THE ROAD TO EMMAUS Luke 24:13-35
Today’s Gospel story is very well known, and has featured in art works by at least two very famous painters. Matthias Strom did a fine work in 1632, as did Caravaggio in about 1606. Both paintings are all about that moment when Christ is revealed to the two travellers and the people serving them. With dark surroundings, both paintings centre light on the table, and the figure of Jesus. It’s right that we emphasise that climax to this story, but let’s turn aside for a moment and consider the journey the men made together.
I have observed many people walking around the parish in the past few weeks. Have you noticed that when we walk together, we don’t particularly look at each other? Being of common purpose, we look ahead to where we are going. And, most commonly, when we walk with someone, it’s a good time to talk about things. I am sure the main topic discussed at present is Covid19, and how it has turned our lifestyle on its head.
From Jerusalem to Emmaus is about seven miles, and this journey represented to Cleopas and his companion a walking away from Jerusalem, for the Jew, the City of promise, purpose and presence, probably back to their insignificant home of Emmaus. And like us, they were talking about the biggest upheavel in their lives. These two disciples of Jesus had gone to Jerusalem, where they witnessed events both astounding and devestating, expecting so much, they had come to believe it was the end of their hopes.
They were questioning everything they had believed– was Jesus who he really said he was, what shall we do now, have we believed a lie, what will the future hold? Quite clearly, in their disappointment and perplexity over the turn of events, they were looking for answers, they wanted to understand, and they were searching.
And quite suddenly they are joined by another man (clearly no social distancing was required here), who didn’t seem to know what had happened in Jerusalem over the Passover. It would have been like encountering someone now who has not heard the word ‘Coronavirus’!
Man, where had he been? They say to their companion, ‘Are you the only person in all of Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place?’ Their friend, their master, their rabbi, the one they describe as a mighty prophet, has been unjustly condemned to death and violently killed on a cross. This would be enough to unsettle anyone but new and disturbing information was being told. There were reports about his tomb being empty and the crazy notions of some who said he is alive.
And there, on that dusty road at the end of the day, Jesus begins to interpret the Old Testament and explains to them how all these things were spoken of by Moses and the Prophets. Right in the middle of their plight of perplexity, the Lord Himself came on the scene. We see Jesus’ personal involvement in their need, but instead of revealing himself there and then, he points them to the Scriptures. He transforms their thinking.
They had not understood that these things were supposed to take place. They had concluded that Jesus’ mission had failed. A slow understand was being revealed to them: was the last three days the plan all along?
As they journeyed they were yet blinded to spiritual truth; they did not recognize Jesus who had drawn near to them and was actually walking and talking to them. The words ‘drew near’ is the greek engisas which is used to denote the coming of the Kingdom of God (Luke 10:9,11). They did not yet comprehend that the Kingdom of God had come.
Finally the two invited Jesus in to stay with them. He has dinner with them. Again Jesus transformed the event. There at that ordinary dinner at the end of the day this stranger took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to them ….. and their eyes are opened. In that moment they understood.
This story of the road to Emmaus is often used to describe how we may come to know Jesus. Not every follower of Jesus has a ‘road to Damascus’ event in their lives. For some, its a longer, slower walk with God, until a full understanding of the sacrifice Jesus made for us and the coming of his Kingdom dawns. We need to walk the walk with those who have yet to become followers of Christ. They need companionship, and encouragement, and we need to know that we are all on a journey, we all need to hear the Scriptures opened to us, we all need the companionship of walking and talking with Jesus, the one who gives us life in all its abundance.
Wherever you are on your journey, whoever you have walking with you, may you feel God’s love and guidance, now and always. Amen.