The movement of faith

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Easter and our gospel is the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. This account takes place on the first day of the week, that “very day” – Easter Sunday in our parlance. Jesus has been raised from the dead but all the disciples have discovered is the empty tomb. The first witnesses to the empty tomb are all women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them (Lk 24:10).  They tell the news to the disciples, but such news was unexpected and “their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them” (v.11).  In such confusion are sown the seeds of doubt.

As Joel Green notes (842), the Emmaus story fits into a large Lucan narrative about perception and response.  From the initial witness of the women we have the possibility (vv.1-12) which gives way to the probability of Emmaus (vv.13-35), and probability to actuality in Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in the upper room (vv.36-49).  All is finally resolved in vv.50-53 when after the Ascension the disciples return to Jerusalem ready for mission.  While describing an event that all takes place on Sunday of the Resurrection, Luke also has crafted a narrative that has been recognized as a metaphor for the movement of faith from what is almost simple evidentiary and proof to a faith that is trusting and which demands a response.

The structure of the Emmaus account follows this progression within the boundaries of its own narrative. Green (842) suggests the following structure:

Road to Emmaus structure

Within the context of the Emmaus story, Luke will also extend themes ever present in the gospel to this point: journey, table fellowship and fulfillment of Scripture.

Image credit: James Tissot, 1900, The Pilgrims of Emmaus on the Road (Les pèlerins d’Emmaüs en chemin), Public Domain

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