‘Jesus himself came near….. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” From Luke 24:13-35, today’s Gospel.
“It’s a magical thing to have Wrexham on your bucket list!” BBC commentator to an American supporter of the football club, owned by Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds.
The first appearance of the Risen Christ in Luke’s Gospel is on the road to Emmaus, when he joins two people, Cleopas and possibly his unnamed wife. These are not the fearful disciples who have hidden away according to the other Gospels and they don’t recognise Jesus. They’ve been speaking of the political events that have happened, crucifixion being associated with the Roman occupying power, and they chide Jesus: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have taken place there?” They seem sure that they don’t know who has joined them and Luke states that ‘their eyes were kept from recognising him.’ If they can’t see who it is who’s come to them, perhaps it’s because they’re sure they know that Jesus is dead: “He was condemned to death and crucified,” they tell their new companion, “But we had hoped that he was the one……“ (v20, 21) The past tense is used, not the present – their hope has vanished as they stand still, looking sad. (v17)
However, after he has spoken to them about what has happened, they invite the stranger to join them because the evening is drawing on and, when bread is taken, blessed, broken and shared by their companion they instantly realise that it’s Jesus who is with them. The literal meaning of ‘com panio’, with bread, shows them who he is, so reminiscent is it of the Last Supper, and the effect on them is instant. Despite the late hour, they go back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples what has happened and the whole passage contains much movement. The two ‘are going’ (24:13), Jesus “came near and went with them” (24:15), they “came near” Emmaus (24:28), Jesus “walked ahead of them (24,28), “he went in to stay with them“ ((24:29), he “vanished from their sight” (24:31) and they “got up and returned to Jerusalem (24:33). Unlike those other disciples who have initially hidden away in the same place, these two become active as the story of the resurrection unfolds and spreads through people on the road.
Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sets out on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (9:51-19:27) where he meets people along the way and in Acts, the second book Luke wrote, the first Christians were called the people of the Way (Acts 9:2, 22:4, 22:14,22). They followed in the footsteps of Jesus and all this unfolded amidst political and economic events that were deeply unpopular. This week has also seen deeply unpopular events with the resignation of Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and alleged bully at work. There has been much comment on the politics of power whilst the cost of living and economic hardship continues to be a focus for criticism. Today also sees the so-called ‘Armageddon Alert’ when a test will be run on mobile phones for future warnings of emergencies but there are many stories of hope, too.
One is that of Wrexham Football Club which, with the support of two Hollywood actors, has seen its return to the English Football League although at the cost of the team and supporters from Boreham Wood. Publicity about it has put Wrexham on the map for some Americans and tourism is also beginning to change the fortunes of the locality as well as the club. Who would ever have contemplated a link between Tinseltown and Wrexham, although its fruits can now clearly be seen?!
However, on the road to Emmaus those two disciples were so convinced that Jesus was dead and all hope in him lost that they couldn’t see him before them. The transformation began with a simple question from what they thought was a stranger: “What are you discussing with each other as you walk along?” On whatever journey we’re on through life, is it possible we’ve been unable to recognise where and when Jesus has been with us because, like those travellers to Emmaus, we’re so sure he’s not part of life today? Have we given up hope or lost our way, were there times when, as the American poet Emily Dickinson suggests, ‘He joined me on my ramble’? (From ‘The blunder is to estimate.’) Or, perhaps we can see where there is fresh hope this Eastertide and we’re able to rejoice despite there being so much gloom and despair?
And so Jesus’ question comes to us today as well as those two followers then on the road to Emmaus: What are you discussing as you walk along?
With my prayers; pob bendith,