In a few weeks, we'll be able to respond appropriately to today's reading. But for now, in the middle of Lent, do you at least recognize what a surprising and sudden shift the gospel story has taken? Even though we know how this part of the story ends, the suddenness and the brevity with which the events of the resurrection are recounted is breathtaking. The first word in the 24th chapter is "But". God's word to our human choice. It seems too good to be true, and it's over too fast. I want to hear more…
I've always had a deep sense of sympathy for the confusion the two disciples walking to Emmaus experience as they are joined by the risen Jesus. They are reacting just as we would, with disappointment, fear and a sense of awe at how quickly things turned wrong. They aren't expecting God's definitive act in human history. No one really is. Not even the disciples who traveled with and studied from God's Son for three years - and heard him tell them again and again what was going to happen.
So now the mysterious stranger who appears on the road starts all over again. He begins to open up the whole of the Scriptures to these two anonymous disciples. He shows how the teachings of Moses pointed directly to what Jesus has experienced. He shows how the prophets have been pointing both to the suffering that Jesus has endured as the Messiah, as the literal personification of God's chosen people, and to the exultation that has suddenly happened.
And the two disciples suddenly start to connect the dots of the story. They recognize a thread that has been running through their story from the very beginning; and they see. It is as if the scales are falling from their eyes and they understand. But they still don't recognize who Jesus is.
It is in the final act of this short account that we learn something very important. We see Jesus is the breaking of the bread; in his act of sacrifice. It is at the moment of the fraction that he becomes manifest to his disciples. It is because he is the Lamb, he is the new Passover, he is the Way.
We don't often hear the story of the Road to Emmaus read in church. Its reading is part of Evening Prayer on Easter Day. Most of us are too exhausted by the events of the Triduum (the three days that bring us to Easter) to go back to church for one more service. But this lesson is deeply symbolic of what the Church has been doing in the days leading up to Easter. We have been hearing the stories of God and our clergy have been opening up scripture to us and showing us what it teaches about the Messiah. By the action of the Holy Spirit, our hearts have responded to these teachings. And then we have come to a moment of a shared meal. And we break the bread. We see the presentation the Messiah to God's people. (Listen carefully to what is said as the bread is broken after the long prayer recounting salvation history that follows the offertory.)
And, every now and then, the scales fall from our eyes and we see Jesus. Jesus who has been there all along, but is now revealed to us in the breaking of the bread as God's passover for us.
In my experience it doesn't happen all the time. But it does happen. And when it does I am changed, sometimes a little, sometimes a great deal, each time.
When did this moment last happen for you? Are you willing to make yourself available so that you are there the next time it happens?