Easter Encounters: Emmaus

Jason Micheli —  April 3, 2013 — 2 Comments

‘On that same day,’ Luke says of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. eucharistwallpaper1024

Meaning Sunday, the very first Easter day.

It’s that same day and these two disciples have left Jerusalem.

They’re going home.

The morning, of that same day, the women, who’d gone to Jesus’ tomb to mourn and to clean his wounds and to wrap and anoint his body, they came running back with filled fear and joy to report that the tomb was empty.

     No sooner do they hear this Easter news, Luke says, than these two disciples are already on their way out of town.

It’s not that they don’t know. It’s not that they don’t have enough information.

They know all about Jesus’ words and deeds.

They know how Jesus was betrayed and handed over and killed on a cross- just as he’d prophesied. They know he was dead and they know his tomb is now empty, that he’s not there, that he’s gone.

They even know the angel’s message that Jesus is alive.

And yet, Luke says, that same day, that very Sunday morning, having heard the Easter news, they turn and head back home.

These two disciples- they know everything you’d want a disciple to know. And so far as we can tell, they even believe. They don’t disbelieve that the tomb is empty; they don’t doubt that Jesus is risen.

It’s just that knowing and believing aren’t enough to keep them from heading right back to the life they already had without Jesus.

It’s only when Jesus takes bread and blesses it and breaks it and gives it to them- it’s only then that a spark is lit in their hearts.

Or put the other way around: if they hadn’t eaten the bread blessed and broken by Jesus, then they would’ve known about Jesus, they might’ve believed in Jesus, but they wouldn’t have known he was right there with them.

In her book, Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner distinguishes Judaism and Christianity by saying Judaism is a physical, embodied religion whereas Christianity is preoccupied with belief, with spiritual dogma and doctrine.

Probably, when you hear Christianity defined that way, you’re tempted to agree. To the extent that’s true, however, it’s true because that’s what we’ve done with the faith Jesus gave us.

     It’s not that that’s the faith as Jesus gave it to us.

I mean- the night before he dies Jesus doesn’t sit his twelve disciples down and say: remember these three principles after I’m gone, this is the spiritual essence of my teaching, these are the beliefs I want to make sure you understand, this is how the atonement works.

No, he says: here’s bread, here’s wine.

Eat. Drink. Do this.  emmaus-road-stainedglass

Do this and I’ll be with you. Do this and I’ll open eyes and set hearts on fire.

Bread and wine. Body and blood.

     This is irrational and it can’t be explained and it can’t argued with.

     And maybe that’s the point.

Maybe it has to be that way.

Every day we reason our way away from Jesus:

surely we can’t forgive that person, it would be irresponsible to forgive that sin, he doesn’t mean welcome those people, he doesn’t really expect us to turn the cheek in this situation…he’s talking about life in the Kingdom not in this world, he’s talking about what he does not what we must do…

Maybe Jesus knows that without bread and wine, we would forever think and ponder and consider the claims he makes on us as a way of keeping him from us.

Maybe Jesus knows we’re like those two disciples on the way to Emmaus:

who’ve heard all the stories

who know all the beliefs

who can recite the Easter Gospel

and yet who have no intention of doing a damn thing about it, quite content to say ‘isn’t that interesting’ and not have it change the direction of their lives. 

 

Maybe Jesus gives us bread and wine not so we can get close to him. 

     Maybe Jesus gives us bread and wine because it’s the only way he can get close to us. 

In the Middle Ages, religious bureaucrats like me got a hold of this meal and messed it up. They tried to turn over and open it up and explain how it works.

But the first Christians were content to call it a sacrament, a ‘mystery.’ They didn’t need to explain how. They just knew that Jesus uses this bread and this cup to somehow get to us.

 

Jason Micheli

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2 responses to Easter Encounters: Emmaus

  1. Point well taken. But are the two men on the road to Emmaus unfair victims of the “point making”? Sure, they’re headed out of Jerusalem; headed for home. And true, they only recognize Jesus when he breaks bread with them. And Jesus has to explain the meaning of the scriptures, as they point to him. But which of us has perfect understanding of the scriptures? And we’ve all got to sleep somewhere. For these men, looks like it was at home, in Emmaus. Is there anything here that indicates that, just because they were headed home, these men were “done”; that they had no intention of continuing in “the way”? That they “have no intention of doing a damn[ed] thing about it”? Mayhaps you’re being “a little rough on the Beav”….

    • Jason Micheli April 3, 2013 at 6:27 PM

      Well, what’s the matter of creating victims to make points? I expected you to read between the lines. The real victims I’m trying to create are church people- people who come to church and go home with no intention of being changed or used.

      I don’t fault the Emmaus dudes for having to be retaught the scriptures since no Jewish understanding of the scriptures would’ve led them to expect a crucified and risen Messiah. And I think that’s the point…the story reflects how the disciples had to go back to their scriptures and reread and reinterpret them because of their conviction that Jesus was the Risen Messiah. They bring their conviction to the scriptures; the scriptures don’t lead them to their conviction.
      And that’s why I think like the rest of the disciples they’re headed for home/headed for cover. They assumed it was game over. He was finished.

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