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Gospel Reflections » International

The Disciples At Emmaus

April 3, 2013

Has it ever happened that you fell in with a stranger on a long journey and discovered love, encouragement and self-understanding? Is this what is called ‘serendipity’, the habit of discovering happiness by chance?

Something like this happened on the road to Emmaus, a small village some distance away from Jerusalem, when two disciples of Jesus met a stranger en route, and had their lives transformed.

The crucifixion of Jesus had taken place two days before; all his disciples had gone underground, their hopes shattered. It is Easter evening, when these two men, as pessimistic as ever, make their way to Emmaus, wishing to put some distance between them and the distressing events of the last days. As they walk, they converse, trying to make sense of it all. To make matters worse, it seems the corpse of Jesus has been stolen; though again, some women of the group are rumoured to have seen him alive. The mood of hopelessness is summed up by one of them: “We had hoped that he would have been the one to liberate Israel.”

Curiously, the stranger who joins them on the road doesn’t share these gloomy feelings. Slowly and with great patience, he begins to show them how it was all part of God’s plan that Jesus should have suffered and died in this way, and so entered into his glory. He opened their eyes to the meaning of the Jewish scriptures, the prophets and the psalms. So persuasive is his exposition that their spirits are uplifted, and they beg him to stay awhile with them and share their supper when they break journey.

The stranger does so and as they sit at table, he takes the bread, blesses it and shares it around. At that very moment, their eyes are opened as they recognize the Risen Jesus sitting between them.

What does this story tell us about the Resurrection ? That the presence of the Risen Lord is always a presence of comfort, strength and ‘a making sense of our world’, especially when our world has been shattered. The Spirit of the Jesus takes us back into our past and re-interprets it for us, showing us how casual circumstances were indeed part of God’s design, and that what we think of as wasted years can have a different meaning altogether.

Like the stranger en route, the Risen Jesus appears and disappears. He hides his face in the ordinary while we seek him in the spectacular. But when we do recognize him in the ‘breaking of bread’, we realize how his words burned our hearts and changed our lives.

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