3rd Sunday of Easter | Year A
Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognizing him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two days have gone by since it happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at the table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’
They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognized him at the breaking of bread.
It is not clear why the two disciples were heading for Emmaus. They were “downcast” about what had happened to Jesus, but there is no indication that they were running away from Jerusalem in fear of their lives.
Whatever the reason they were on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples had made a decision to leave Jerusalem. They must have weighed up whether to stay or to go – it may have been an easy decision, or one they were uncertain about and which needed discussion about all the pros and cons of leaving or staying.
The account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus provides us with a lesson which is both touching and reassuring. The two disciples had made the wrong decision. They were heading away from the momentous event of the Resurrection and they were not going to be in town when that was followed by Pentecost. Like a shepherd Jesus approaches his sheep on the wrong path, and after walking with them and listening to them, he uses the moment of encounter to gently turn them around and send them in the right direction. He enables them to reverse their wrong decision.
We often agonize over decisions, of both the life-changing sort and the more mundane. There can appear to be two options, and we cannot decide on one over the other. We pray, we take counsel from friends and family, and still we cannot settle on one option over the other. Sometimes this can be an indicator that there is another unseen option, and we need to be open enough to ask God to reveal the road to us, rather than asking him to come down on the side of one or other of our pre-conceived options.
When we are faced with a significant decision and despite prayer and reflection, the road to take is not clear, the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus provides great reassurance. If we are honestly trying to discern our way as disciples of Christ, we can trust that Jesus will guide us, and that trust should be expressed in our prayer. We can make a choice knowing that if, like the disciples, we would be better to go in a different direction, he will lead us into the right way.
“He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name." Psalm 22