art image by Chris Antenucci
When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.
They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread. (Luke 24: 28-35)
It was the first day of the new week--three days after Jesus had been crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem. A group of Jesus' followers--all of them women--went to his tomb to anoint his body with burial spices. In shock, the women discovered that the tomb holding the body of their beloved rabbi and friend was empty. Adding to their shock was the sudden appearance of two angelic messengers, who then proceeded to inform them that the very man they had witnessed dying on the cross had risen from the dead!
With excitement and wonder the group of women returned to the larger group of Jesus' disciples to share what they had witnessed at the empty tomb. (Imagine how frustrating it must have been for the women to have not been taken seriously by the men!) Only Peter felt inclined to visit the tomb; he returned to the group of disciples, 'amazed at what had happened.'
After this (yes, it is still the same day), two of Jesus' disciples set out on foot for the village of Emmaus. As the men discussed the events of the past three days, Jesus appeared to them, but they did not recognize him. Assuming he was oblivious to the happenings in Jerusalem, they told him about Jesus of Nazareth, how he had been killed, and how early that same day a group of women disciples were visited by two angels at Jesus' empty tomb.
Evening on this first day of the week was approaching, and it was time for supper. The two men--as an act of hospitality--invited the stranger to rest and dine with them. It wasn't until he blessed and broke the bread that the two disciples recognized Jesus. Instantly, he vanished from their sight.
After this (yes, it was still the same day!), the two men eagerly returned to Jerusalem to share with their friends what they had just witnessed: Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.
It is common in scripture for things to occur in 'three's'. Such was the case on this first day of the week; the Risen One would appear a third time to his disciples. This Sunday's worship will focus on this third appearance of Jesus to his disciples. In preparation of worship, I invite you to read Luke 24: 36-49. Imagine you are one of the disciples experiencing the appearance of the Risen One. Would you have believed your eyes and ears? Would you have had the faith and courage to tell others what you had witnessed? How do the events of 'the first day of the week' connect to your own faith, today? The events of 'the first day of the week' offer us a lot to reflect on!
Easter wonder and joy,