Jesus is on the road again. Now post death and resurrection,
his body seems to possess both tangible and intangible
qualities.


Two of them were traveling that same day to a village
called Emmaus, 
seven miles from Jerusalem. While they
talked of all these things 
which had happened, Jesus
Himself drew near and went with them. 
But their eyes
were restrained, so they did not know Him.

He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that
you have as
you walk and are sad?" The one whose name
was Cleopas answered,
"Are You the only stranger in
Jerusalem, and have You not known
the things which
happened there?" And He said, "What things?"

So they said, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth,
who
was a Prophet mighty in deed and word, and how
the chief priests
and our rulers delivered Him to be
condemned to death, and
crucified Him. But we were
hoping that it was He who was going
to redeem Israel.
Today is the third day since these things happened.
And
certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb
early,
astonished us. When they did not find His body,
they came saying
they had seen a vision of angels who
said He was alive."

He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to
believe.
Ought not the Christ to have suffered these
things?" And beginning
at Moses and all the Prophets,
He expounded to them the things
concerning Himself.

Then they drew near the village, and He indicated He
would have
gone farther. But they constrained Him,
saying, "Abide with us,
for the day is far spent." As he sat
at the table with them, He took
bread, blessed and broke
it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes
were opened and
they knew Him, and He vanished from their sight.

They said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within
us while
He talked and opened the Scriptures to us?"
So they rose up that
very hour and returned to Jerusalem,
and found the eleven and
those who were with them
gathered together, saying, "The Lord
is risen indeed!"

                                                      Luke 24:13-34 NKJV, condensed


                                     To Emmaus and Back

Disillusioned, sad, maybe even feeling duped, Cleopas and his
companion headed home to face their neighbors who would
tell them, "We told you so." Might as well get it over with. On
the dusty 7-mile trek, they mourned the death of Jesus.

Speaking slowly and in cadence with their steps, they rehearsed
the events surrounding the crucifixion and talked about how
this great injustice could have been done to such a good man.
They had hoped he would be the savior of Israel, the one
promised by the Prophets.

Not expecting anything more to happen, there was no need
for them to hang around Jerusalem. It was resurrection day,
but not for them. Not yet. Several women among their group
claimed to have seen angels that morning who said Jesus
was alive. But Cleopas didn't put much stock in such crazy
words because he was limited by what he could imagine.
So they headed home to Emmaus.

On the road they were joined by a stranger who didn't seem
to share their concerns. So Cleopas went over the story
again, stressing all the sticking points that contributed to 
their misery. The stranger listened carefully, then led Cleopas
and his companion (possibly his wife) toward a different
interpretation of the events. In a story punctuated by
questions, the stranger asked, "Why are you surprised that
the Messiah should suffer these things?" It was a thought
that had never entered their minds.

The mood of this dreary twosome began to turn around
when Jesus lit a spark in their hearts as he referred to ancient
Scriptures. He showed them that the theme of a meek and
suffering servant could be found from Moses and throughout
the Prophets. Words which they had missed in previous
renditions, now amazed them as the stranger highlighted
their significance.

Before they knew it, they had arrived at their destination.
It was well into the afternoon. They had been walking about
3 hours. Time to stop, rest and refresh. Their newfound friend
indicted he would continue walking, but they welcomed him
to stay the night.

Was it his voice? Did they see wounds on his hands? Had they
eaten bread with Jesus before? Whatever it was as they faced
each other around the board, their eyes were opened. They
saw Jesus in their midst, playing the host with the bread on
the table. He prayed a blessing over it, broke it into pieces
and offered it to them. Then immediately he disappeared; yet
he remained very much alive in their hearts and minds.

Suddenly they didn't need further refreshment. Cleopas and
his companion surged with new energy and hurried all the
way back to Jerusalem with the news that they had seen the
risen Lord. Seven miles of sighing became seven miles of
singing!

Who was this couple? And why were they privileged to see
the risen Lord on resurrection day? Was this the only such
experience or were there other unrecorded appearances
which Jesus made that day? We can only speculate on these
matters. But one thing we know is that Jesus reveals himself
in simple ways--along a dusty road, in the pits of grief, through
a question, by reflection on Scripture, at the supper table.

What does it take for you to see the spirit of God in the midst
of your circumstances? To recognize Jesus in the face of a
stranger? Perhaps a key is contained in the concept of
hospitality, which in the Bible is described as "welcoming
angels unawares." In southwestern Virginia near the
Appalachian Trail, lives a couple named Murray who often
walk on the trail. Several years ago on Easter Sunday evening
they drove to the AT for a short hike. As they were getting
out of the truck, they noticed two backpackers crossing the
road. One of them looked like the pictures we see of Jesus,
with long brown hair and beard. After the couple chatted with
the hikers awhile, the hikers turned as if to continue on the trail.
That's when Mrs. Murray's face lit up and she exclaimed, "Say,
it's getting late! Why don't you two come on home with us
for the night?"

Sound familiar! And who receives the greater blessing--the one
who provides hospitality or the one who receives it? The joy of
Cleopas and his companion was so great that they ran all the
way back to Jerusalem at the end of the day to tell everyone,
"We have seen the risen Lord!"

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Relate an interesting story about someone you met
                      "along the way."

 

Use other words to describe what it means to have your heart
burn within you.
            When was the last time you felt like that?
            Did the fire within make you melt or surge?
Cleopas and his companion felt some excitement when Jesus
explained Scripture to them.
            Are you able to relate to that aspect of their experience
                    in any way?

 

Think of some times when you said, "I had hoped. . . ."
            Finish that sentence with the things you have hoped for
            but didn't get. 

 

In all the resurrection appearances, we discover that Easter came
upon the disciples as a complete surprise. They were hoping for
"redemption" in terms of a political solution for Israel's problems.
            Discuss the differences between what these first followers of
                    Jesus hoped for and what they got on resurrection day.
            Compare their expectations to ours when we ask God to
                    save us from our problems.

 

For you, what would be the significance of the wounded hands
that blessed and broke the bread?  Is this an image that would aid
your appreciation of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?
             Why is it important to understand our beliefs with both
                        heart and mind?
             What would it take for you to be touched emotionally as
                     you receive bread made sacred by the crucified yet
                     living hands of Jesus?

 

Which direction are you headed right now? Back to Emmaus and
life as usual, or toward Jerusalem and an unknown future?
Are your hopes dashed to pieces, or springing back to life again?

 

How do you account for the poor vision of Cleopas and his companion?
Why did it take them so long to recognize Jesus?
            Share some examples from your own life when Jesus was
                     with you but you were slow to acknowledge it.
            Is our vision today any better than theirs?   Explain your answer.

 

Have you ever shared a simple meal with another person or performed
some other act of hospitality wherein God surprised you with a
holy moment?
            If so, put that experience into words as best you can.

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