Bible Study 4.2.12, 4.5.12, 4.8.12 For Worship 4.15.12Posted: March 26, 2012
Bible Study 4.2.12, 4.5.12, 4.8.12 For Worship 4.15.12
Luke 24:13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.
21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened.
22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning
23 and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.”
25 And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
27 And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further,
29 but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.
31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.
32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”
33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them,
34 who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
“That very day,” suggests that the story is about Easter Sunday. In verse 22 the empty tomb is referenced, although the empty tomb is not essential to this appearance story. Many scholars believe that the tradition of the empty tomb was a later development in the early church, and the original resurrection, rather than an empty tomb, was the experience of a living presence of Christ among his followers after his crucifixion and death. The appearance on the Road to Emmaus even tends to contradict Luke’s resurrection story the evening of Easter Sunday, where the Risen Christ requests a piece of broiled fish to “prove” that he is not a spirit. The appearance on the Road to Emmaus seems to parallel the appearance story on the Sea of Galilee in chapter 21 of the Gospel of John.
In both stories the disciples do not initially recognize the Risen Jesus. In both stories, the “stranger” reminds them of the scriptures. In both stories recognition of the Risen Christ is linked to the breaking of bread.
The village of Emmaus is today identified with the Arab village of Abu Gosh about seven miles west of Jerusalem. According to Hebrew tradition the hill top overlooking Abu Gosh was the site of the house of Obededom the Gittite, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept for three months, after Uzzah had been struck dead for reaching out his hand to steady the ark, when the oxen stumbled. During the time the ark was at his house, Obededom was blest, so David brought the Ark into Jerusalem. Today in Abu Gosh a church whose foundations date to the crusader period marks a site reputed to have been the location, where according to tradition the two disciples recognized Jesus after the “stranger” bless and broke the bread.
The two disciples appear to have stayed in Jerusalem long enough on Easter morning to hear the news that woman had gone to the tomb, and it was empty, and even some of the men had confirmed their report (verses 22 and 23). Despite this news Cleopas and his companion decided to get out of Jerusalem. Given the fear that the authorities might try to round up all of the followers of Jesus, this might have seemed like a prudent course of action. Like the rest of the disciples, they did not suspect the meaning of the empty tomb. And this has led some scholars to claim that the empty tomb was a later tradition, and they believe the experience of the presence of Christ on the Road to Emmaus may be closer to the reality of the first Easter. These scholars also point out the absence of an empty tomb tradition in Paul, the very first writings we have in the New Testament. They point out that Paul considered his vision on the Road to Damascus to be as authoritative as the experiences of the Risen Christ of the other Apostles. For these scholars, even though the Road to Emmaus Story only appears in Luke, they believe it is a more authentic resurrection tradition.
The Road to Emmaus tradition shares much more in common with the Johannine appearances than the empty tomb traditions. In John, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, and at first she does not recognize him. Indeed she only recognizes that the gardener is actually Jesus, when he calls her name, in a similar way Cleopas and his companion recognize Jesus, when he blesses and breaks the bread. Verse 16 seems a curious reading: “But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” We are free to speculate whether Jesus was for some reason unrecognizable, whether the Risen Christ had a cloak of invisibility that explains his sudden disappearance at the end of the story. Also in Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John at first the disciples on board the boat saw a stranger. Peter did not recognize “the Lord” until the miraculous catch of fish. And even then, when they came ashore and found the stranger cooking breakfast for them on an open fire, the Gospel offers this curious description: “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.” The Gospel then goes on to claim that this was the third appearance Jesus had made to the disciples after his death.
Eating appears to have been a very important part of the ministry of Jesus. The central act of Christian worship is a meal. And even though there is no record of Cleopas and his companion attending the Last Supper they still somehow understood that the breaking of the bread had significance in relationship to Jesus. Perhaps the breaking of the bread and feeding people should have an important significance in the church today.
In honesty we must acknowledge that Luke and John were written down later than Mark and certainly the authentic letters of Paul. We cannot turn back the clock to “discover the facts of the case.” And even if we could, what would we find? Did the form of the appearances of the Risen Christ depend upon the perceptions of each individual? That might help to explain the curious phrase in Matthew Chapter 28: “16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted.”
There may be many meanings that can be found in our scripture, but perhaps where we need to begin is that the empty tomb is not every important. The question for each one of us is whether or not Jesus is a living presence in our lives, whether or not we embody the way of Jesus. And what does that mean? Do we all have to be alike? Do we have to believe and behave exactly the same? Or because we are unique individuals will the Christ be embodied in our lives uniquely, and what will that look like for Christ to be alive and present in you and me?
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. How many people were on the Road to Emmaus in our story?
2. When a stranger draws near and walks with them, in what direction was he traveling?
3. Do the travelers recognize the stranger?
4. Who initiates the conversation that includes the stranger?
5. What do the travelers discuss with the stranger?
6. According to the travelers who all visited the tomb that morning?
7. How do the travelers describe their hopes concerning Jesus to the stranger?
8. What does the stranger then say about Jesus, while they are traveling on the road?
9. What was the destination of the travelers?
10. What was the destination of the stranger?
11. How do the travelers convince the stranger to stop and stay with them?
12. What did the stranger do that trigger the recognition of the travelers that he was Jesus?
13. What happened as soon as the travelers recognized Jesus?
14. Where do the travelers go and with whom do they meet?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. Why do you think Cleopas and his companion left town despite the news that the tomb was empty that morning?
2. Cleopas and his companion were not one of the Twelve, what do you imagine might have been their relationship with Jesus?
3. Do you think they were present at the Last Supper?
4. What significance do you think the breaking of the bread had for them?
5. What significance do you think the breaking of the bread might have in the church today?
6. In a world of higher and higher food prices, when issues of “food security” are becoming important, are there any clues for the direction of the church’s ministries?
7. Using your imagination, if you could wind back the clock what do you think you would experience on that First Easter?
8. What do you think, “But their eyes were kept from recognizing him,” meant?
9. What do you think it means for Christ to be alive in you?
10. What do you think it could mean for Christ to be alive in your community of faith?
11. What are the “triggers” that prompt your recognition of the presence of Christ?
12. What does it mean to you “to be Christ for one another?”