The Community Rejoined and United

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Easter and our gospel is the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The final movement of the Emmaus story returns the two disciples to Jerusalem and serves as a transition to the appearance there. Jerusalem is the focus of Luke’s geographical scheme throughout Luke and Acts. The Gospel begins and ends in Jerusalem, and the journey to Jerusalem dominates the record of Jesus’ ministry. In Acts the mission of the church begins in Jerusalem, and Paul returns there at regular intervals.

The experience of the risen Lord cannot be held in. It must be shared, proclaimed (Acts 4:20). By the time the two travelers return to Jerusalem, the good news is already known. Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter, the leader of the Twelve; this appearance is not described in the Gospels. Luke closes his narration of the story with a reminder for his readers of its special significance for them: recognition came in “the breaking of bread.”

A Final Thought 

In his assessment of the resurrection appearances and of the gospel narratives which have preserved these experiences, Bas Van Jersel suggested that these texts were intended not only to inform would-be believers concerning the fact of Jesus-risen but also as an interpretation of his resurrection for the life of the disciple. In other words, accounts such as the one recorded in today’s gospel help us to understand that faith in the resurrection is not confined to a past event; nor is it relegated solely to a future moment when we also are raised by God from death. Rather, the resurrection appearances represent the church’s understanding concerning the permanent presence of the risen Lord with us now. How and in what manner do we experience him among us? What are the implications of his presence? How must it influence our faith? our life style?

Matthew, in his gospel, told his readers that they would find and experience Jesus in the hungry when they fed them; in the thirsty when they gave a drink of water; in the stranger to whom they gave a welcome; in the naked whom they clothed, in the ill whom they cared for and in the prisoner whom they visited. In another passage, the evangelist assured his contemporaries of an experience of Jesus’ presence whenever and wherever two or three would gather together in prayer (Matthew 25:35-36, 18:20). For his part, the fourth evangelist offered the assurance of Jesus’ abiding presence in the gift of the Spirit. Like Jesus, the Spirit would teach the disciples, remind them of his words and works, guide them to the truth and be with them always (John 14:16).

In today’s gospel, Luke reminds believers that the ultimate encounter with the permanent presence of the risen Jesus comes in the breaking open of the Word and in the Breaking of the Bread which is the Eucharist.

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

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