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scene - sun setting on road

This pattern of reflection is designed to encourage us to deepen our understanding of what it means to be an Easter people.

The reflection was used as part of our Morning Prayer for the Second Sunday of Easter which you can view here.

The pattern of reflection, which follows that used in our Lent course, can be done alone. If you could like to meet online with others please let the Vicar know to help organise online groups using Zoom or another online system.

Opening Question

Reading Scripture

The Emmaus Road - Luke 24: 13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Reflection

As we begin our journey together through this strange Easter season it is right that we begin with the story of the Emmaus Road. This is not just because, if you take all the resurrection stories in something like chronological order, this is the first post-Easter morning appearance we hear of in the Gospels. The Emmaus Road feels like the right place to start because, in many ways, this story encapsulates the structure and journey of faith we are all called to follow.

Whenever I hear this story, I am transported to a rather terrifying interview I had at a theological college. There the interviewing tutor asked me which bible story I thought best fitted the life of faith. Nervously, and splutteringly, I answered “the Emmaus Road?”. “Correct” the tutor replied, much to my relief “because it takes us through the journey of faith in conversation, prayer, scripture that leads us to our experience of Christ the Eucharist!”

My answer and the tutor’s reply were not original. Christians through the centuries have looked to this story as the archetype for the life of faith.

So, if this story offers us a pattern for our own discipleship how does this speak to us today, and particularly how does this speak to us in this very strange Easter season.

To answer this question perhaps we might look at the beginning and ending of the story first.

The story begins in disorientation – something we all know something about now. Two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem. Knowing only partially of the stories of the empty tomb that some of the other disciples had found that morning, they meet a stranger on the road who appears to be, “the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days”. As they travel together along the road they explain to this stranger what they know of the story to this point. For these disciples this is still a story of fear and sadness, of confusion and uncertainty.

If we then fast-forward to the end of the story, we find that this stranger is none-other than Jesus himself. After journeying with Jesus along the Emmaus Road the two disciples invite him to stop at a way-side tavern and eat with them. There Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread to the disciples whose “eyes were opened” as they recognise Jesus has been amongst them all the time. Here at the end of the story we discover who Jesus truly is in the breaking of the bread.

At the moment we are, as a Christian community, somewhere on the Emmaus Road. We are disorientated and uncertain. We cannot, at present, gather as we would like and recognise our risen Lord in the breaking of bread. This is a painful truth. For many in the church the inability to celebrate and share the Eucharist is a deeply challenging reality of this time. It may be that things we will change, but until our restrictions change this is a reality that we continue to live with.

So, what does that mean for us as we journey on our contemporary Emmaus Road?

Well here we turn to the glue that holds the beginning and the ending of this story together. After the two disciples explain their recent experiences the stranger pulls them up for not seeing the bigger picture of what has been going on:

‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

What Jesus reveals to the disciples is that the truth of the resurrection is not revealed in the single event of Easter morning, nor is the presence of God revealed to us exclusively in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Both of these are the intense and focused revelations of the transforming power of God’s love revealed through all of the story of God’s love for us revealed in our own lives of faith, in our experience of each other, and chiefly in the words of scripture. As the disciples reflect after Jesus leaves them, it was not solely in the breaking of the bread that they found Jesus, but that on reflection they knew God was working in and through them as they journeyed together, as they talked with each other, and as he explained the scriptures to them. As they say to each other, dumbfounded at the end of the story:

Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?

Through this Easter season, and perhaps beyond, we will be walking our own Emmaus Road. We might be disorientated and at times sad and we might yearn for that intense and focused experience of God’s presence with us that lies at the end. But that does not mean that God in Jesus will not be with us. In reading the bible, in daily prayer, in serving and being with one another (as best we can) we will comes to know that God is walking with us. And as we do this I pray that our hearts will burn within us as we wait for that day when he will make himself known to us again in the breaking of the bread.

Questions:

Prayer