On the Road to Emmaus

In the resurrection account in Luke, the story is told of two followers of Jesus who left Jerusalem the first day of the week following the crucifixion. They were heading for Emmaus. While in Jerusalem they had experienced the excitement of Jesus’ trip into the city, the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his followers, the betrayal by Judas, the mockery of Jesus’ trial, the denial of Peter, the crucifixion, and just before they headed down the road, the surprise announcement by the women that the tomb was empty. They were confused, frustrated, and probably talking over once again the strange events of the week.

And then as they walked, they were interrupted by a stranger who had overheard their conversation and asked them: “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” The couple couldn’t believe that he didn’t know what had happened in Jerusalem, so they told him their story, voicing their discouragement and confusion. The stranger, after hearing their story, said: “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 he told the familiar story of the Hebrew people from the time of Moses, through the prophets. He interpreted the prophecies regarding the Messiah, but the two followers did not understand.

When they reached Emmaus it was late so the travelers offered the stranger the hospitality of a meal and lodging. It was at the table, when the stranger broke the bread, blessed and broke it that they recognized Jesus, and understood what he had told them on the road. Jesus left them immediately and the two immediately started on the trip back to Jerusalem to share the good news: “We saw the Lord! The Lord has risen indeed!”

It was a stranger who offered a listening ear, solace for their pain and suffering, a new understanding of the scriptures. And it was a stranger who joined them in food and fellowship.

On our journey of life, we encounter many fellow travelers. Some are strangers, some are friends or family. Are we alert to God’s presence in each and every one we encounter? Are we open to new understandings of God’s love that others can bring us? Are we hospitable, willing to share what we have with others? Do we share God’s gift of Jesus, the resurrected Christ in our encounters with others?

The resurrected Christ joined two people on their journey, blessed them and their sustenance, then left. These people were never the same because they had experienced the life-giving strength and presence of the Christ. Their life journeys changed because of the encounter.

The two who shared with the stranger received a call from Christ – a call to tell the story, to have faith in the risen Christ. So we too receive calls and hear Christ speaking to us as we grow in faith. Conversion is never finished. Jesus is always ahead of us and calls us to follow him in very unexpected, often disruptive, ways.

The gospel story reminds us that once Jesus had eaten with the two, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. They declared 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?” They not only had open eyes, but their hearts had changed from confusion to being warm and alive. It was then that they moved ahead to declare that Christ was indeed risen and with them. In order for us to move forward with faith on our journeys, we too must open our eyes. We must deal with our own confusions. We must take risks necessary to bring hope to those in need. We must daily renew our commitment to the risen Christ, for the resurrected Christ is with us on our journey! The resurrected Christ is in our midst! Do you recognize him?

Joyce SohlJoyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, and quarterly retreats and art exhibits.