AND THAT WAS IT; THEN HE HAD GONE.

Luke 24: 13-43

And around the same time on that same day, two of them were journeying to Emmaus a village some 60 stadia [furlongs] from Jerusalem. They were discussing [earnestly] with each other all that had happened. And that was when, as they talked together, tossing it all over, that Jesus himself drew near to journey with them. But their eyes were restrained and [so] they did not recognize him. And he said to them:
“So tell me what you are discussing [so seriously] between yourselves as you walk?”
They stopped, downcast, and one of them, Cleopas by name, answered him:
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who has not known what has been going on in Jerusalem in these past days?”
And he said to them:
“What things are these?”
And they said to him: “The events relating to Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and in word, before God and all the people. And [we have been discussing] how our chief priests and ruling elite had him handed over, having stitched up his crucifixion. But we had been hopeful that he was to be the one to emancipate Israel. But also [that’s not all], we are now in the third day since all of this happened and some of the women in our company have completely perplexed us. They went early to the tomb and not finding his body came back saying they had [together] seen a vision of angels who have said [to them] that he lives. And some of our number went to the tomb and indeed found it just as the women had said it had been, yet him they did not see.”
At this point he said this to them, “O you are so wilfully ignorant and so lethargic in your hearts to believe all the things that the prophets have spoken. Were not these things necessarily all part of what the Christ had to suffer before entering into his glory?”
And then beginning from Moses and [also] all of the prophets, he explained to them from the scriptures all the characteristics that pertained to himself. And they drew near to the village to which they were headed and he gave every indication to them that he was going further. And they constrained him, saying: “Remain with us since the evening is coming on and daylight is quickly fading.”
And he accepted their hospitality and went in with them.
And it then happened that as he sat down to dine with them, he took the loaf, gave thanks and, having broken it, he handed them [each] a piece. And from this their eyes were opened [well and truly] and they recognized who he was. And that was it. Then he was gone.
And from then [and thereafter] they said to one another: “Did not our hearts light up within us as he spoke to us on the way and as he threw open wide the scriptures?”
And that very same hour, they got back on the road, and returned to Jerusalem to find the eleven and the others with them having met together with their announcement:
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon.”
And they related to them what had happened on their journey and how he had become known to them in the breaking of the bread.  And as they recounted these things, there he was standing there right in their midst. But they were in shock, even terrified, and began to think that maybe they were beholding a spirit. And he said to them:
“Why are you so troubled and why are those conflicting thoughts arising in your hearts? See my hands? Look at my feet! [Confirm this for yourselves.] It is truly me, myself. Take hold and look closely because a spirit that you may behold does not have the flesh and bones that you see me to have.”
And while they yet disbelieved from joy and with profound shock, he said to them:
“Have you any food here?” And they passed to him a piece of broiled fish. And taking it, he ate it [with them] in their presence.

Many Christians attest to the powerful impact that this penultimate part of Luke’s Gospel has had upon them. Indeed, the story of the meeting Jesus had with his two perplexed disciples on the road to Emmaus has maintained its profound contribution to the lives of men and women, boys and girls, generation to generation. These two, one named Cleopas and his nameless associate, had their own account and Luke includes it in his Gospel written for Theophilus. They too met the Risen Christ, and upon their hurried return journey to Jerusalem, they were able to tell the gathering that the account of the women had been confirmed to them by Jesus himself.

The women, of all of Jesus’ disciples, had been the first to trust what they were induced to recall of Jesus’ teaching about himself from the days back in Galilee. And now Jesus had come face-to-face with these two and reminded them of what he had, in fact, been teaching them all along. And on their return to Jerusalem, to meet the disciples who had been so saddened and perplexed, the two were to hear the disciples telling them:

The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon.

Presumably, Luke means Peter (recall the interpolated v.12 we discussed briefly last time) even if, just a chapter or so earlier, he had introduced Theophilus to another “Simon” (23:26), the conscipted cross-bearer. At this point it is worth our while to try to put ourselves in the reading shoes of Luke’s reader.

Now, if I were Theophilus, might I not be wondering which “Simon” Luke is referring to here?

Apart from the carrier of Jesus’ cross, Luke tells us that Jesus also used the name “Simon” when he told Peter that he would be facing severe temptation in an hour or so’s time during the Passover celebration (22:31). And much earlier (Luke 7) there was another Simon, a Pharisee – but clearly he is not Luke’s referant on this occasion.

Let us think again and recall what Luke has already told us, and also how we have suggested that he (i.e. Luke) has “gone easy” on Peter in his account of his actions in Gethsemane as well as with respect to his three-fold denial. Then Luke tells us that at the cock-crow, Peter had gone out of the remand centre where Jesus was being held, and he was weeping bitterly. [There is also the question about the scribal interpolation of “Peter” in 23:12]. Theophilus will have known already, that is before receipt of Luke’s Gospel account, that Jesus had dealt mercifully with Peter who, after Pentecost, was clearly the prominent Apostle, the leader with John of those following “the way”.

So from all this we can, once more, affirm what we have said earlier about Luke’s account: he continues a story in which one thing he has discovered in his investigation leads on to another report of a further discovery. In this case, the one thing was the women’s report of the empty tomb and the angels and the initial inability of the disciples to consider it worthy of their trust. The next thing then is that the convocation of the disciples was presented with a further first-hand account of Jesus’ resurrection from two other disciples – this was a confirmation of the women’s report and their faith which also these two had hitherto found incredible.

And this return visit, Luke says, preceded, and also to some extent prepared the gathering of disciples for, Jesus’ next appearance to them. For this too helped to dispel the disbelief of the disciples, or at least to profoundly challenge it. When the two from Emmaus gave their report, they were to receive the report of the disciples that

The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon.

And so Luke reports that these three reports affirmed Jesus’ resurrection.

But let us go back to when admonished the two walkers in the late afternoon. They had been trudging along despondently, walking and talking, on their way home to Emmaus. We get the sense of:

So much for what we had hoped! We thought this was it. He was our truly amazing teacher and with what wonderful deeds and teaching he had us wanting more and more! Do we really need more visions of angels being given to us by these hyperactive women?

And Luke’s account of Jesus’ admonition is presented as part of this most ordinary and everyday activity – his walking and talking with them. This was fellowship. This was friendliness. This was neighbourliness. This was going on a walk together. Slowly, slowly their sad perplexity seems to have been dissipated – their sadness is evaporated even while they don’t realise it. They absorbed this Stranger’s teaching.

And so they prevail upon him to visit with them and share an evening meal to bring the day to a close. We don’t read of their respective families sitting down and joining with them as they shared the meal with this Stranger. They may have offered him their hospitality but it was he who presided over the simple meal he shared with them. [We don’t even hear what was said as “Grace”!]

Our Father in Heaven thankyou for this day and this food. AMEN. Let’s eat!

I do not know how to properly understand the word [ἄφαντος] that is translated as “vanished” or “taken out of sight”. My preference is to avoid a translation that gives any implication of some kind of magical power, and yet clearly this Resurrected Person, the Lord Jesus, is beyond the grasp of those he meets, even when he meets them face to face, shaking hands, breathing the same air, eating the same food. And I also think it is well to recall that Luke is seeking to convey to his friend Theophilus why his faith is well-attested by reliable eye-witnesses who met the resurrected Jesus. His Gospel is in no way an appeal to him (or us) to believe in magic, to conjure up a resurrection in our own imagination even if we are invited to share in this mystery. Luke is reporting to his fellow, who is also walking with him on “the way”, something of how Jesus’ resurrection has been discussed among his disciples, among those to whom he appeared before his ascension. On that occasion:

And that was it. Then he had gone.

The emphasis here, and in fact throughout the entire Gospel, is of a Person who simply could not be subjected to human control. Even Pilate had discovered that before his execution, before he maintained his own control of the situation confronting Jesus by capitulating to the demands of the mob.

And so we might well reflect on what “that” (in my above transliteration) means in this instance.

As with much story-telling a “that” is as much a recognition of limits – as in “and that is the end of the story”. It is also referring to what had happened and how what had happened had a finish. Consider: how does one convey the ending of a meal, of a visit to your house, with a resurrected Person who then leaves? I think, in this case, it refers to the limits of the evidence given by firsthand witnesses and Luke tries to capture the lot by finishing it off –

And that was it. Then he had gone.

What then is Luke saying to Theophilus? Is it not something like:

And that is about all that can be said because it is all that Cleopas and his friend were able to say. He had walked with them. He had eaten with them. And then he went. They had begun to realize who he was and the next minute he was gone.

It bears repeating, as we have said last time: how does a writer of a Gospel convey a resurrection? I’m suggesting that Luke conveys the resurrection in ways that are not too dissimilar to how we live as those blessed by Jesus being raised from the grave:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And for my part in this I’m going to ask the Father, and he will give you another personal carer to be with you from hereon, the Spirit of truth, not for the world to receive, because it can neither see him nor know him. But you’ll know him, because he will dwell with you and in you [John 14:15-17].

We confess that this is the first resurrection, from which our own, in God’s good time, will follow. And here from Luke’s account there is absolutely no indication that the two were offended by any “impolite” departure of Jesus, even if we, reading this now, would wonder what else transpired during that meal. Luke tells us that the two fellows, previously so downcast and perplexed, had been lifted out of their depression, and a new chapter in their conversation, in their friendship, has been inaugurated. They begin to talk between themselves about what had taken place. Then, possibly before they realised what they were doing, they hot-footed it back to Jerusalem.

In retrospect, however recent, they lived in the realisation that something enormous, something incredible, something … how is one to ever talk about it? It is like creation – something that is self-evident but cannot be grasped or explained. But once confessed, we might say, a whole new world opens up … in fact God’s creational purposes for what he had made and redeemed become intensely palpable.

There have been disbelieving and unbelieving attempts to reduce the account of Luke (and the other Gospels) to cognitive dissonance that presume that the discovery of a such human propensity (of cognitive dissonance) is the explanation of the resurrection. It is no such thing. Luke’s account puts it exactly the other way around. It might better be said that Luke’s account tells us that the disciples who met Jesus face-to-face after his resurrection, found they were being addressed with great kindness and mercy, even as they were unable to bring themselves to believe.

And while they yet disbelieved from joy and with profound shock, he said to them:
“Have you any food here?” And they passed to him a piece of broiled fish. And taking it, he ate it [with them] in their presence.

In the same Spirit that Jesus breathed on them, they and those who follow them, were able to face up to their “cognitive dissonance” and not avoid it. Jesus had spoken.

O you are so wilfully ignorant and so lethargic in your hearts to believe all the things that prophets [you continue to say you have trusted] all the things they have spoken. Were not these things necessarily all part of what the Christ had to suffer before entering into his glory?

Jesus asks them, point blank:

Have you really, after all that has happened, and after all that you have been taught, really believed what the prophets have said?

And now with Jesus’ appearing to them, he makes it possible for their wilful ignorance and heart lethargy to be overcome! He calls them – face-to-face – to believe in him! It’s a call full to overflowing with merciful kindness. He makes it possible for those following him to believe. This is also what his resurrection does and continues to do in our lives.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ opens the way for the Spirit to be breathed again upon the image-bearers of the Lord Almighty, those He has all along be seeking to save, ever since the disastrous departure when they had made their wilful ignorance the raison d’etre of their life and their times. The overcoming of that rebellion by God’s own action in Christ, the Messiah of Israel, brings the joyous hope into which Jesus invites his disciples to live, here and now, right away, not to be avoided, here and hereafter. The resurrection of Jesus is given to his disciples, to us, to humankind, not to figure out how or whether it happened; it is a given personal reality in which the Living God reveals himself, in the way that he has chosen to make himself known for the whole world, the world of his creation – redeemed. And in doing so he carries of the fear of death, the dissolution and we might add, as the two on the road experienced, the disillusion.

This resurrection is not given so that the Messiah of Israel, the Son of Man who confirms the hope of all ages, can formulate a creed and hive off into a little self-contained ascetic community with their own rules and customs and emergent ethnicity. This is a resurrection for all the world, as it is a new birth for all of life.

The response then, as it has been subsequently, is what Luke said:

a joyous moment, a moment so unbelievable
in which he was happy to share a meal with them.
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