By Rev. Scott Dunham
Luke 24: 13-34
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
19 “What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”
Luke gives this account with irony: the risen, living Lord met two of his dead disciples who were heading to Emmaus. They were not dead biologically, but spiritually, as they walked in sorrow and hopelessness.
Jesus listened to their tale of dashed hopes for a revolutionary messiah. He then proceeded to teach them about how the Hebrew Scriptures describe the messiah’s suffering preceding his glory. While Christ’s teaching stirs their hearts—they admit afterwards it caused their hearts to burn, perhaps in contrition—they really did not comprehend that it was Jesus, or what he was doing for them. That is, they didn’t comprehend until they sat down for a meal, when Jesus blessed and broke the bread. Then their eyes were opened!
Something in Jesus’ prayer and action of breaking the bread returned them to the land of the living. Their understanding that Jesus had suffered and risen again finally made sense. Perhaps the disciples were reminded of Jesus feeding the five thousand by multiplying a few loaves and fishes. Perhaps they remembered the Passover meal he shared with his followers just a few days before.
What strikes me is how Jesus’ teaching about Scripture only made sense after he broke bread with the disciples. In this encounter, Jesus showed that we meet him through his broken body and spilled blood, which we celebrate around his table. We meet him and hear his blessing at his supper. His Spirit takes our meagre faith, restores it, and multiplies it.
O Jesus, give us hope through your presence. Build us up through your spiritual body and blood.
Rev. Scott Dunham has served as Grace’s Pastor of Visitation since 2015.