Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘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 beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said 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?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
It was the era of “How many roads must a man walk down” when I first realised you didn’t have to “go forward” at a Billy Graham convention to declare your faith, as my Sunday school teacher had, because there were many other roads. (Later, I realised the answer is “42”. With apologies to those who don’t know that joke.) For one man, possibly many, the answer was Jericho road, or maybe “up a tree”, for another it was Damascus road while for others it was the “road” rowed across a lake. For Mary, maybe for many, it was a voice saying her name – that moment of contact with someone concentrating solely on you.
Afterwards, there is that moment of “how did I not know”, which becomes the story you always tell. Followed by the relief when you realise others have similar moments of recognition. You, I, am not the only one who somehow failed to recognise someone so obvious until s/he had to use a well known gesture, phrase or look. In modern Britain it’s easy to think you might be the only one, ever, to become Christian, and the relief of meeting others who think the same is thrilling. Telling the story is how we discover others of faith and share it with those who have yet to recognise a faith.
How many times had the followers of Jesus watched and listened as Jesus shared a meal, saying the familiar berakah “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, …”. Something they had always shared, in many places, now becomes that point of information and recognition. In the meal by which we recognise Christians round the world, whatever the language, sharing bread and wine has the same effect, whatever road we have taken.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, who gives to each the attention that allows everyone to walk the way to faith. Thanks be to you, who gives us times when we can tell our story of faith, that others may hear and know that you are the Lord our God, Lord and father to all. Blessed be God forever.
The Rev’d Ruth Browning, Retired minister and member of Thornbury URC
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