Summary: Presents the narrative of the disciples walk to Emmaus as a perpetual template for the experience of the resurrected Christ as his presence is manifested in the proclamation of the Word and in the celebration of the Eucharist.
RECOGNIZING CHRIST IN THE WORD AND SACRAMENT
INTRO. THE MOVIE IS NEVER AS GOOD AS THE BOOK
I would like to begin my remarks this morning by reflecting on a phenomena that is in many ways unique to our modern culture. A couple of years ago a friend suggested to me that I read a novel by Tom Clancy and from that day on I was hooked. Now, whenever I have had to do a great deal of technical academic reading, I pick up one of his novels and read more for relaxation. I call it “brain-candy”.
Now you can imagine how happy I was when Clancy’s novels began to be made into movies. I have seen three of these movies now and I have come to the same conclusion that I suspect many of you have— The movie is never as good as the book!
Since that experience I have wondered why this might be so and I have come to believe that the explanation lies in understanding the difference between the experience of the reader and the experience of the spectator. When viewing a film or watching TV everything is supplied to the one who is watching. The characters are portrayed clearly, the actions are clearly visible and the internal emotions and motivations are revealed in speech or action. In short, very little is left to the imagination and the one viewing the movie or television program is merely a passive spectator.
The reader, however, plays a crucial part when reading a story. The images, actions, internal emotions and motivations of the characters are described to the reader, but the final images and the way the story “looks” is left to the imagination of the reader. Rather than being a spectator who passively watches the events from a distance, the reader is a vital part of the story and experiences the events with the characters involved.
This, I think is the fundamental reason that the Bible is given to us, not as a systematic presentation of doctrines, but as a collection of stories that chronicle the God’s self revelation to the Church throughout history. The Church, as we will all hopefully admit, extends spatially beyond the walls of this particular building. It also extends chronologically beyond the present day and encompasses the all the people of God throughout history. It is in this way that the Gospel story becomes, not just their story, but our story. God could have inspired the writers of Holy Scripture to produce a theology textbook; he could have inspired them to produce a movie or a TV program, but this would have deprived us of our vicarious participation in the events of sacred history.
Now with these thoughts in mind, lets turn and examine one story from Luke’s gospel and as we closely read together, let us remember that the experience of the disciples on the Emmaus road is not merely something that happened, but as something that continually happens as Christ reveals himself to us in the Word and in the Sacrament.
I. THEY WERE KEPT FROM RECOGNIZING HIM (vv. 13-16)
Luke 24:13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
A. Verse 14 helps us to establish the context of the story by telling us that these two disciples were discussing events that had happened. What were these events? These events were none other than the events of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and disappearance from the tomb. These two were presumably traveling back from the Passover feast in Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus which, as the text says was about seven miles from Jerusalem.
B. Another important thing to note here is verses 15-16. Whoever dreamed up the idea that humor and the Bible were incompatible wasn’t looking too closely. Lets get this picture in mind. These two disciples are said to be talking together and discussing the events of Jesus crucifixion and death together. The doubling of synonyms for discussion and the tense of the verbs (imperfect) suggest that this was an intense discussion.
But as they were pondering together the significance of the events, Luke says that Jesus himself ( Gk. “himself” is in the emphatic position) came up and walked along with them; but (16) they were kept from recognizing him. Our first response would naturally be to ask, “What kept them from recognizing him?” or “Why were they kept from recognizing him?” I think that the explanation lies in what Cleopas says to Jesus.