Monday, April 12, 2010

On the Emmaus Road

One of the "best known" of Jesus' resurrection appearances is described in Luke 24:13-35. Take some time to settle into the account and then share what you find. What caught your attention? What questions were raised--and what questions do you think the account is answering? What does it mean for us today? You might be familiar with some artistic interpretations (song, painting, etc.) of this story; if so, please let us know about them!


John M. said...

I'm a little late... I just posted a question on the "doubt" thread.

Joseph Holbrook said...

Might I suggest that this story is a great metaphor for how believers or followers of Jesus might gather together along the journey to experience his presence?

Matthew 18:20 (Amplified Bible)
20For wherever two or three are gathered (Συνηγμενοι- drawn together as My followers) in (into) My name, there I AM in the midst of them

The early believers were called followers of the way … This is a beautiful story of two friends, struggling with disappointment and disillusionment, walking together on the path … and Jesus is there in their midst, even though at first they do not recognize him. Their hearts burned within them and in the breaking of the bread, he was revealed to them.

Joseph Holbrook said...

PS: i have a bad internet connection in a hotel in Knoxville. We are headed to Gatlinburg ... don't know how much I will be on here the rest of this week.

We just had dinner with one of my young friends from Latin American studies who now lives in Knoxville.

Brian Emmet said...

Luke emphasizes traveling, being "on the road/way." A friend observed about this passage: Cleopas and his companion were probably discouraged/depressed by the recent events, but were heading into isolation instead of into fellowship. Encountering Jesus turns them around!

John M. said...

What's with the disappearing thing after they recognized him? As long as he was incognito, He was opening the scriptures and hanging with them. When they recognized him, he wasn't "there" any longer.

Joseph Holbrook said...

good question John ... That is actually the subject of Ed Chinn's book ... explaining the disappearence of Jesus." Basically, he is not "a tame lion" -- he comes and goes as he pleases and as suits his purpose.

Brian Emmet said...

Another Q: what was Jesus doing on that road in the first place? He has already appeared to several of the disciples, but why this particular couple (hardly core group members)? I realize all answers are speculative, and Jesus doesn't need to explain himself.

Interesting too that their recognition of him came "in the breaking of the bread." Meals and table-fellowship are important in Luke--one commentator thinks Luke structures his Gospel around 7 meals, in a way similar to John organizing his around 7 'signs" performed by Jesus--so maybe Jesus wants to reinforce that idea? It's hard to escape seeing the Eucharist here, even if Jesus did not specifically celebrate what we now know as "the Lord's Supper" with Cleopas and his unnamed companion (whom I take to be his wife, Mary, on the basis of John 19:25, despite the note in my Bible that says 'Clopas' and 'Cleopas' were not the same fellow, after acknowledging that these are variant spellings of the same name), so maybe Jesus (and Luke) are directing our attention to the centrality of Scripture and 'sacrament' (cf. Ac 2:42 ff). We can't read the Bible rightly without "seeing" Jesus clearly thereby... and those who would 'see' or 'meet' Jesus should in fact open up the book, along with their minds and hearts!

Michael said...

Thanks for opening with this. This is probably my favorite story.

Brian's question: "Another Q: what was Jesus doing on that road in the first place? He has already appeared to several of the disciples, but why this particular couple (hardly core group members)? I realize all answers are speculative, and Jesus doesn't need to explain himself."

Your question above, made me think that the answer is because they were not at the center (one of the 12, one of the 3, or John) that he was willing to reach out to them. I wonder what the resurrection story would be like if Jesus only appeared to just the twelve or just the 3.
Most of the time I feel like those two guys (if that is how they felt) than like one of the 12.
The Message says that Jesus called them thick headed and slow-hearted. Sounds alot like me.

If I can say, I believe Jesus modeled something that I haven't quite understood, at the end of their time with Jesus, the scripture states that it was after the breaking of the bread, that their eyes were opened and the recognized Him.
This is tied to our witness, our lifestyle and I believe the only way the world will truly see Christ at work in the world. His brokeness at work in us, his body.

John M. said...

Thanks Michael; good stuff everyone.

I like this story also. I was thinking this morning how different things are now and then. In the story, these two have a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ. They return to Jerusalem and excitedly report to the others in the uppper room. Then, they drop out of the Biblical narrative, never, as far scripture records, to be heard from again.

Today there would be a block-buster book; a study-guide with all the O.T. teaching direct from Jesus himself. Not to mention the talk shows, the lecture circuit, websites, blogs etc. Those guys really missed it. They had an incredible one-off encounter, deep revelatory teaching, and intimate fellowship with the risen Jesus, and they didn't do any interviews or publish a book with all it's spin-off's. They could have been rich and famous -- the American dream!

Joseph Holbrook said...

I invited the mighty one in here tonight ... the Murray Bradfield ... he may come with quantitivative, he may come with spss, he may come with NVivo .. qualititive the hardest of all... but he will surely come! Drum roll please .............

steve H said...

I'm even later than John was on the 12th. I just now posted a comment on the "doubt" thread.

And where are you, Murray?

I suppose because I had just caught up with doubt thread, I saw doubt again in this one. Jesus called them "foolish ones" and "slow of heart to believe." In this case, their doubt is apparently a heart issue, not just a mind issue. In part, they had "lost heart" it seems because they had expected Jesus to "redeem Israel" — which he has done, but in a far different way than met there expectations.

It is also interesting that "their eyes were kept from recognizing him" and then when Jesus blessed the bread and broke it and gave it to them "their eyes were opened." These are passive verbs (were kept and were opened); in other words someone caused them not to recognize Jesus until he served them bread. He was "known to them in the breaking of the bread." (These are the words as translated in the ESV. The HCSB is, if anything, even stronger: "they were prevented from recognizing him"; "...He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.")

The passage seems put a lot of weight on God's acting to withhold or to give "knowing."

It does seem, as Brian brought up, to put strong emphasis on "the breaking of the bread." Those of us with an evangelical background seek "to remember" Jesus' death in the Lord's Supper, but I wonder how many have any expectation that of actually "communing with / participating in / knowing" him at his table? 1 Cor 10:16 speaks in these terms, using the Greek word "koinonia" in regards to our involvement in the bread and cup.

John M. said...

To piggy back on Steve's comment, the phrase, "We had hoped..." is extremely poignent. One I can identify with.

We [fill in the blank for "we" -- a movement, a local church, a "covenant community", an apostolic team, you and your wife, your own hopes and dreams...]

Hope at this stage of my life comes in the form of believing that the Lord is doing what he intended even though many of the hopes have gone by the way. Like Steve said, Jesus is redeeming "Israel", just not like I might have expected.

In retrospect, I'm glad that some of my hopes and dreams did not materialize, and I see the Lord's hand in keeping them modulated and in some cases putting them in the grave.

Now my hope is in God and the risen Jesus to do what he intends, with gratitude that he has graciously allowed me to participate, in spite of my sin, weakness, and illusions of grandeur/messianic complexes of earlier days.

Also, my hope is in the upcoming generations as the baton is passed and they run their race. "Hopefully", I'm not being co-dependent on them in expecting them to do what I didn't do. My expectation is that God will work out his purposes in, through and in spite of them as he does in each generation.

Any of you younger folks sitll listening? If so, what do think about our ramblings, and especially about this passage?

John M. said...

Hey Murry after that build-up, we're waiting...
P.S. Don't feel like you have to live up to all those acronyms. I have no clue what any of them are. I assume that you have to have a Phd. to know.

It'll be fine to just make some regular comments and share your thoughts for regular folks who approach life on a 7th grade level most of time! :)

John M. said...

P.S. Murray, sorry about your name. Spelling isn't my forte. Probably those high-powered programs take care of mundane things like spelling, anyway.

Brian Emmet said...

Michael, thanks for your comment; I found it very rich. Steve, I'll check back on the "doubt" post and comment there if I have anything to say.

I enjoy the humor in this story: it's a bit like a Shakespearean comedy of mistaken identity, assuming that we truly "see" what we're seeing. I'm reminded of LeRoy Curtis' frequent references to our 'misplaced certainties'--Cleopas seems to have a few of those in play.

I also can't help thinking that Jesus is making a point about our need for Scripture and sacrament, which perhaps is a way of saying we need both knowledge and mystery, and we need them working together in the right sorts of ways. It's not entirely clear from Luke that Jesus celebrates "the Lord's Supper" at Cleopas', but those four verbs (take, bless, break, give)are used in every report of the Table, along with the feedings of the 5000 and 4000, as well as here... Ican't conclude that it's accidental.

John M. said...

The "doubt" thread is alive again if anyone is interested. I just posted -- "I think I'm beginning to believe in doubting myself."

John M. said...

Back to Jesus' hiding himself from recognition and then disappearing when Cleopas and his companion did recognize him.

I was reading Capon's "The Parabales of the Kingdom" this morning (yes, I'm still reading it), and was reminded again of the "hiddenness" and mystery of the Kingdom of God.

I resonate with Capon's prespective that the Kingdom has never not been the active ingredient of God's presence in the earth. He says that it was "encrypted" in the world since creation.

Therefore, the Logos and the Kingdom have always been there promoting and implementing God's agenda. We just need to have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Perhaps we're ALL on the Emmaus road?

Laurel Long said...

Hey guys,
I love the conversations posted. They are so rich and meaningful. I cannot, of course compete in any way with your very lively spiritual banter.
The Road to Emmaus expresses two very important things, because Jesus wanted to teach again, one more time, by example and because He wanted to set a pattern for our fellowship together by being a Visual Aid.
In Church life, post modern or otherwise, there seems to be two very dynamic environments the Lord manifests Himself: in the Vision and the Testimony.
He comes along side those who understand the vision with His presence and then confirms it with His presence when we enjoy testimonies of the confirmation of that vision. The Vision is fleshed out while walking and talking together, the testimony merits a special gathering where food and unhurried fellowship garnishes a meal with attributions of His power and confirmation; the Road to Emmaus is the Road to the world Jesus died for.
If we will just keep walking, talking and eating together, somehow the Kingdom will, come, continue, and have no end.

Michael said...

Laurel, If I could add to your comments that I believe this is great example of how Christ works with us in repentance. His willingness to meet with us on our way out, and open our hearts to who He is, to remove poor thinking and expectations through the washing of the word, and then in fellowship restore us so that our first response was for the two to get up that very hour and return to Jerusalem.

I am gratefull for His willingness and patience to follow me on the way out and call me back in.

Laurel Long said...

Yes Michael,
You are completely right and I am also grateful to Him for the same reasons. However, I (we) have long since been banished from Jerusalem, oh, how we endeavored to remain there, but we are wanderers and spiritual vagabonds for now. I am not bragging or complaining, it is just so.
I do appreciate your response, Michael, thank you.

Brian Emmet said...

All good, all good--and let's not forget that Luke is providing us with reporting on what actually happened, not "just" a wonderful story about how Jesus is always with us, even in our times of darkness and doubt. That is of course part of why he includes this story, but let's remember also what Luke said about his reasons for writing: "that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (1:1-3). Not disagreeing with anyone here!

And what a nice touch: Jesus, risen, apparently has enough time (and at this point, "time" is no longer an issue for him!) to spend two or three hours walking with them to Emmaus, and maybe another hour or so over dinner--and as Michael has already pointed out, these were not "first line" disciples. The picture of Jesus going out after them and "tracking them down" is very encouraging!

Joseph Holbrook said...

ok, here is a thought. Is it possible that the post-resurrection Christ still appears to people and walks or converses with them? Without them necessarily recognizing who he is?

I realize that he ascended on high and is seated at the right hand of God ... however, no one stays seated all the time. Wouldn't be reasonable to assume that he occasionally gets up and goes for a walk?

Brian Emmet said...

Theoretically possible; would we know if he did? People have certainly reported visions of Jesus, but that's not what you're asking... since Paul's encounter on the Damascus Road, do we have reports of people encountering the risen Jesus "in the flesh"?

Laurel Long said...

There have been numerous reports of a "man in white" appearing in exclusively Moslem regions and revealed Himself to them Who He really Is. These appearances are documented by reliable sources. Why shouldn't He witness to those who have no witness and will allow none?
Jesus' work is not confined the stage of Biblical history. He can join and work for His own evangelistic association.

Michael said...

Joseph, I would think that Jesus would get tired sitting all of the time.

But more seriously, I would think that if Jesus thought his presence would make the difference, He would show up.

Without trying to sound to theological, we do have the third person of the trinity sent by the Father and Son to comfort us, stand beside us, empower us, convict us, pray on our behalf, opens up the scriptures to us, and lead us into all truth. We have a great partner with us right now.

Joseph Holbrook said...

good points Brian, Laurel and Michael. I don't normally like to engage in speculation ... but I thought it might get the thread going again.

I remember reading a book about a young African man who was being tortured and about to be killed. Jesus appeared to him in t(who had never heard of Christ) he jungle and set him free, then the Holy Spirit led him through the jungle for several days to a mission statement. When he heard the gospel story, he said that was the person who freed me.

It was a true story .... i cannot remember his name. He later went to Boston and studied for a time in a Bible school. He brought an awakening to the other students and then died while still in his early 20s.

Joseph Holbrook said...

hey Brian,

I started a new conversation thread about creative ideas for out of the box outreach to people outside the church.

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