On the road to Emmaus . . .
While it is true only the Lord Jesus himself can tell us exactly how the event of the Resurrection took place, what we do know is that after the Resurrection there were eye witness accounts of him alive and well.
One of the first was on the road to Emmaus which is only hinted at in the Gospel of Mark 16:12 but the fuller story is given to us in the Gospel of Luke 24:13-35.
First we read from Luke 24:13-16
Now that same day two of them ( the disciples of Jesus) were going to a village called Emmaus, about 7 miles away from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they walked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along the road with them, but they were kept from recognizing him.
Why Did the Disciples not recognize Jesus ? That’s a very good question. While no one can be absolutely sure, there are a few reasons we might consider. Did Jesus’s resurrected body look differently from the way he looked before? Assuredly His resurrected body would look differently from the body they laid in the tomb all battered and bruised from the passion and his death on the cross, And it is also for sure that they did not expect to see him, alive and well, walking and talking with them. Was it shear surprise that kept them from recognizing him or were there deeper more emotional reasons ?
The very fact that they were deep in the grip of grief over Jesus death might also help explain this. Grief often clouds the minds of those who are experiencing it. In any case Luke tells us they were “kept” from recognizing him. God often uses our own human natures and our own experiences to facilitate His own Divine Intervention.
As we read on in Luke 24:17-24…
He asked them ,What are you discussing together as you walk along ? They stood still , their faces downcast. One of them Cleopas, asked him , “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the the things that have happened in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him: But we had hoped that He was the one who going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find His body. They came back and told us that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see.”
So Jesus wanted to hear from there own mouths how they viewed Him and his passion and death. He wanted them to tell Him in there own words , to think things out again for themselves to someone they thought was a stranger.
He further reveals His own fuller understanding the events that transpired as we listen to Him explain it all to them in Luke 24:25-27…
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ (Savior) have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself. As they approached the village they were going to, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged Him strongly,” Stay with us , for it is nearly evening the day is almost over.” So He went in to say with them.
Now we know better that Jesus felt He needed to clarify to the two disciples His Fathers plan in the events of the suffering and Crucifixion as well as his Resurrection from the scriptures so there would be no doubt He was and why all things had happened as they did .
Luke further lets us know in 24:30-32 that even though they had heard Him speak all these things they still were not able to “see” (recognize) Who was speaking to them.
When He was at the table with them He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us ?
It makes perfect sense to me that the act of the breaking of the bread was the point of recognition of Jesus, since it was one of the last things Jesus did with his disciples. This was the “Last Supper” and when Jesus made us understand the “Communion” of His people (then and now) with Him for all time, as He said (Luke 22:19) “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
As we read on in Luke 24:33-35…
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them assembled together and saying , ” It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Jesus also knew if there was any one time the “Eleven” would remember and know for sure that Cleophus and the other disciple had been in the presence of Jesus Himself, it would be in the breaking of the Bread.
In the next article we will look at Jesus appearing to the Apostles themselves.
All quotes are from The NIV Study Bible published by Zondervan
The New American Bible (Saint Joseph Edition) published by the Catholic Book Publishing Company.
My wife, Joyce, is a Eucharistic Minister and has hosted Bible Reflection sessions at a local nursing home. She visits the elderly every week to bring Holy Communion and during Mass, she assists by doing the Readings.
She authored this article. She also painted the accompanying water-color painting (Easter Morning.)