Good morning, happy Wednesday, and many blessings.
Luke (24:13-35) is an absolutely masterful storyteller, and his retelling of the Emmaus Road encounter on Easter day surely ranks as one of the great short stories in the Bible. There are two most important points which come out in the story, but it is an infinitely richer story than that so I want to talk about some other aspects before I get to those two main points.
First, the improbabilities of the story speak to me again of the truth of the resurrection. I know that sounds paradoxical, but this is simply not the kind of story you make up if you want to prove that the resurrection has happened. In this story Jesus appears not to apostles, but to two disciples we do not know, Cleopas and one whose name is not even remembered or at least noted by Luke. Jesus is not in Jerusalem or some other place which has been significant in his life, he is on the road to a small town called Emmaus, which we cannot even locate on a map with certainty today. In addition, the account leaves wonderment about the inability of Jesus’ own disciples to recognize him.
At first glance, this is not the kind of story I would expect to try to prove the resurrection. On second thought, though, this is classically Jesus. The one who came not primarily to the religious authorities of his day but to fishermen and tax collectors and ordinary people now appears to ordinary people in the resurrection – not the inner circle of apostles, though he does appear to them also. Where you least expect him, that is where Jesus is likely to turn up. In the person you least expect to see Jesus in, he comes shining through. Where there is sadness and despair, Jesus comes bringing hope and understanding. These truths are every bit as relevant today as they were for Cleopas and his friend.
Second, we see what was in danger of happening to the Jesus movement after his crucifixion. Movements tend to dissipate quickly once the leader is gone, and this is what the religious leaders were thinking when they had Jesus crucified. It began happening quickly, as disciples like Cleopas and his friend and undoubtedly many others who had been brought together by Jesus began drifting back home already – back to their old lives, back to their old patterns of thought, the kingdom of God but a painful, short lived chapter in their memories. Surely without some powerful, authentic experiences of the Risen Christ the hope would not have been kept alive for the Day of Pentecost.
Third, and leading into the two major points, is the fact that the resurrection appearances are to people of faith, not the opponents of Jesus or people who don’t know him already. Resurrection appearances are not used to convert the world in general by great signs and miracles, and this is true to the way Jesus conducted his life and ministry. Notice that in the Gospels the risen Christ appears to disciples, not to unbelievers on the street and in synagogues to frighten them into an acquiescing faith.
This leads us into consideration of the two main points of this story: the fact that these two disciples come to understand who this is as Jesus interprets the Scripture for them, first of all, and then as he breaks bread with them. This has great meaning for the church today, because these are still primary ways that the Risen Christ is revealed to us.