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.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
“Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”
A key to this encounter lies with that beautiful invitation which is, I suppose, a primal prayer.
Of course I know that at a basic level this is everyday Middle Eastern hospitality at work, but it does come at a pivotal point in the narrative. Before the invitation to the home, all is grief, disputation and disbelief.
Two disillusioned disciples who have loved and lost now have to attempt to find where they can pick up pieces and possibly resurrect their lives. Their incredulity at the unrecognised companion on the road is symptomatic of their post traumatic stress. PTSD that condition of numbness where the adrenalin of shock drains away and leaves the mind unable to find any place to re-engage its grip. It is an all too frequent human phenomenon.
Having just experienced shocking news as I write this, there is a narrative numinosity radiating from this too well known passage inviting me to examine its unfolding for my own healing.
There is in me at times of crisis the instinctive reaction that wants to flee from a confusing context and just get myself home. Like the disciples, I want to get the hell outa Dodge and find something familiar. Coffee, red wine, or chocolate in some extravagant ratio will usually do the trick.
Like those runaways, I also don’t appreciate people who crash my crisis with their presence. In those first painful moments, when I would rather be alone, I seldom recognise them for the risen Christs they really are.
Like the returning Emmaus residents I would also rather argue and berate than listen to what the mysterious presence is saying.
Yet despite my shock and wallowing confusion, there comes a moment when my heart rather than my head recognizes that this one who is walking with me has something I need more of. If I listen to the impulse I also subliminally understand that to allow them to pass me by in this moment would be to miss a mystical moment and worse even, avoid healing.
It is then that my deepest soul wisdom finds this prayer and offers it through the fog of confusion and pain.
“Stay with me Lord, stay with me, for the day is ending and soon it will be night”
Home again with heart and hearth, the familiar begins its fairy work on “knitting up the ravelled sleve of care”. There is nothing I need more than to feel the welcome in the coffee, wine, or ice cream. Truth be told even a blessed broken piece of bread will do. It is after all, not the symbol as much as the sacramental sharing of my brokeness with this mysterious other, that can break the spell of my grief interrupted sanity and restore my heart’s flame.
In a resurrection flash the presence is gone again but I notice so too, is my fear and inability to cope. With a warmed heart I am able to return once more to brutal Jerusalem and join the chorus, “The Lord is risen indeed”
I suppose eventually I will learn in all things, not to run for the cover of home, but rather to wait in the place of pain for the power from on high.