Week 29: On the Road, At the Table

by Alys Tarr

Happy Easter! How fitting that today’s New Testament reading is the first of the resurrection appearances described by Luke. It’s almost like it was planned!

A number of questions come to mind when I read the story of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35. Why did the disciples not recognise Jesus? They were in his presence for a seven mile walk (v13) and they’ve heard him teach countless times before – why didn’t Jesus’ teaching style and authority jog their memories? Did God keep them from recognising Jesus until he broke bread with them? Did human psychology come into play here – given their downhearted-ness (v17) the risen Jesus was surely the last person they expected to encounter as they walked to their home village – was that what kept them from regonising Jesus?

And why did they recognise him when he broke bread? Did Jesus have a particularly unique style of bread-breaking? Did they catch a glimpse of the 3-day-old nail wounds in his hands as he handled the bread and suss it out? Or did they suddenly have their eyes opened to what they had previously been blind to?  And that’s before we even get to the issue of Jesus vanishing straight after the disciples recognised him. As stories go, it’s pretty bizarre, but then I guess you wouldn’t expect an encounter with a resurrected messiah to be anything but bizarre!

These questions make for interesting discussion, but let’s not get too bogged down in the particulars. The three things that really stick out to me as I read this story are:

  1. How beautiful it is that the whole of the Old Testament points to Jesus coming to die for the sins of humanity and to rise from the dead:

    “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

    Hopefully reading the Old Testament alongside the New Testament as part of this plan has been helpful, but if you’ve never heard or read a full bible overview then I’d really recommend that you do so!

  2. How the resurrection means that Jesus brings hope out of despair. These disciples were downcast and disappointed. All that they had hoped for seemed lost with the death of Jesus. They were returning home, probably to try and go back to their normal lives and stay away from any trouble which might befall anyone who was known to be an associate of a crucified blasphemer and revolutionary. Here’s the thing; one encounter with Jesus and they literally turn 180° and head back to Jerusalem to report the news of the resurrected Jesus. Despair gives way to hope.
  3. The first instinct of the disciples is to be evangelists. If you read vv.30-33 literally you might even conclude that they didn’t even stop to eat the bread that Jesus had just broken for them before leaving to go back to Jerusalem. A 14 mile round trip and no bread. Whether or not that’s a sensible conclusion to draw, it’s clear that their enthusiasm to share the amazing news that Jesus is alive is above and beyond anything else.

So, here are three related questions for you to consider:

  • Do you appreciate “all the Scriptures” (v. 27) for their ability to teach us about Jesus and God’s plan for salvation? Which bits of the Old Testament do you find it hardest to do this?
  • What areas of disappointment in your life need Jesus to bring hope and new life into?
  • Who will you share the good news of the resurrection with this week?