Our primary scripture for Sunday, May 18 will be the Emmaus Road story in Luke 24:13-35. Two forlorn travelers meet the risen Jesus, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Why?
Maybe because they were not expecting to meet Jesus. And maybe because their attention was focused on something else, like their aching grief and shattered dreams resulting from Jesus’s death.
What do we focus on in our lives? Work? Parenting? Relationships with spouse or others? Finances? Health? Something else that keeps us awake at night? While all of these things are important, sometimes we are so focused on them that we miss what is occurring right before our eyes.
One of those happenings might be Jesus coming alongside us, just as he did to his two friends on the Emmaus road. The story invites us to open our eyes to how Jesus might be with us in the daily grind of our work, in our interaction with children, parents, spouses, and friends, in our struggles with balancing our budget and looking after our health.
And just as on the Emmaus road, Jesus might appear to us in ways that are surprising and even uncomfortable. As Jesus says in Matthew 25 “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Sometimes we meet Jesus in other people in real need.
The eyes of the two Emmaus travelers are finally opened to the stranger’s identity when they reach the village and sit down to a meal. The allusion to the church in this climax to the story is strong. As we come together in worship, listening for Jesus’s teaching to us in scripture, sharing the bread and cup of communion, and fellowshipping as his people, our eyes too can be opened to how Jesus has been present with us in the days that have passed.
And meeting the risen Jesus invites our response. Having finally seen him, the Emmaus travelers are different people. They change directions, return to Jerusalem, and tell the eleven disciples about their encounter. The story asks us not only whether we will see Jesus when he walks alongside us. It also prompts us to consider what change of direction our lives might take after we have met him, and how we can bring Jesus’s presence to others.