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Scripture Speaks: On the Road to Emmaus

A Scripture lesson by a mysterious Stranger on a dusty road prepares two disciples to recognize the Risen Jesus in the breaking of bread; what did they learn?

Gospel (Read Lk 24:13-35)

Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus appeared to two “downcast” (Lk 24:17) disciples on Resurrection Day, He didn’t do the very thing that would have broken into their despair—identify Himself?  Why were these men traveling away from Jerusalem?  Surely it was because Jesus’ death there had deeply disappointed them.  They had been “hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21), and that had fallen to dust and defeat.  What was the point of staying in Jerusalem any longer?

When Jesus appeared to them, He could have set all this right.  Keeping His identity from them, however, He chose a different way.  This should catch our attention immediately.  If Jesus had revealed His identity, would they have been able to focus on what followed?  Probably not.  As it turned out, they were riveted to what He had to say; He had their full attention.  He should have ours, too.

What did He teach them?  Beginning with the Book of Genesis, the first of the five books attributed to Moses, and then in all the rest of the Old Testament, Jesus revealed to the disciples that His horrific suffering, death, and Resurrection were part of a plan already written down, hundreds of years before.  What had the appearance of terrible failure and collapse was precisely how God intended to carry out His plan.  Can we imagine the impact of this lesson on the men who first heard it?  They were Jews who had known the Scriptures all their lives, yet neither they nor their teachers had ever perceived that the Messiah would be God’s Son, Who would enter the glory of His reign as King of Israel through suffering.  How had they missed that?  Actually, it wasn’t a case of “missing.”  Those Old Testament Scriptures were waiting to be revealed.  Their true meaning was not clear until the Incarnation, even though they were there on the page.  Until Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth, they were muted, shadowy, and hidden.  Jesus wanted the Emmaus disciples to see for themselves that God had not lost control of His Creation, even in the disaster they had recently experienced in Jerusalem.  Sometimes this fact makes me wonder if we ourselves now read some parts of the New Testament without full understanding until Jesus returns.  St. Paul does suggest as much, when he writes that now we see “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor 13:12).  For example, when Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt 5:6), are we foolish and slow of heart to believe?  What are the surprises God has in store for us as we wait for the Lord’s Second Coming?

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