Jesus asked the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, ‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Luke 24.26
The inability to perceive
The story of the Road to Emmaus is a fascinating and multi-dimensional tale. Today we want to consider the inability of the disciples to recognise Jesus. We simply ask: Why the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were unable to recognise Jesus?
Jesus, whom they have been with only a few days ago; Jesus, whom they have known and followed as their teacher for few years, is now walking by their said speaking and listening to them, standing in flesh and blood before their very eyes, yet they fail to recognise him. In fact, rather than recognition, Jesus is treated as a mere stranger. The disciples are in despair, they are on a journey home, leaving Jerusalem and the aftermath of the crucifixion behind. The event of Jesus’ death has left them confused, disappointed, and filled with sadness. Notice, that failing to recognise their teacher, and treating him as ‘the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things concerning Jesus of Nazareth’, the disciples take it upon themselves to instruct their teacher – They instruct the Messiah, about the Messiah. Sadly, the truth is that they do not know the Messiah. It is they who fail to see the Messiah as more than a good teacher and a prophet.
Let us ask the question once again: why couldn’t the disciples recognise Jesus; why were they so blind?
The answer to this question lies beyond natural causes. It was not a matter of merely mistaking Jesus for someone else. The answer lies beyond, ‘Oh, they did not look close enough or did not pay attention’. The lack of recognition on the part of the disciples is caused by something greater than natural causes. It is caused by the incompatibility between the ‘already glorified’ state of the risen Messiah, and the ‘not yet’ glorified state of the two disciples. The disciples are encountering the Messiah in his Glory. The one who stands with them is the crucified one, the one who has gone to the grave, trampled down death by death and is now alive! They are standing before the Messiah in his Glory. Once again, let us consider the words of Jesus:
‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer… and then enter into his glory?’
Jesus stands before them as the resurrected one, the one who is already in the state of Glory, a state that lies beyond our ordinary comprehension. Here we have two different types of existence encountering each other. The Rein Christ, the new Man, the New Adam – and the not yet glorified state of the two disciples. The earthly meets the heavenly – the perishable encounters the imperishable.
Our eyes are not capable of comprehending the vision of the heavenly, God’s work in our midst. We have elevated our temporal reality as though it is the only reality. Hence, our hearts have grown dull – it is hardened – and our eyes, while we look we do not see.
Christ, the healer
It is when Jesus heals their hearts and opens their eyes that they finally come to see the Risen Messiah in his glory. He begins by opening the Scriptures, ‘Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures’. This opening of Scripture is not to be taken casually, Jesus opens their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24.45). Hearing him reveal himself soften their hearts. Later when they reflect back, they are astonished, asking themselves, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ (v.32) Their dull – hard – hearts have been melted by Jesus when he opened the Scriptures for them.
However, while they get to meet the Messiah in Sacred Scriptures, they are yet to recognise that the strange who is opening the Scriptures is actually the Messiah himself. Their eyes are opened at the break of the bread, the crucified and resin Messiah is recognised at the breaking of the bread. And this is undoubtedly a reference to the Eucharist. All be it for a short time, their vision has been elevated to behold the glory of God. They are healed from Adam’s blindness and granted access to partake of the bread of life. ‘Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised Jesus; and he vanished from their sight’. (v. 31). They see Christ in his Glory!
The encounter with the Risen and Glorified Messiah results in a complete reverse of their journey – A total turn around. Having travelled from Jerusalem they return to it, to tell the others about the resin Lord. And you can see the paradox beautifully played in the story:
The two disciples are moved from arrogance to humility, from instructing their master to being instructed by Him. They are moved from Sadness and despair to unspeakable joy, from blindness to vision, and forom hosting a stranger to becoming guests at the Messiah’s table.
The same is true of us, we are on the same journey. The Crucified, Resin and Glorified Messiah is with us. We come to church with dimmed visions of Jesus, and at times with hard hearts. Battered by the events of everyday life, we wonder if the risen Messiah is truly with us. And of course, it is at the Liturgy we meet the Crucified and Resin One. It is here that he meets us afresh. It is here in the context of the liturgy that we open the Scriptures, and on its pages, we meet the Messiah. It is here that Jesus invites us to gather around his table. The risen Lord, himself the host. Welcoming us, not merely as guests, but as his brother and sister, fed by his body and nourished by his blood. It is here in the rituals of the Eucharistic liturgy that we get a glimpse of his glory, our sight is restored, our hearts are filled with the joy of Easter.
It is in the Eucharist that we who are yet to be glorified recognise the One who is glorified.
In the end, he disappears in us! Sends us with the vision of his glory – Crucified and Resin – back to the world.