Burning Hearts, Blinders, and Broken Bread
I have many favorite sections in the Bible, and many favorite stories, but Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), would make any top five list I create. It is a story, sandwiched between the two other stories about the day of Jesus’s resurrection. In the first story, we are told about the dramatic angelic announcement of Jesus’s resurrection to the women who had gone to the tomb to dress Jesus’s body early Sunday morning. And then Luke concludes the chapter with the story of Jesus appearing to his disciples on that first Easter evening. But between these two, is a story that is completely unique to Luke. No other gospel writer tells it.
The Greek words Luke uses to describe the conversation of the two people in Luke 24:13-19 tells us that they were talking energetically, debating, tossing around thoughts and ideas. Assuredly, they were recounting how Jesus had been welcomed into the city the week prior and had taught every day in the temple gaining a huge following, been secretly arrested and trialed by the leaders in the Sanhedrin who convicted him of blasphemy and how Jesus had been crucified on Friday, hanging for three hours before his last breath. These two would have known that Jesus’s body had been taken down and placed in a tomb on Friday before sunset. That Sabbath Saturday, they, along with all the followers of Jesus, had sat in stunned, hopeless silence, pondering what to do, now that their Rabbi, the hoped-for Messiah, had been killed. These events had been so public, that Cleopas and his friend were shocked to find beside them, a fellow traveler, coming from Jerusalem who was unaware of these events.
So then, in verses 19b-24, they explain to him what they are talking about. And then, Jesus himself enters the conversation:
Luke 24:25-27 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah 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.
I believe that by the time Jesus had finished, all doubt had been removed from their minds. When they arrive at the home of these two people in Emmaus. Luke reports that it is obvious to these two people that Jesus intends to keep going but, they urged him strongly to stay (the Greek literally means they give him no choice). Jesus accepts their hospitality, goes into the home with them and waits as a meal is put together.
Recognized now by these two as a great teacher, Jesus is given the honor of blessing the meal. Jesus took the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them. At that exact moment, their eyes are opened and they recognize him. I imagine Jesus raising his eyes to heaven and thanking his Abba Father for these good gifts. I imagine as he breaks the bread and serves them, the blinders falling off the eyes of these two, and they see Jesus. As this story comes to a close, the two men rush back to Jerusalem, burst into the room where the disciples are, and give testimony of the risen Christ.
I love how both ways we experience Jesus are brought together in this one story—in worship, word and table we experience Jesus in his fullness. After we have met with Jesus and he has done a work of transformation in us, we then go out and tell the world what God has done. And though the world has heard many things, about many subjects, come from the mouth of the church in these days, some of them conflicting, our main message should be quite simple:
“It is true. Jesus has risen.”