(...) Luke does not say why the two disciples were going to Emmaus. They may have been going home, going there on business, or just going there to get away from the terrible things they had witnessed in Jerusalem. Again, it doesn’t really matter why they were going to Emmaus. What matters is what it represents. Federick Buechner interprets Emmaus as:
the place we go to in order to escape—a bar, a movie, wherever it is we throw up our hands and say, “Let the whole damned thing go hang. It makes no difference anyway.”…Emmaus may be buying a new suit or a new car or smoking more cigarettes than you really want, or reading a second-rate novel or even writing one. Emmaus may be going to church on Sunday. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred: that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that humanity has had—ideas about love and freedom and justice—have always in time been twisted out of shape by humanity for selfish ends.
If Buechner is right, there is a comforting and reassuring truth in this story. That truth is this: God in Jesus meets us on the road to our Emmauses—in the ordinary places and experiences of our lives, and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us. But this Emmaus Road story also presents us with a more challenging truth. It reminds us that Christ comes to us in unfamiliar guises, when we least expect him. The place of Emmaus offers us an opportunity to reflect on where, in the ordinary places and experiences of our lives, Christ is coming to us. And it begs the question: Are we recognizing him when he does come to us?
Franciscan priest Richard Rohr says it best. He writes, “We are always looking to the next moment to be more perfect. We’re a people always rushing into the future because we’re not experiencing a wholeness in the present. Yet, this moment is as perfect as it can be. When we haven’t grasped the present, we always live under the illusion—and it is an illusion—that the next moment is going to be better: when I get around this corner, when I see this church, when I get to Jerusalem, when I get to the hotel, whatever it might be. Everything we do is for the sake of something else, a means toward some nebulous end.”
Rohr goes on to say, “…if you can’t find Jesus in your hometown, you probably aren’t going to find him in Jerusalem…Pilgrimage has achieved its purpose when we can see God in our everyday and ordinary lives.” That seeing God in the moment, that is the act of recognition that we learn on the road to Emmaus.
Ultimately, the two disciples did recognize Jesus as he broke bread with them at the evening meal. Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. The four verbs are Jesus’ signature, which the disciples likely remember from the feeding of the five thousand and the last supper. The meal at Emmaus does not mean that Jesus was formally celebrating the Eucharist. It does mean that every meal has the potential of being an event in which hospitality and table fellowship can become sacred occasions—sacred acts of recognition of Christ’s presence among us. It is meaningful that Christ’s own chosen ritual of recognition involves the familiar elements of daily life – the bread that sustains us is also the bread that blesses us. So it follows that often, it is at the daily table (and at this table) that we recognize Christ in ourselves and in each other.
This morning, as we move toward the table of grace, I invite you to recognize that our redemption is in this very moment. Grace and love and salvation are available to each of us, and the one who redeems us walks alongside us.
By Nancy Petty
Christ On The Road To Emmaus by John Lee Vince