Thursday, November 26, 2015

Who are these two disciples on the road to Emmaus

Luke’s story of this new beginning focuses on a walk, not in a garden but along a road that two disciples of Jesus take from Jerusalem to their hometown of Emmaus. Jesus joins them on the way, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Lk 24:16).

Jesus inquires about their discussion, and they are incredulous that he is unaware of the dramatic events in Jerusalem during the Passover, how the chief priests had handed Jesus over to be crucified. Their conclusion comes with a note of despair. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21).

Jesus exclaims, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:25-26). Then Jesus walks them through a Scripture study of salvation history, starting with Genesis (Moses) and all the way through Israel’s Scriptures to the prophets (Lk 24:27).

As evening approaches, they arrive in Emmaus. Jesus appears to be going further, but they beg him to stay, and while at table, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them (Lk 24:30). This is precisely the same description given when Jesus takes the bread at the Last Supper. The disciples’ eyes are opened, and they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk  4:31, 35).

Once the bread is broken and he is recognized, Jesus disappears. Jesus promised to be present in the breaking of the bread, and now that the bread has been broken with his priestly hands, he is with them, and they no longer need his bodily presence.

Who are these two disciples, so privileged with Jesus’ presence on the very evening of the resurrection? Luke tells us the name of only one of the two disciples, Cleopas; so who is with Cleopas? The answer is simple but easily missed. Who would Cleopas go home with, other than his wife? According to John’s gospel, we know that “Mary the wife of Clopas” followed Jesus and was in Jerusalem for the Passover. Indeed, she was with Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25). John’s spelling of Clopas follows the Semitic spelling, whereas Luke, naturally, uses the Greek spelling.

Since Clopas/Cleopas was a rare name, and Cleopas is a disciple of Jesus, it is hard to imagine that there is a wife of Cleopas who also is in Jerusalem for Passover, and is a disciple, and is not related to the very Cleopas Luke names. Translators have often assumed both disciples are men, thus translating Jesus’ admonishment in Luke 24:25 as “O foolish men,” when in the Greek it does not mention men at all, but should be read “O foolish ones!”

At the first creation, God walked in the garden amidst a man, Adam, and his wife, Eve. Now, on the first day of the new creation, Jesus walks with a married couple. This couple has lost all hope, and yet by walking with Jesus, their hearts come back alive. When the first couple in Genesis ate the first meal (from the forbidden fruit), “then the eyes of both were opened” (Gn 3:7); as Jesus breaks open the bread at table with the couple from Emmaus, “their eyes were opened” (Lk 24:31). The eyes of the original couple are opened to shame and guilt, whereas the new couple that Jesus walks with to Emmaus have their eyes opened to the resurrected Lord in the Eucharist. The old creation begins with a married couple falling from grace, whereas the new creation begins with Jesus blessing a married couple by breaking open the Scriptures and the bread, where they recognize him in both.

Source: Walking With God – A Journey Through The Bible

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