Sunday

04 May 2014

“Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (v. 35)


Background

The account of the risen Jesus' encounter with two disciples along the road to Emmaus is among the most beloved of the post-resurrection appearance stories. It has inspired countless pieces of art (including one in the Methodist Modern Art Collection) and scholarly efforts to identify the location of the village. Luke's Gospel tells us that Emmaus was 60 stadia (about 7 miles) from Jerusalem. One might suggest it was approximately a two-hour walk. That would be enough time for an in-depth conversation. Although the text tells us that Cleopas was one of the two travellers, we do not know the identity of the second. Artists have assumed it was another man. Some traditions hold that it was Luke himself, or perhaps another disciple called Simon (not Simon Peter). The person might have been Cleopas' wife, who would have accompanied him to Jerusalem for the holy days of Passover.

Luke's Gospel carefully unfolds the account. The content of the conversation matches the story's structure of unfolding revelation. The disciples first take Jesus to be a stranger and an uninformed one at that. When they tell him what happened during the preceding days in Jerusalem, their new travelling companion begins to interpret the Scriptures for them. He shows them that Jesus' death is the fulfilment of prophecy. They begin to view him as a prophet, no longer a stranger. When they reach Emmaus near the end of the day, they invite their new friend to stay with them. At the meal Jesus takes the role of the host, although it was not customary for the guest to bless and break the bread. It is in this rather intimate setting of blessing and bread that the disciples' eyes are opened. Their new friend is revealed as the Lord. The movement of the story reaches completion when the two disciples return to Jerusalem to tell all they had learned and experienced. Those who meet the risen Christ are filled with faith and share their testimony with others.

The story fits well within the broader purposes of Luke's Gospel. Among all of the Gospels, Luke is the one most directed to the non-Jewish, Roman world. The Gospel is considered to be intent on spreading the good news of God's work in Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to Rome to the far reaches of the earth. And a key point of the good news is that Jesus' death on the cross is not the end of the story. He has risen from the dead. He has appeared to his disciples at different times and in different places. They have seen him (Luke 24:36), spoken with him (Luke 24:38), touched him (Luke 24:39), and even had meals with him (Luke 24:41-43). Jesus death was not another pointless Roman execution. God's purpose of reconciliation with the world is accomplished in the suffering and resurrection of Christ. Jesus Christ is now glorified by his crucifixion and resurrection from the dead.


To Ponder

  • Why do you think the disciples did not recognise Jesus on the road?
  • What importance do you place on Jesus being revealed in the breaking of bread?
  • How important to you is belief in Jesus' resurrection from the dead? 

 

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Cindy Wesley

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