3rd Sunday of Easter: the Emmaus Disciples

For this week’s homily please watch the video below.

During the easter season, we read accounts of the resurrection of Jesus from all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. On the 3rd Sunday, St. Luke’s account is read. All the gospels tell the same story of Jesus resurrection, but each gospel writer has his own way of telling the story. 

The women who followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover are important in Luke’s story as well as the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. They had heard Jesus preach and saw him work wonders in Galilee. In Jerusalem they witnessed his death and then went with those who took his body down from the cross, carrying it wrapped in a linen cloth to the tomb close by where they placed it. 

After the Feast of Passover, early in the morning, some of the women from Galilee – Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, among them–returned to the tomb with spices and ointments to complete the traditional Jewish anointing of his body. (Luke 24: 1-12)

They were puzzled when they found the stone enclosing the tomb rolled back and the tomb itself empty. 

Then, two heavenly messengers “in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.

They said  ‘He is not here, he has been raised…Remember what he said to you in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.’ 

“And they remembered his words. They returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.(Luke 25)

Luke continues his resurrection account  with the story of two other followers of Jesus, the disciples on their way to Emmaus. They are also told to remember what Jesus had said about his death and resurrection, and also to recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Will the women from Galilee also meet the Risen Christ in the scriptures and the bread? 

Many churches have stained glass windows of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. A window of Jesus’ rising from the tomb, shining in great glory while the soldiers guarding the tomb are blinded by the light is a popular one. But the gospels depict Jesus’ resurrection appearances quite differently. 

In the gospel accounts the tomb is not the usual place where Jesus shows himself risen. He appears to the women on their way from the tomb carrying the fearful news he’s been raised from the dead, in Matthew’s gospel. He appears in the city in a locked room Easter Sunday evening where his disciples are hiding in fear. He appears to disciples who have gone back to Galilee, who are probably still trying to make sense of all that has happened.

In Luke’s gospel today, Jesus appears far from the tomb,  to two disciples leaving Jerusalem and going home after the terrible crucifixion. Again, he doesn’t appear in glory, they haven’t the slightest idea who he is when he first joins them on their way. He seems like someone else leaving Jerusalem after an awful experience. 

How does Jesus make himself known to them? He describes the Messiah in simple words from the prophets and the psalms. “As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

Is that the way Jesus appears to us now? In the readings we read, in the bread we have? He appeared to women on their way fearful and confused, to his disciples hiding in a locked room, to these disciples disappointed and losing hope, ready to give up. Is that the way it is with us now?

Is Jesus speaking to us in the words of scripture we’re listening to now, in the bread we eat now, in the fears, hopes and disappointments we have now? The Risen Jesus is not gone and far away. He is here, with us now.

“The Lord be with you,” we hear as our gospel is announced.  Yes, he is. 

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