Luke 24:13-35 The Road to Emmaus
We find two disciples walking along a road on that same day Easter Sunday. The women had just discovered an empty tomb that morning and the male disciples had verified what they heard from the women.
We can imagine that there was still a group of the followers sitting together in a room, stunned and confused, trying to figure out what had happened. Were the angels and the women telling the truth? Did we actually witness a resurrection? What does all of this mean?
We catch up with two disciples on a seven mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. We don’t know who they are. One of them is named Cleopas and this is the first and last time we encounter this particular disciple. He has a friend with him, unnamed.
[We often talk about the twelve disciples who joined Jesus in his ministry but we forget that there were actually many more followers. Cleopas was one of them. Close enough to know all about the events that had transpired, but not quite famous enough to get any other mentions throughout the gospels.]
This walk took the two crestfallen disciples around two hours. And they were discussing everything they had encountered over the last week. The donkey ride into Jerusalem, the public crucifixion of their lord, the empty tomb just discovered that morning. They had a lot to cover. As they were walking along the road, Jesus appears to them. But they don’t recognize him at all. Apparently, resurrections make folks unrecognizable.
Jesus asks them, “What are y’all talking about?” and they recounted the events of the week. They say, “We had hoped that Jesus was the one who would redeem Israel.” It would appear that Jesus was triggered by that statement because he then says, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing everything the prophets talked about!” Jesus sounds a bit defensive here.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m grieving or confused, I don’t respond well to being called foolish and being shamed about not understanding prophecies. “Well, you should have known better,” Jesus seems to say.
Jesus walks with them to Emmaus, explaining the words of the prophets- what we call the Older Testament- and how what they had written had been fulfilled by the events of the weekend. The disciples then say to Stranger Jesus, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
This is the part that I’m surprised by. Even though Jesus calls the disciples stupid and shames them for not understanding his death and resurrection, they still invite him to stay with them in the village.
This extension of hospitality and appreciation for the bible study floors me. I can promise you that if my lord and savior was killed in front of me, his body was missing, and I was sad and confused, processing with my friend while on a 7 mile walk, then a stranger calls me stupid, inviting him into my home is not on the forefront of my mind.
But something, maybe someone, compels them to extend this offer of hospitality. And boy are they glad they did.
They walked into Cleopas’ home, the door squeaked open. They had been gone for over a week, so the air was a bit stale. Cleopas opened up the windows and his friend cleared off the table and prepared dinner. Cleopas placed the bread and the wine on the table as his friend brought in the food. They were at the table and Jesus blessed the bread and broke it. At that moment, the disciples recognized the stranger to be Jesus. As soon as their eyes were open, Jesus vanishes. Isn’t that how it goes when you encounter the incredible?
“Did we really see Jesus?”
“Did that actually just happen? Did you see it too?”
“You know, I do seem to recall that my heart was burning in my chest as he spoke.”
Cleopas and his friend immediately returned back to Jerusalem- another 2 hour walk, though I suppose they went faster this time, and found the eleven to report what had happened to them. As they walked in the door, they heard the eleven discussing the fact that Jesus just had made another appearance, this time to Simon.
This story changes my view of Jesus. He’s still the snarky savior we met on his ministry and have grown to love. He still has a commitment to the truth. He is still teaching. But now, we’ve got a resurrected Jesus who appears in multiple locations at the same time.
We can see, for the first time, the revelation of Jesus in the breaking of the bread. This is a revelation that is still happening Sunday after Sunday as we break bread together.
Do you remember the first time you took communion? Or do you remember the first time that communion meant something? I do.
It was the first time I was permitted to serve communion. I came from a faith tradition where women weren’t allowed up front unless they were in the choir. We couldn’t serve communion, we couldn’t read the scripture, certainly couldn’t preach.
But that night, I was serving communion at Mercy Seat Lutheran Church in Northeast. I was holding the bread, breaking off smaller pieces, while my church friends walked up to me with their palms open. They made eye contact with me and I said, “This is the body of Christ given for you in love.” I placed the bread in their hands and they dipped it in the chalice next to me. I repeated that message 25 times that night, each time it was as if I heard it for the first time.
“This is the body of Christ given for you in love.”
My heart was broken open and was on fire. By the end of Communion, I was shaking. My throat was tight and my eyes filled with tears. I believed it. I believed that this was Christ’s body. I believed that it was given out of love. I believed that as we partook in this ancient tradition, we were becoming the body of Christ, together.
This is why, every time I preside over the table, I stumble over the words. This is why I never can quite tear off the right size of bread- it’s either too large, too small, or too crumbly. This is why I try to slow down the line.
“This is the body of Christ, given for you in love.” Do you hear these words? Do you believe them? Is your heart on fire at this table?
Each week, we partake in this moment. Someone tears the bread and puts it into your hand. Someone reminds you that the wine is the blood, Christ’s life force, being poured out for you. We pray a prayer, asking God to strengthen us by this meal. This tiny piece of bread and this tiny drop of wine, gets us through the week. Piece by piece, dip by dip, we encounter Jesus.
This is why we want to invite everyone we’ve ever met to this table. By extending welcome, we share in God’s welcome as well. Our hospitality is how others will experience God’s hospitality. As we saw in today’s gospel, God is made known in the breaking of the bread. Who will you invite to the table? Either at home or this table here. Who, in your life, needs to be invited into God’s presence?
The gospel subverts our understanding about Jesus. He’s not some legalistic dude trying to get us to do the right thing, be righteous, be perfect, follow all the rules.
No, he’s a guy, our savior, who desires to be known. He was irritated and ticked at the disciples on the road because the one thing Jesus wants, the reason why he is God-made-flesh, is because he wants to be known. And the disciples didn’t recognize him at first. So, instead of giving up on them, he spent time with them, explained the scriptures once again, and then broke bread.
They met Jesus that day at their table and Jesus, to this day, meets us here at this table.
So, when you come up for communion today, hear these words, “This is the body of Christ, given for you in love. This is the blood of Christ, poured for you.” Then, ask yourself, who else could I invite to this table? Who else needs to encounter the presence of Jesus?
This is the gospel: the Lord has risen and he is made known in the breaking of the bread.