He had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Laurie and I travel so much that our theme song is “On the Road Again,” by Willie Nelson. Every time we load up and head out of town, one of us starts singing it.
The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus made me think of our theme song.
It begins with the words, “That very day (being the day of the Resurrection,) the first day of the week…” That is Sunday, reminiscent of the story of creation where on the first day of the week, Light was created. This has, ever since, been the principal day of the worship of our Lord.
Two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus, about 7 miles Northwest of Jerusalem.
One of these disciples was Cleopas, who is not mentioned again in Holy Scripture, except that he may have been the same man mentioned in the Gospel of St. John in chapter 19, verse 25, which reads:
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”
(Various Bible translations have it as Clopas, Cleopas, or Cleophas)
The other disciple is not named.
These men were not Apostles, but they were disciples or followers of Jesus. As they were walking, Jesus came and walked with them. They did not recognize him, because “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”
Evidently Jesus wanted to hear what was being said about him without revealing himself, so the information would be more candid.
Cleopas says something that could be construed as rather sarcastic: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” Jesus plays dumb, “What things,” he says.
Then Cleopas begins to recite the happenings, and then says something very telling:
“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
“We had hoped…” meaning they had lost hope.
He goes on to tell of the resurrection appearance, and how some women reported that the angels to them he was alive, but the men did not see him.
As I have said before, I think women are more open to the spirit world than men, so of course it had to be women who saw the angels at the tomb.
Then Jesus tells the men, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe…”
You know, I can relate to Cleopas, and I bet some of you can, too. How foolish and slow of heart to believe have I been in my life.
On the long road of my life, how often have I lost hope? More times than I can count.
How many times was I just plain foolish, not recognizing the hand of God in my life?
How often was Jesus walking along beside me, and I did not recognize him?
I guess that’s a question we can all ask of ourselves. And just like Cleopas, I had heard the teaching, and the prophesy, and the testimony of others along the way.
There were teachers in my life who really knew Jesus, and tried to open my eyes to see him. It took so long for me to accept Jesus into my heart and submit to his authority over my life.
The disciples listened to Jesus open the Scriptures to them, and they obviously hungered for more. Jesus was about to leave them when they asked him to stay with them. They said, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”
Jesus stayed because they asked him. That’s important.
Then when he was at the supper table with them, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, at which their eyes were opened to see him
They recognized him, then he vanished from their sight. Why did he vanish? I suppose because he had taught them some lessons they would never forget.
He taught them that he was with them, even though they did not recognize him.
He taught them about how the prophesy of the Old Testament was about him.
He taught them he would stay with them just because they asked.
He taught them to recognize him in the breaking of the bread, which we know as Holy Communion.
Our Sunday service follows this pattern. He is most certainly among us, though we do not recognize him. We strive to recognize him through the reading of Holy Scripture, of how the prophets spoke about him.
We celebrate the Holy Communion so that we can recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
We do these things every Sunday to keep hope alive in our hearts, and to recognize the Spirit of Christ within us.
There are many people out there who have lost hope, and don’t know where to find it again. In this time of crisis many have tried to find some hope in the form of Instagram posts or zoom meetings, but hope is not found externally. It is found in the Spirit of Christ who longs to live in our hearts. He will stay if you ask.
Hope is found here in the faithful worship of our Lord and Savior that kindles our hearts.
In fact, this Gospel reading inspired a collective prayer, or a collect as we say, found in the service of Evening Prayer in our Book of Common Prayer. Listen and pray with me to Our Lord:
A Collect for the Presence of Christ
Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day
is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and
awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in
Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake
of your love. Amen.