On The Road Again

Walking to Emmaus.
(Based on Luke 24: 13-33)

Christ on the road to Emmaus (fragment), by Duccio, circa 1311

It was the first day of the week and the two men were walking along the road, although walking might be slightly over stating their pace. With frequent stops to clear some small pebble or grit out of their footwear, which always seemed to necessitate a few minutes rest too, they were making slow progress. Even when they were ‘walking’ it was more just ambling along. It was only about five miles to the village they were making for; they’d covered two miles since leaving the town which had taken them nearly three hours. At such a slow speed as they were covering the distance, they’d be lucky to get there before sunset in time to find lodging for the night.

As they sauntered along at their sluggish pace, taking the slightest excuse to stop and rest time and again, they talked in a desultory manner about how they’d been left ‘high-and-dry’ by the master. Of course it had been an eventful week, especially Friday, so they had an awful lot to gossip about. During another one of their stops, ostensibly to clear yet another piece fo grit out of a sandal, another man caught up with them on the road. He would probably have caught up with them sooner-or-later anyway, since he was striding purposefully along as if he was on a on a mission which, as they were to find out later, he was.

The road at that point was quite straight, so they saw hin coming from a fair distance away. As he approached the spot where they had stopped, for the umpteenth time, they were somewhat surprised when he stopped to talk with them; he has seemed to be in a hurry so they’d thought he would go straight past. They were even more surprised when he asked what they’d been chatting about. Now most peoples first retort to such a question from a stranger would be something like, ‘don’t be so nosey’ or ‘ it’s none of your business’. That wasn’t their reaction though, there was something about this man, something undefinable, that made them answer his question answer the question and, yes, even trust him although they had only just met.

After pausing for a few moments and without looking up at the man standing before them, Cleopas returned his question with a question, ‘Are you the only person who doesn’t know about all the things that went on in Jerusalem this past weekend?’ When he asked what things they told him all they knew about what had happened to the prophet known as Jesus, about how the chief pharisees had plotted to have the Romans put him to death, by crucifying him. Then this morning one of the women came and told us she’d seen angels who told her that Jesus was alive and soon after that, that she’d seen him herself. ‘And you didn’t believe her?” he asked. ‘Of course not” Cleopas replied ‘What, believe a woman!” his friend chimed in.

They were walking on now, the three of them travelling together on the Emmaus Road when their new companion asked ‘What did the others do when Mary told them these things?’ Cleopas and his friend were caught on-the-hop by this question, since they hadn’t mentioned the other disciples to their new, uninvited travelling companion. Regaining their composure at his demonstration of this unexpected knowledge, their companion had, they went on to say how Peter had gone running to the tomb to see for himself if the Lord had indeed risen. When Peter returned he confirmed that the tomb was empty but had not seen Jesus himself. That, as it turned out, was all they knew because soon after Peter returned, they had gotten out of the city to make for Emmaus, where they were headed now.

“You fools” said their new companion who was now starting to irritate them. “Don’t you remember the scriptures? This was all foretold.” As he said these things, the village of Emmaus came into sight. Cleopas and his friend had unconsciously picked up their pace as they walked with the man who had joined them on the road. Coming into the village the two who had left Jerusalem together that morning looked around for lodging for the night. Their other companion walked on as if to continue his journey alone but Cleopas and his friend invited him to stay with them that night.

At the dinner table where they had found lodging for the night, the third travelling companion picked up the bread and broke it. Then in a gesture strangely familiar to the two disciples that they had seen three nights before, he handed them a piece each. For a moment they couldn’t believe their own eyes. They stared at the broken bread for a moment, looked at each other and then turned to their travelling companion with recognition in their eyes and joy in their hearts. Jesus was sitting with them at the evening meal but in the moment of recognition, he vanished leaving them to return to Jerusalem and the eleven with the other followers of the way.

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