A stumbling block

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Easter and our gospel is the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. So far in this account it is the two disciples who are recounting the details of all the things that have taken place there in these days? (v.18) The disciples are distressed by the death of Jesus and cannot believe that the event that has shaken their world is not known by another pilgrim.

Cleopas is named, but not the other; perhaps because Cleopas later exercised an important role in the Christian community. The travelers describe Jesus as a mighty prophet, the long-awaited prophet-like-Moses. They had hoped he would be not only a prophet but the messianic deliverer of Israel: “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” (v.19)

They add: “how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him” emphasizing the role of the leaders in Jesus’ crucifixion (v. 20). In the following verses, the play out the crux of their blindness:

But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.  Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” (Luke 24:21-24)

Even the accounts of the empty tomb did not lead them necessarily to conclude that he had risen, because the resurrection expected by the Jews was the general victory of all the just at the end. It was obvious to them that the end and the establishment of a new order had not come. They did not expect an individual resurrection in the midst of history. It seems that their expectations of the meaning of the Messiah were shattered at death’s door. The Cross had become a stumbling block.

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

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