The Road to Emmaus

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up 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 happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even 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 him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35 ESV)


The narrative of Jesus meeting the disciples on the road to serves as a wonderful image of the church in microcosm.  Yesterday evening I taught on the passage and wanted to share in brief some of the connections I see Luke pointing to in the event.

  1. ‘That very day’ – that is the Lord’s Day, the day Jesus had risen.  The Church gathers on the day of resurrection to meet the risen Lord.
  2. ‘two of them’ – “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20)
  3. ‘were going to a village name Emmaus‘ – that is to a small village not mentioned before.  True worship  is no longer in Jerusalem, but ‘in Spirit and in truth’ and everywhere.  The Church is not marked by a specific location, but gathers in Jerusalem, Emmaus, Glasgow, New York, secret house meetings in China and in Allsboro.
  4. They were ‘on the Road’ – Road (Greek: ὁδός) also means “way” the term used for followers of Christ in Acts which was also written by Luke. See for example Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9 and Acts 22:4.
  5. The disciples were Cleopas and an unamed disciple – that is, it was not Peter, James or John or even another of the Apostles.  It was ordinary followers that the Risen Lord met with, Cleopas and someone not named who could have been any other of the 500 regular men and women who saw Jesus before his ascension.  The implication Luke has is that it could easily have been any of his readers.
  6. ‘Jesus himself drew near’ – the Trimphant Christ meets his disciples on the Way on the Lord’s day.  This what happens every Sunday.  In many villages, cities and towns around the world as we gather he draws nears.  Moreover, they didn’t recognize him.  First, Jesus is truly present regardless of what they understand or feel.  Had Jesus never revealed himself he still would have been there, it his presence not our experience that makes it real.  Second, consider how often we gather to meet the Risen Lord without recognizing his presence.
  7. Worship is defined by and the Church is recognized in Word and Sacrament – “he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures” and ” he was known to them in the breaking of the bread”
  8. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” – All scripture”Moses and the Prophets” point to Jesus.  Jesus uses scripture as a means of revelation, and it is Jesus who is the true Teacher through his Spirit.
  9. “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” – The four verbs took, blessed, broke, and gave are the words used to describe the actions of the Lord’s Supper. See Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:23 and Luke 22:19 (blessing and giving thanks are almost synonymous in mealtime prayers which is why we alternatively ask someone “Say the Blessing” or to “Give Thanks” before eating)
  10. Then they told what had happened on the road – From being nourished by the Lord in Word and Sacrament they leave to tell about the what had happened and how he was made known to them.  They go on a mission of bearing witness to what had happened.

This passage from Luke reminds us of who we are and the ordinary means God has given through which we disciples on the Way, wherever we are, experience the true presence of the Risen Lord.  He draws near to us through Word and Sacrament in the community of Faith every Lord’s Day.

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day
is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and
awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in
Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake
of your love. Amen. (A Collect for the Presence of Christ from The Book of Common Prayer)