The walk to Emmaus is our gospel reading today. This has always been one of my favorite post-resurrection appearances.
You probably know the story – two men are walking along the road from Jerusalem out to the coast. Along the way is a small village called Emmaus. Jesus joins up with them, but they do not recognize him. They tell the story of what had happened – that this great prophet, Jesus, had been handed over to the priests and leaders and condemned him to death. They knew also of the empty tomb, and the vision of angels that told them he was alive. But they were skeptical.
Jesus interprets what has happened. They still do not recognize him. Then he walks on ahead, as if he was going on, but they urge him to stay. As he breaks bread with them, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
There is one small detail of this story that often goes unnoticed. It is at the beginning: “Now on that same day…” This was Easter Sunday! The day of the resurrection.
News had traveled fast!!! Fast indeed! Emmaus is a good distance away, a full day’s walk. They must have started fairly early in the morning. So news had truly traveled fast, and these two were somehow connected to Jesus’ ministry.
By the end, their encounter with the risen Lord had transformed them to the truth of the good news: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
The next day all sorts of apostles are declaring, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
I love this nameless second person in the story. The first is called Cleopas. The second we don’t know about. For me, that is meant to signal this person’s connection to “every person.” It could be you or me next! Prepare to meet the risen Christ in your life! Perhaps you already have!
Prepare to meet the risen Christ – today or any day. Perhaps even in your home tonight as you break bread at table.
This story marks the beginning of the secret society of Christians. Previous to the resurrection, they were a band of followers of a really amazing prophet. Now they are coming to understand the depth and mystery of his coming. He was more than a prophet. He was the Son of Man. And there are things that can only be understood in the experience of the risen Christ – things like baptism and the Lord’s Supper that take on new meaning, and bring the mystery of the risen Christ home.
Welcome home, my brothers and sisters. This story brings it home. Literally.