The road to Emmaus is the direction we take when we have given up on our former hopes and dreams. After the Miracles. After the Parables. After the wedding parties. After graduation. After the big promotion. After a funeral service. What’s left, sometimes, to look forward to? "We had hoped that the promising Jesus was the one to redeem Israel and save us today..." Had hoped: but it is all behind us now—a dimming memory—and hope is little more than the past perfect tense. As the two on the road point out, it is "the things" intervening that now seem to wall off or break up our hopes. Even some of us and our relatives who had once followed Jesus as worshippers have drifted away because of lack of faith and hope!
How fascinating and even comforting that the risen Jesus stays with us in that long wasteland of worldly doubt, so long as He is unrecognized; but as soon as our eyes are opened He vanishes from physical sight. It is as if those with open eyes have no further need of a stranger to teach us. Jesus is revealed as He promised: where at least two are gathered, where the community reaches out for bread, where we listen together for a word of comfort and a bright hope for today and tomorrow. While breaking bread together, our eyes were opened in some new way. It is in those moments that the one we thought was our guest becomes once again our host. We lose control of what will be served, and how much, and when, and know ourselves to be humble recipients, guests at a gracious table we have not earned and do not deserve.
Luke’s post-Easter events call up intimate questions-of-spirit for today’s church: How our hearts often burn within us at moments when we can’t fathom why—and how long in life it takes us to receive that holy heart-burn as a sign that something or someone significant has come near, begging to be noticed. How it is that just when we think we are "on top" of our game, hosting a great event we’ve succeeded in offering the world, we suddenly and mysteriously become the guests. Or, how the opening of our eyes, a moment that changes everything in life for us, sometimes requires only the smallest gesture.
Luke’s report is a kind of template for each weekly gathering of the church: we walk with each other, discuss the things that have transpired in our lives, raise theological questions about what has transpired, reiterate our hopes and get "course corrected" by the scriptures, and we sit at table or kneel at the communion rail together where our eyes are opened again and again. In our best moments on this sacred journey we see clearly what and whom we have known, and the realization moves us evangelically toward the world to find other companions and to tell what we have discovered...a meal and divine encounter with Jesus!