Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
I am told by the psychologists that people can be grouped as to whether they are thinkers or feelers. According to this typology, developed by Carl Jung and popularised by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator , thinkers process data and make decisions based on rational thought and are therefore called “head” people. Feelers or “heart” people on the other hand, process information and make decisions based on the congruity of the information with their feelings. So a thinker will walk out of the cinema saying, “That was a great movie, the plot was so clever and cohesive”. The feeler will walk out of a movie and say, “That was such a great movie, I cried and laughed all that way through”
Another school of thought suggests that the dominance of brain hemisphere will determine how we respond to the world. Left brain dominant people will favour logic and reason, whilst people whose right brain hemispheres are dominant will come at things from less structured and more intuitive, creative orientations.
It would seem that the two disciples dragging themselves home to Emmaus after the trauma of Jesus’ death were trying to think the problem through with their left brains. Granted, they were exhausted with grief. The name of their home town, Emmaus means “warm springs” and I would like to speculate that after the day they had just had all they wanted was a warm soak and a good night’s rest. I sense their tired irritation in the way they respond to the unrecognised stranger who engages with them on the walk home. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
The left brained reader will be pleased to know that a walk of seven miles would take about an hour and forty five minutes. Enough time to get into quite a testy discussion with someone who seemed to be obtuse. Jesus, the unrecognised companion, who always begins where we are; responds to their thinking, left brain questions and explains, from the scriptures, all the reasons why the death of Jesus was necessary. After the one hundred and five minute journey is finished, the two travellers invite the stranger home in the way middle-eastern hospitality would demand.
It is as they sit down for the evening meal, doing their duty instead of opting for the more selfish soak in the warm springs, that the stranger breaks the bread and is recognised as Jesus himself. The fellow traveller is indeed the companion! (Latin: com panis = bread sharer)
In the moment of recognition he also vanishes! Am I the only one who hears the echoes of “Don’t touch me Mary” and “He is not here, he is risen,.. he has gone ahead of them into Galilee”? It seems that one cannot really grasp nor hold onto this risen Lord. One can only glimpse with insight as these warm-spring Emmaus wonderers, bow with reverence like Thomas, “My Lord and my God” , and follow him with the other disciples to the places where he is going ahead of us, like Galilee.
The shift in the Emmaus disciples is immediate. From left brain thinking dominance, their feeling function and right brain intuition takes over. These irritable grieving men feel a warm spring rising in their hearts at the recognition of the risen Christ. It is a warmth that with a Pentecostal wind, could become a blaze!
You see, we don’t have to open our hearts only on Mother’s day, as significant and important as that day may be. Each encounter with nurturing selfless, bread sharing warmth from another human being, first modelled by our Mothers, can be for the honest pilgrim a moment of resurrection encounter.
It may happen anywhere at any time. All it needs is an open heart, an open mind and an open eye. Oh by the way, some grief, irritability and exhaustion could also help!