"While they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him" (Luke 24:15).
The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus has been called a gospel in miniature. It describes the journey the early church had to make to understand how the apparent defeat of Jesus was in fact God’s secret plan to save the world. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” If you attended the solemn Easter vigil service, you made the same journey by listening to the seven Scripture readings that culminate in the Easter proclamation.
It takes a stranger on the road to reinterpret everything the disciples saw as failure to be God’s plan. The facts were overwhelming: Jesus had been crucified in Jerusalem and his followers had scattered in fear and despair. The pair on the road were no doubt fleeing the scene for their own safety when Jesus shows up to accompany them. They are blind to the truth. “How foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”
Jesus the stranger, his identity hidden from their eyes, walks them though the scriptures from Moses to the prophets. As the disciples begin to understand, their hearts burn within them, but the full revelation does not happen until they beg the stranger to stay with them for the night. At table, he takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and shares it with them. It is then, in the midst of their eucharistic meal, that their eyes are opened.
Jesus, really present in the breaking of the bread, becomes invisible to physical sight, but their faith now sees, their minds are opened and their hearts are filled with joy. The disciples immediately set out for Jerusalem to tell the others. The story describes how the early church came to faith in the risen Jesus, who was their message to the world.
It is just when we think we understand that God enters our world to reinterpret everything in the light of Christ. Our despair is changed to hope. Our failure leads to a baptism of mercy that enables us to preach forgiveness to others. The shattered community reassembles at the Table of the Lord, where the broken body of Christ is the source of our unity, his death the source of our life.
Faith is a journey of surprises. What strangers will enter your life today, and will your eyes be open to them and your heart welcome the good news they will reveal?