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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.
Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Luke’s account of the walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus reminds me of two expressions that encourage us to think beyond the obvious: You cannot see for looking andYou cannot see the wood for the trees. Luke tells of the moment when two grieving disciples are joined on their melancholy journey by the risen Jesus. It is their inability to recognize who their travelling companion is that reminds me of those two phrases which speak of our not being able to see that for which we are looking, and our failure to grasp the main issue because of our paying too much attention to irrelevant details.
Too often the Church proves itself to be blind when it comes to discerning the presence of the risen Christ in its midst. A preoccupation with the minutiae of Church governance and finance prevents us from seeing that Jesus is always walking with us. We become bound up, even obsessed, with a fictitious past when churches were always full and everybody ‘loved and respected’ each other, or we dwell on an ‘aspirational’ future when everything will be perfect. Unfortunately, that ‘aspirational’ future is rarely backed up with any sort of action plan, which turns it into nothing more than wishful thinking!
Today’s well-known reading of an early post-resurrection encounter with the risen Jesus encourages us to focus on the reality of the here and the now … the present. It is the responsibility of all who profess a faith in Jesus Christ to engage with his call to preach, to bring healing and wholeness, to proclaim, to love and to serve. That call is daunting, but it is not impossible to fulfil … provided we trust in the one who walks with us through all the ups and downs of mortal life. When we recognize and acknowledge the presence of Jesus we will become empowered by his constant companionship; we will become encouraged by the certainty of his journeying with us; we will be excited and invigorated by his wanting to be seen and recognized, despite all the clutter and distractions that pile up around us.
Today we are called to pause on our daily journeys and listen for the words God is speaking to us. We are called to pause and offer hospitality to the One who gave everything in order that we might receive divine forgiveness and salvation. We are called to share the Good News of the risen Christ with everyone we meet.
Today we should be praying for the strength and the courage to answer the call of the One who walks with us.