Often I’m prone to think of God speaking in grandiose gestures and signs. I want thunderclaps from the sky or a bright neon sign showing me the road to go. And on rare occasion that happens for me. Well, maybe not the neon sign part.
Speaking of grandiose signs, all throughout Luke in my Bible are notes and underlinings at those miraculous moments or pointed rebukes from Jesus. But then, the passage on the Road to Emmaus was suspiciously pristine in my Bible, other than a note saying I’d heard a sermon on it at Bethel Chapel in 2002. The road to Emmaus was a bit too murky and ordinary for me to listen to it’s message.
And yet, it’s in the midst of ordinary things that an extraordinary encounter happens. That eyes are opened, and lives are changed.
Two disciples walk down the road to Emmaus feeling overwhelmed by the events of Jesus’s death. Can they believe Mary Magdelene who says Jesus is risen, or is she just a nutcase? And at this point, they’re leaning towards the Mary is crazy theory. Jesus’s body is missing; that’s all they can go on right now. It’s the third day since Jesus rose again, and they have not gotten the big sign in the sky. There’s no major sign for them that today is better that 3 days ago. No visible sign that redemption is forthcoming. They’re trying to believe (and failing) in something they can’t see or quantitfy.
And then they meet a man on the road. One that has been disguised to them. In a day of walking along roads, this wouldn’t be an abnormal occurence. The man challenges them and teaches the Scriptures about the Messiah. He boosters their confidence and rebukes their unbelief (in a nurturing way, not a punishing one). And yet, the men are unable to recognize him. But there’s something about him, they just can’t let go of yet.
So they urge him into staying with them. They sit down to eat, and then the stranger breaks the bread and gives thanks for it before them. And suddenly the disciples remember and recognize the man– it is Jesus! Something in the simple act of breaking bread allowed them to recognize Jesus among them.
As soon as the disciples recognize Jesus, he vanishes. They’re incredulous. Just when they thought they couldn’t process anymore, there’s a new twist. And yet, the disciples are changed in this instant. It marks the beginning of a new journey.
Some claim that this passage demonstrates why it’s important to celebrate communion regularly at church. But I think it claims something even higher. I think it is a calling for churches to celebrate communion in such a way that we take the memory home. That when we take out bread to make a sandwich, we think of the bread at the communion table. And for 10 seconds or so are reminded of Jesus in our life. That I might recognize who Jesus is to me, whenever a cracker breaks when I spread cheese on it. That an ordinary encounter with bread in my daily life becomes an opportunity to celebrate communion–simply because it evokes a memory of who Jesus is and what’s he done.
What extraordinary things might happen if for a mere 30 more seconds a day, I’m more focused on how Jesus is here–than how he’s not?