On the Road to Emmaus
- Imagine how the two friends felt before and after they recognized Jesus.
- Sense the mystery and wonder of Jesus' resurrection.
- Worship Jesus as our risen Savior.
The story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus is deservedly one of the favorite Easter stories in the Bible. It's told in a very human setting we can all identify with, and yet it contains very powerful teaching about the continuing importance of Christ's resurrection in our lives.
It's the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath, and everyone begins to move again after the restrictions of the Sabbath. Some things have happened, but no one has been able to get their head around it yet.
Two disciples head home for Emmaus, a little town just a few miles from Jerusalem. The Bible says two---it may have been a married couple, at least that's how I imagine it. They're convinced that nothing has happened that really changes their despair. Their disappointment is expressed in their comment to the "stranger" who joins them: "we had hoped that he was the one . . ." (v. 21).
Suddenly Jesus comes along and joins them. It's strange that the disciples don't recognize him after his resurrection, and Jesus doesn't seem anxious to reveal himself to them. It's especially interesting, and humorous, that Jesus "plays dumb" when they upbraid him for being the only one who doesn't know what has happened in Jerusalem these last few days. "What things?" Jesus asks with a straight face.
Jesus holds back his identity from them, but he's very forthright in his pronouncements on their flimsy faith. "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (v. 25). He then proceeds to offer them one of the best Bible studies ever. Imagine Jesus himself going right through the Old Testament, explaining to them "what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (v. 27).
Still they don't quite get it, though later they describe how their hearts burned with the joy of spiritual recognition as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. Finally they arrive at the couple's home in Emmaus. Jesus continues as if to go on, but they won't allow it. "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." (What a wonderful way to begin an evening prayer for disciples today!)
So Jesus stays, still unknown to them until he does four things. "He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them" (v. 30). Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. What is it about that fourfold action that gave him away? Any Christian to whom Luke was writing would know, as we should today. These are the four actions that are associated with the last supper, and with the communion feast of Christians everywhere. They recognized him in the breaking of the bread.
Many commentators have pointed out that Luke shows the risen Christ present with his disciples in two special moments, in explaining the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread, in the sermon and in the supper. He is risen from the dead, and he is present with us still in his word and sacrament.
Step 1 Breathe
Use this time to focus your attention on God.
Do this with me: calm your head, heart, and hands as you slowly breathe in . . . and out. (Demonstrate a few deep "in and out breaths" with eyes closed.)
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