On the Weekly Road to Emmaus
The story told in Luke 24:13-35 takes place on the day of the Resurrection. Two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other unnamed, were traveling from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus which was about 7 miles away. They were talking about the events of the previous days when a stranger came alongside them. Luke tells us that this was the risen Lord although the travelers didn’t immediately recognize Him.
Jesus asked them what they were talking about and why they were sad. In shock, they stopped in their tracks and asked Him where He had been. They told Him about Jesus of Nazareth—a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people. They went on to say that their chief priests and rulers had delivered Him up to be condemned to death and crucified. Their sadness came from the fact that they had hoped that He would be the one to redeem Israel.
They had lost hope: it was the third day since He had died, and early that morning, some of the women of their company went to the tomb to anoint His body, only to discover that it was gone. They claimed to have received a vision from angels who said He was still alive. Some of the other disciples who were with them went to the tomb and found it as the women had reported, but they did not see Jesus.
At this point, the stranger admonished them over not believing what the Scriptures had foretold. He then took them on a Bible study of the Old Testament, showing them how it was necessary for the Christ to suffer before He entered into His glory. As the three travelers approached Emmaus, Jesus acted as if He were continuing on His journey, but they compelled Him to come and lodge with them for the night.
As they sat down at the table, Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it and then gave it to the two disciples. Then Luke tells us, “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him,” in the breaking of bread.
Immediately, Jesus vanished from their sight, leaving them to marvel over what had happened. They talked about how their hearts had burned as their Savior expounded the Scriptures to them along the way and how He was made known to them in the breaking of bread. They got up and immediately returned to Jerusalem where they found and told the other disciples about all that had happened.
It can be argued that this scene sets a pattern for Christian activity on the first day of the week from that time until the present.
First, note that this took place on Sunday—the day of the resurrection. The early Christians, following this pattern, moved their day of worship from the Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday in order to commemorate and celebrate the resurrection every week. The day became known as The Lord’s Day, the day of the resurrection of Christ and hence, the beginning of the New Creation.
Second, Christians gather on the Lord’s Day to read and reflect on Holy Scripture. Of course, we now have not only the Old Testament but also the New Testament—the words of Jesus and His Apostles. And ideally, your pastor is proclaiming Christ from all of Scripture following the Lord’s example. We believe that Christ comes among us and speaks to us in our worship when we read these inspired writings. In fact, we often have the experience of our own hearts burning as we hear the good news of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ read and boldly proclaimed.
Third, like these two disciples, we are invited to the table with Jesus where He takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it and gives it to us through our pastors. Jesus repeated the actions at the Last Supper again at this meal in Emmaus. This signals for us that the Risen Lord continues to come among us and is made known to us in the “breaking of bread”—that is, when we celebrate Holy Communion.
I would have loved to be there that day as Christ taught the Scriptures and showed how the Old Testament pointed to Him. But there is a reality in which we do experience this every week—as we gather in the Lord’s house, on the Lord’s Day, to hear the Lord’s Word and to be fed at the Lord’s Table. This is Easter worship. The Risen Lord comes among us—to speak to us, to forgive us, and to feed us. May God bless us as we gather each week; and may we follow in these two disciples’ footsteps in telling others the Good News of our faithful King that we have the privilege of experiencing week after week.