This story is out of the book of Luke, although Mark briefly mentions a similar story (probably the same one) where two men are walking on a road and Jesus appears to them in a different form. But Luke writes that they were headed to a village called Emmaus that was seven miles from Jerusalem.
So let’s picture the story. Emmaus means hot springs, which makes me think about Hot Springs, AR, a vacation spot with a hot spring that people believe gives health, even medicinal, benefits. In the same way, this village probably had a hot spring or fountain that was renowned for its medicinal benefits.
Of the two companions, only one of them is named in verse 18, Cleopas. This is the only time that this specific name is mentioned in the gospels, although in John one of the women named Mary at the cross was mentioned as the wife of Clopas. Some commentaries connect the two, but others say they were two different men. Regardless, they did know the women who went to the empty tomb. In fact, they were there when the women came to the disciples that morning to announce the risen Christ.
We don’t know why they were going to Emmaus. Maybe they were going to visit someone they knew, or they were just going to get dinner, maybe getting out of Jerusalem which had become quite a dangerous place for a follower of Jesus. We don’t know why they were on that road, but we know what they were doing. And as they walked towards their destination, they were discussing everything that had happened.
And it’s at this point, Jesus enters into the picture. They don’t recognize him, maybe because of a supernatural kind of disguise or maybe just because they weren’t expecting Jesus to appear at that moment. But Jesus immediately enters into their conversation. This is where we learned that they were with the apostles, at least Peter and John because of the story they recount. But they ended their tale with some serious doubt.
Jesus then takes over the narrative, beginning with “Moses and all the Prophets” and details all the ways he has fulfilled scripture, still without revealing that it is actually him. He makes such an impression on these two companions, that they urge him to stay the night in Emmaus and have dinner with them. And at first, Jesus was going to just keep on traveling.
There is a point in this story when Jesus could have just kept on going, that these two travelers might have never known who they were talking to. But the kindness, inclusion, and hospitality they showed him caused him to stay. And it was then, at the dinner table, that he reveals himself to them as he breaks the bread. Then disappears from their sight.
When I was going through my periods of pregnancy loss, I didn’t have much control over the narrative. But the one thing I asked of God was that I see him in the details. And every time, he revealed himself through the medical staff, nature, and other experiences. Sometimes the only thing I really need in those dark moments was to know that I’m not alone. That hope is coming.
I can’t imagine the amount of grief and fear these two companions had at this point. Their teacher died only a few days before. Now, his body went missing. And the women who went to the tomb are spouting this absolutely insane story about a resurrection. While the chief priests and guards are claiming that his followers took the body. But they didn’t have a body. Would they still be held responsible?
Yet in this moment of uncertainty, Jesus walked with them. He reminded them of all the things that came before, how scriptures were fulfilled while he was alive, and how scripture was being fulfilled once again. Jesus never leaves us. He is present in our lives reminding us in times of uncertainty that he is there and that he will continue to be there.
Mark also mentions this encounter, though it’s only two sentences long. When they returned to Jerusalem, they shared their story but no one believed them. But soon, Jesus would reveal himself to all of them. Soon, everything would be made clear.