Listen: The story begins with the two disciples journeying together. Jesus joins them as they walk, though they are not able to recognize he is with them. The story places the encounter in the present experience of the disciples, and the focus initially is on what is happening. Together they begin to open the scriptures and to use the scriptures to understand their present experience. That’s essentially what happens every Sunday in our churches in Morning Prayer or in the first part of the Eucharist. The preacher is tasked with using the memory and wisdom of our ancestors to open up and inform our understanding of what is happening around in the present; and if done well, to give us a way to behave in this moment. Then there’s a change, as if they move to a different setting (a table… sound familiar?) And then a shared meal. In the moment of the breaking of the bread, Jesus is revealed clearly to them. (The language about the bread: took, blessed, broke and gave is what the prayerbook scholars tell us must be the basic scaffolding of any Eucharist prayer or liturgy.) And as they recognize him, he vanishes from their sight, apparently going on ahead of them as he explains again and again in the post resurrection appearances in Luke’s Gospel.
Once you see it, you can’t miss it. This story of what happens on the Road to Emmaus is one of the earliest accounts we have of the structure of worship. Scholars are clear that this is intentional, and that the early church would have understood the central message, that we meet Jesus as pilgrims on the road and that we fully recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
But why? Why is it so hard for us to recognize Jesus in our midst? What’s the point?
The direct link to the video is found here.