Followers Who Still Misunderstand
This week’s text is Luke 24: 13-35. This sees two followers of Jesus walking along the road to Emmaus, a village thought to be not far from Jerusalem. The followers are met by Jesus, yet they do not recognize Him. Jesus then asks them what they are discussing. They are somewhat arrogant in their response, asking Jesus if He is the only one who has not heard of recent events. They recount the outline of the events leading up to Jesus’s death on the cross.
Along with their arrogant attitude they expose their ignorance of who Jesus really was by lamenting that they had thought that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. That is they, like so many, thought that Jesus would be a military savior ala David. There is a notable point that these two make even in their ignorance. They are astounded by the fact that it was the women who first told them the news of the empty tomb. This does reinforce the radical fact that women were the first preachers of the Good News. However, these two are clearly not sure about the resurrection. Yes, they acknowledge that Jesus’s body was gone, but they admit that they have not seen Him.
Jesus then proceeds to school these two. He calls them foolish for not believing the prophets and what they have declared. He teaches them that it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer before entering his glory. Then Jesus reviews all the Hebrew tradition starting with Moses and all the prophets. He interprets to these two the things about Himself that are found in the Scriptures. It is important to remember that all these things prophesied about the Messiah make sense because of the resurrection. Scripture does not reveal the resurrection, the resurrection makes Scripture understandable. The bible is not the Good News. The bible is the thing into which the Good News has been placed. The Good News is that Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed, Hallelujah. That is important for these two and for all of us today.
Even after this lesson the two followers are still in ignorance about who this man really is. Yet, they are gracious in that they invite Jesus to come and share a meal as it is almost evening. They are apparently dimly aware of the pull that this stranger has on them, and they wish to continue the conversation. This may be their saving grace, they are curious, as we all should be.
Breaking Bread Opens Eyes
It is during the meal that Jesus took bread, broke it and gave it to them. A scene totally reminiscent of the Last Supper. It is at this point that these two well meaning ignoramuses finally realize who they have been talking to. Their eyes were opened and at that moment Jesus disappears from them. They immediately get up, go to Jerusalem and find the rest of their companions and boldly proclaim the Good News-The Lord has risen indeed. They then relayed what had taken place and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
This is crucial to this passage. In the Apocryphal books that are considered canon by the Catholic church but not by Protestants, Emmaus is identified as the scene of a military victory by the Israelites ( 1 Maccabees 3:40, 57; 4:1-15). This concurs with the followers misunderstanding of Jesus as a military savior. Yet, in the end it was the peaceful act of breaking bread that opened the eyes of the followers and clearly make Jesus visible to them. It underlies that our savior is not a military leader but a peacemaker. He does not conquer, He feeds. This is truly Good News.
We don’t see Jesus the same way those first followers did, but He is visible, nonetheless. We see Jesus in every act of kindness, every act of compassion and inclusion. We also see Jesus in all those who need help and who give us the opportunity to do God’s work here on earth. Jesus is clearly visible to us in all peaceful acts of love, from clothing the naked, to sheltering the homeless, to breaking bread with strangers.
It is then incumbent upon us, as it was for these followers that when we see Jesus in our world that we simply understand, then go out and proclaim, in word and deed. That is believe, then obey.
Praise Be to God