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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

They Recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread

This morning's gospel reading was the two disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. It's one of my favorite Easter events. There's so much humor in the story. The disciples are presumably "going home" to their village of Emmaus which was about seven miles northeast of Jerusalem. They are sad and disheartened despite the fact that the women reported that Jesus was risen. Obviously they don't believe it. Jesus made no secret of the fact that His death and Resurrection were going to happen, but His thick-headed followers had their own expectation and nothing was going to budge them from their sadness and disappointment when they didn't materialize.

But they meet Jesus on the road. And, oh, what a meeting.

He asks them what they are discussing as they walk along. Well, of course, everyone is talking about the events of the past few days. "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know?" And Jesus (can we presume tongue in cheek) responds, "What sort of things?" So they tell him about Jesus who they hoped "would be the one to redeem Israel" being handed over to death by the high priests and crucified. They report the Resurrection, but obviously don't really believe it. "Some women (is there a little condescension here?)...were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his Body (which must have been removed?)...but him they did not see."

I'm sure Jesus was too kind to roll His eyes, but His response says it all. "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!" And He takes them step by step through the Scripture interpreting all the passages relating to the Messiah beginning with Moses. What a teaching that must have been!

The disciples arrive at Emmaus and ask Jesus to stay with them. Think how drawn they are to Him, how reluctant to let Him go on. Even though they haven't recognized Him yet, their hearts and minds are overflowing with His truth.

And what happens at the meal?

"While he was with them at table, he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight."

No doubt the disciples recognized the same gestures and words from the Last Supper, but was there more than that? I think so. He lifted up his arms and what happened? His sleeves fell back from His hands. What did they see? The nail marks. They recognized Him in the breaking of the physical bread, but also in the broken flesh of His own Body, the marks of His immeasurable love.

How I treasure the witness of those two blockheaded disciples. What do they do? They "set out at once" and return to Jerusalem. No doubt it was dark long before they arrived, but with "hearts burning" within them, they couldn't wait to take the news to Simon and the others. And what a different atmosphere from the gloom and doom of the morning. "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"

Praise God for Easter joy! And keep your eyes open for meeting Jesus on the road. He's looking for you!

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