Now on that same day two of Jesus’ disciples 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 did a little research the other day about the town of Emmaus. I wanted to know exactly where it was and whether or not it still exists as a community today. What I discovered is that scholars are not really sure where Emmaus was. There are multiple theories with numerous sites claiming to be the ancient town. At first, I found this disappointing and a little frustrating. The town is so clearly named in scripture, why can’t we identify it?
But if you think about it, not knowing where Emmaus was seems right to me. If we could definitively pin down the historic location of the town then this experience of the risen Christ might be seen as limited to a specific place and time. But it isn’t limited because Emmaus isn’t any one place – Emmaus is every place we gather and experience the living Christ. Emmaus is every place we experience the love, the power, the presence of Christ in our lives and relationships.
The risen Christ promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age. Therefore, whenever we gather in love and concern for one another we can trust that Christ is there in our midst just as he was there with those two disciples so many years ago. Two friends sharing a cup of coffee on a Zoom call, each at their own kitchen counters discussing their struggles with children or family – Christ is there. The long walk two friends take, six feet apart from each other, one friend shares with the other a recent cancer diagnosis – Christ walks with them. Whenever we gather in friendship to care for one another we can know that the risen Christ will be there hallowing our friendships and blessing our conversations.
The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus at first as they walked the road to Emmaus. In the same way we may not recognize him during those moments when we come together and share our lives. But we can trust that he is with us, that his presence blesses and hallows our everyday moments just as he blessed and hallowed theirs.
The risen Christ walks among us, not just within our worship but everywhere we go. He is on the road even now seeking to encounter us, waiting to be invited to the table. He knows how hard this life can be; he’s lived it. But he has also promised to be with us – whenever two or three are gathered together in his name – he will be with us. That’s an Easter promise and one we can count on.
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)