This week’s gospel, found only in Luke’s narrative, tells the story of two followers of Jesus travelling the way to Emmaus, a Jerusalem suburb, on the afternoon following the amazing news of an empty tomb which was spreading around the city. We don’t know why they taking this journey together, but perhaps they had been in Jerusalem for the eventful weekend, and were returning home before dark to their home village.
On the way, they are met by a third traveler, unknown to them at first, who doesn’t seem to have paid much attention to the extraordinary events that took place the past few days. This unexpected traveler listens as the two share their stories mixed with grief and wonder at what took place. Then we encounter an interesting twist while the three continue on their way. The third traveler (who Luke tells us is Jesus) takes control of the conversation, and reminds the others that the prophets had foreseen these events, and he began to teach them more and more about the ways of God, while they were on the way to Emmaus. The climax of this story occurs after the traveler is welcomed to stay the night, and as they were sitting down to dinner, the two followers realize that it was Jesus, the risen Christ, who was with them all along the way.
This theme of being “on the way” is one which is used frequently in scripture to describe the life of faith and discipleship to which we are called. The phrase used in Greek is “en tay hodos". This was used to identify the early Christian movement, which was known as “People of The Way”, indicating that discipleship was not so much about belief in a series of events, but a way of life, shaped by those events, but placed in continuous service to the world that Christ loved. I see this story of the way to Emmaus as another picture of what the life of the disciple is all about. It’s very tempting to sit at the empty tomb appreciating the wondrous gift of Easter morning, but Jesus reminds us along the way, that even the tomb itself is just a brief stop along a much longer journey.
The Greek word “hodos" translated as road or way, is the same word used in John’s Gospel when Jesus says “I am the WAY, the truth and the life”. So often, this verse is wrongly interpreted as the Way being belief in a set of events or dogma that separates Christians from those of other faiths. What if we interpreted Jesus statement as I am the JOURNEY? Perhaps thinking of the Way as a journey, rather than a method, we can experience Christ just as the Emmaus disciples did, in unexpected and inspiring ways, when we remain open to learning from the risen Christ as we walk the way of faith in the world.
Lord, help us live as your disciples as people of the Way, the people of the journey. Inspire us and appear to us when we do not expect you. Teach us to love others as you love them. Teach us to walk along the Way!
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.