The disciples on the road to Emmaus are a picture of how Jesus normally comes to us and makes us His disciples. It all happens quickly for these privileged disciples, who have already begun a life with Jesus, but the same basic path to discipleship is ours as well.
In the first place, before this story begins, these two have already been introduced to Jesus. When people become disciples of Jesus, it is usually because someone else has introduced Jesus to them. We find next that the two disciples were conversing and reasoning about the things which had happened. After an introduction to Jesus, it is necessary for the disciple-to-be to continue thinking about Jesus and the things that He has said and done. As with these two, without the grace of God entering in, our dialogue in search of our Creator and Savior will be clouded and confused. Our eyes are restrained for we do not yet know Him. Notice, that it is Jesus who draws near to them, because it is God who initiates things with His grace and love.
This dialogue takes place with those who are already disciples, and in this case the two are privileged to have not another disciple but the Master Himself teach them! The disciples related to Jesus what they already know, and then the Master (but other disciples for us) patiently takes the time to teach them everything about the Christ, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets. Wouldn’t you have liked to be present at this sermon!
As with these disciples, those to whom Jesus has come and who are seeking Him need to be taught all about Jesus and everything related to His kingdom and Church. While they were given a special grace to receive such instruction from the Master Himself and received it in a short time, for us the process is a long and less intense one. Unfortunately, because the process involves a life of focus and discipline, we often lose our way. Many of us have not been adequately discipled, and the process of being more fully instructed becomes frozen in a particular, incomplete state.
Many disciples would have stopped at this point and thought the Master had nothing else for them. But they have been so affected by His presence and words that they implore Him to stay. “Abide with us,” they say to Him, echoing His own words that we are to abide in Him. They want to spend more time and to learn more, and we are to be just like them. We are never to become so self-satisfied or content, so passive or apathetic, that we don’t seek every day to abide with Jesus and learn more from Him. And yet this is exactly what the majority of disciples seem to do.
Verse 30 is where things get very interesting! The disciples have received the ministry of the Word from the Lord, but now they must receive the ministry of the Sacrament. I’ve told you before that Jesus likes food because His kingdom is like a feast. Well, here’s another example! When Jesus sits down at the table with them, to eat, He takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. Haven’t we seen this pattern before? At the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:16), Jesus “took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up into heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.” Here we see the same 4-fold action: take, bless, break, and give. When Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper (the Holy Communion) in Luke 22:19, He “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” Here we see the same eucharistic (from the Greek word for “giving thanks”) pattern.
Jesus is having the Lord’s Supper with these two disciples! Now when is it that their eyes are opened to Jesus? It is not in the ministry of the Word alone: it is not until they have eaten Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. As soon as they have done this, “Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him.” Now I believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion, Eucharist) whenever I partake of Jesus Body and Blood. We eat the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Jesus, as He commanded just a few days before these disciples saw Him. But to have Jesus be physically present and suddenly have your eyes opened as you sacramentally feed off Him must have been absolutely amazing! This goes beyond mere remembrance: Jesus is actually with them. In the same way, though we do not see Him in His physical body, He is actually with us in the Lord’s Supper.
But what we find these disciples doing instead is to rise up that very hour and return the 7 long miles back to Jerusalem. Now if you’re like me, going back the way you just came is very discouraging, especially if you’re already exhausted. But I imagine they were running, jumping, and skipping at least part of the way back. Why? Because they were like the disciples in Act 4:20 who could not help but speak of the things they had seen and heard.
The reason they go all the way back to Jerusalem is so that they can tell others about all that had happened to them, and especially about how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Whenever God has spoken to us or revealed Himself to us, the first thing we ought to do is to share it with others. Sometimes this means sharing it with other disciples, because we are to disciple each other and to rejoice when another rejoices. We are one Body and must share what God has shared with us. Other times, it means sharing what God has given us with those who do not yet believe because that is how the world is brought to Christ.
On the road to Emmaus, then, we find a complete picture of how to become a disciple. Our experience will different from these blessed two, but we will experience many of the same things. Our discipleship process will not be as dramatic as theirs, but it will be no less certainly guided by the Holy Spirit and no less blessed by the presence of the Master. For what they saw with their physical eyes, we must see with faith. What they experienced in a short time, we must experience over the entire course of our life.
Thankfully, the promise of the Master is the same: abide with me, and I will abide with you. Hear my Word and partake of My Body and Blood, and I will be with you, blessing you and making you My blessing to others.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, come and talk with me today. I have grown hard of hearing once again, and I desire to hear Your loving voice and obey all that You command. I am hungry and weak and would have You fill me with Your presence again. Open my eyes that I may see You in the many ways You come to me each day, and when I see You, teach me to remain with You.
Point for Meditation:
- What are some times during the day when Jesus may be present and yet you have not seen Him?
- Imagine that Jesus Christ is sitting with you at a table, talking with you. What do think He would like to reveal to you about your life?
Resolution: I resolve today to seek Jesus. If this means turning back to Him, I will turn back. If it means coming again to hear His Word or partake of His Sacrament more faithfully, then I will do this. If this means seeking to more faithfully abide with Him throughout the day, I will do this.
Supper at Emmaus, Rembrandt – U. S. Public Domain