The Third Sunday of Easter
23 April 2023
“He took bread, blessed,
and broke it, and gave it to them.”
Meals and food play an important part in the tradition of post-Resurrection stories, or narratives, found in several of the Gospels. In one such narrative for instance in the Gospel of Luke Jesus suddenly appears among the disciples as they are huddled together in Jerusalem. After showing them the wounds on his hands and feet, he abruptly asks them, “Have you anything here to eat?” The disciples, no doubt dumbfounded that Jesus could be thinking of food at a moment such as this, give him “a piece of broiled fish” and watch him eat. Nice insight, by the way, into the Mediterranean diet of two-thousand years ago.
On the other hand, in the very last chapter of the Gospel of John, the contested Chapter Twenty-One we touched upon last Sunday if you remember, Jesus again appears seemingly out of nowhere and prepares a breakfast of fish and bread on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias as he awaits the disciples’ return from a night of fishing. “Come and have breakfast,” he calls out to them nonchalantly. For someone so recently dead, our Lord certainly seems to have a healthy appetite.
Of course, the point of these stories is not his physical hunger but in one sense the reality of his Resurrection itself. It is really him, the Evangelists seem to be telling us, not just a ghost or a vision. He can relax and eat with his disciples just as he did before his death. No doubt about it: this is Jesus, the same one who taught and preached the Kingdom not so long ago; the same one who cured the sick and raised the dead as he journeyed across the countryside of ancient Israel. After all, ghosts do not get hungry. Apparitions do not need nourishment. “Touch me and see,” says Jesus, “for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
Now, in today’s Gospel account, two unnamed disciples make their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, passing the time and “talking with each other about all” that has happened back in Jerusalem, including the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb. The Evangelist Luke does not tell us why these two disciples are making their way on this of all days to such an obscure Judean village, the exact location of which scholars debate even to this day. Fear perhaps of the turmoil brewing in Jerusalem.
In any case, the disciples are joined on their journey by a seemingly out-of-touch stranger, and they begin to recount to him “the things about Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word.” It is only later in the day at supper, in the blessing and breaking of bread, that their eyes are opened to this stranger, and they finally recognise in him the Jesus they have been telling him about. Then, at that very moment of recognition Jesus disappears from their sight as suddenly as he had appeared earlier in the day. The newly energized disciples meanwhile quickly pay for their meal, hasten back to Jerusalem , and tell the others “what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Almost needless to say, these post-Resurrection meals of Jesus and his disciples, and this one along the Road to Emmaus in particular, hearken us back to the final meal our Lord shared with the disciples before his death, the Last Supper, in which he gives them, and us, his body and his blood as a living token of his abiding presence among us for all time to come. For, in a very real sense, the bread and wine of the Last Supper prefigure Christ’s resurrected life among us. The Eucharist still today brings us together with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and allows us to experience the mystical reality of the Resurrection in the simple sharing of a meal just as they did.
In the Eucharist, our earthly eyes are given a glimpse, however fleeting, of the great reality to come, the reality of resurrected life in Christ. In the Eucharist, as at Emmaus, what has been is fused with what will be. In other words, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just history. It is not just some arcane mystery of faith to which we as Christians must give our assent. It is lived reality. And it is attested and experienced anew in each Eucharist we share. So, it should not surprise us that our Lord would have supped with his disciples and broken bread with them in the days following his death and Resurrection.
He continues to do so today. Christ is alive, is with us still in the food and drink we share in communion with each other and with unnamed multitudes of disciples across the world and across time, and with him. It is in the Eucharist that we come to know the risen Christ most abundantly. In other words, if you seek the resurrected Lord, you need look no further than our humble altar table this morning. Christ is here with us, recognised anew “in the breaking of the bread.”
But if the disciples recognised the Christ in the broken bread of Emmaus, perhaps it is our task and challenge to recognise him as well in the broken world all around us; as the disciples did the rest of their lives. For, that too is where he is to be found. It is there, in the world around us, that the Eucharist becomes real. We need not go to Emmaus, wherever it may have been located, to discover the Christ. In fact, we need not go far at all. Open your door and peer down your street or road, and you will see him there.
The story of the Journey to Emmaus and back again is unique to the Gospel of Luke. It appears nowhere else in the Gospels. Paul never mentions it. Yet it reveals the essential truth of our faith. Its message is universal. It reveals the Resurrection as something integral to the life of each of us today no matter where we might be along the Road to Emmaus and on our own life journey. And as the disciples in our Gospel narrative hasten to tell others the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection, so must we today hasten from this Eucharistic table into the world around us proclaiming with them, “The Lord has risen indeed.”
The Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs