Luke’s post-Resurrection account is full of details and a beautiful summary of all four of the Gospels. We start out on the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection with two of Jesus’ disciples traveling to Emmaus. Like the situation from Sunday, Jesus appears but they do not recognize him. This lack of recognition is common and forms the core message of this passage. What is the Resurrection like? Will we be able to recognize him or how will we recognize him? Should we be able to see him as he was before his death? We must wait for answers to these questions. Jesus meets the travelers and inquires about what happened. By their response we can assume that the event regarding Jesus’ death was well-known. Yet, what was well-known is explained well by Cleopas: “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene who was a prophet mighty in deed and word.” The disciples of Jesus still do not understand what happened. Jesus explains it by opening up the entirety of Moses and the Prophets, namely the law and the interpretation of the law. This became the greatest homily ever preached. The life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus was proclaimed by the prophets and foretold by the law.
After this great homily, Jesus intends to continue on the way. This phrase – “intended to pass by” – occurs frequently throughout the Gospels. When Jesus comes walking on the water, he looks like he intends to pass by the ship. When he preached in Nazareth and they try to throw him off the cliff, he passes through the crowd. This action of passing by is indicative of God’s action. Yet, this disciples still do not understand what is going on and invite him to stay with them. John’s Gospel is the only Gospel to make a bold point about Jesus staying with his disciples or the importance of staying, resting, remaining, staying the night. So, Jesus comes and stays with them.
While staying with the disciples, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, and breaks it for his disciples. Only during this action do they realize that it had been Jesus all along. Yet, they realize him in the broken bread not in the person whom they had been walking with. For once the bread had been broken, Jesus disappeared and left them with the bread. The broken bread now becomes the symbol of the risen Lord, the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is manifest in the bread itself.
Everything Jesus taught his disciples is summarized in this passage. He taught them the law and the prophets and their proper interpretation so that they would understand that he had to die and rise. He taught them his ways so that they might recognize him. Then, he left them a memorial of himself in the breaking of the bread so that the Resurrection would be perpetually remembered and Jesus’ presence would be forever with his disciples. Only with all of the dots connected do the disciples finally understand the message.
We are left in the same place as the disciples. Do we understand what Jesus taught? Do we understand the law and the prophets well enough to recognize those prophesies that concern Jesus? Do we believe that Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine as a reality that he is always with us? Are our hearts burning within us when we hear his message proclaimed and his presence is before us?