangelist Luke himself. The mysterious stranger walks with them. The men are shocked that anyone could have been in Jerusalem and not known of the events that have happened there. Their downcast story tells us of their hope that Jesus was the redeemer of Israel, the awaited Messiah - and we must imagine their expectations and hopes were for a political Messiah. But the stranger opens up to them, illuminating the passages and prophecies of the Old Testament, and chastising them for their slowness and lack of faith and understanding.

As they walk on, they invite the stranger to stay with them. He breaks bread and distributes it, as they sit down to eat. And at once their eyes are opened. It is Jesus! And he vanishes from their sight. To me, this wonderful tale details the way that Spirit works in our lives. This is the resurrection, that He Lives - with us and in us and among us. This is why scripture can still inspire and illuminate, because Spirit is with us, His spirit is with us - it edifies and illuminates, it can cheer us and find the ray of light in a bad situation, give meaning to events that we experience, and shape commitment to what we will do with our lives. The breaking of the blessed bread is of course a mirror of the Eucharist, and in turn stands for all that we expect of this Risen Christ and His spirit in our lives: distributing not just faith and remembrance, but illumination, edification, understanding, a reason to go on, and hope. And so much more.

The risen Lord is an astonishment to those who've been his followers all this time - to whom he's preached and predicted what would happen to him. But it's only at this dawning of this new life in a world where all this has taken place, and His appearance as Risen Lord has begun, that they begin to understand. They are in a new world now, on their own without the Son of Man, and yet not alone, not on their own at all. We are all accompanied by this man walking to Emmaus. In this "new world" of transfiguration, we are illuminated, we have this companion, and we can, too, invite him in to sup with us and be with us.

A note in my study bible says, " we continue to share the Lord's Supper, the risen Christ comes to open our eyes to His mystical presence and leave our hearts burning with His love."

No comments:

Post a Comment