Blindness, remembering, and journeys to faith


Scripture, Luke 24: 13-35 Nigel Bunce

The Road to Emmaus is a story that combines spiritual blindness, remembering, and journeys to faith.  Two disciples met the Risen Christ as they journeyed home to Emmaus.  They came to faith as they remembered their stories about Jesus.  Their eyes were opened on their journeys to faith.


hodos: a way, road, path, or journey

The story of two disciples meeting the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus seems like a parable. About a journey. The Biblical Greek word hodos means way, road, path, or journey. The two disciples followed the road to Emmaus.

Likewise, Jesus and his disciples took a journey (hodos) from Galilee to Jerusalem. Where they went to attend the Passover. Similarly, at a baptism, I often use the metaphor of the baptismal candidate beginning their life’s journeys to faith with Christ.

Likewise, John the Baptist quoted Isaiah when he said, “Prepare the way of the Lord. And, the Gospel writer John called Jesus “the way, the truth, and the life.” Early believers in Jesus were “Followers of the Way” long before they called themselves Christians.

The superficial story of today’s gospel

On their way home from Jerusalem to Emmaus, two disciples met a stranger. He seemed not to know about recent events in Jerusalem.

So the two disciples told him about Jesus, a mighty prophet.  But, the chief priests arrested him unjustly. Then Pilate crucified him. And, when women went to anoint his body, it had disappeared.

At that point, the stranger explained that Scripture had foretold that the Messiah must suffer.  On the way to Emmaus, the stranger interpreted the Messiah’s coming in Old Testament terms, back to Moses and the prophets. We always meet the Gospel Jesus within his Jewish faith. Jesus was Jewish, like the disciples, like Luke and all the other New Testament authors.

Journeys to faith

It was late. So the disciples asked the stranger to stay with them. The climax of the story comes as they ate supper. The stranger took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the two disciples. At the breaking of the bread, they suddenly recognized that he was Jesus. Instantly, he vanished.

Until then the two disciples did not recognize Jesus. Because he was a spiritual, not an earthly body. The Gospel writers are clear. The Resurrection was not resuscitation. Jesus did not come back to physical life. Meeting the Risen Christ is different from meeting the earthly Jesus.

The two disciples experienced the risen Christ similarly to St. Paul on the road to Damascus. As they walked, they remembered what Jesus had done. And what he had said. Therefore, “their hearts burned within them”.

Then, when they broke bread at the meal, they remembered the words that Jesus had used over the bread at the Last Supper – the same words that we use every week. He took bread, blessed it, broke it and shared it with them.

Understanding the Resurrection

Perhaps, and I stress the word perhaps. Because, last week, Jan said that we might understand the Resurrection as literally true. Or, as a parable. Or, as an unseen Presence. Today, I’m following the idea of Presence in today’s Gospel story.

But it’s also about Eucharist, which is also about remembering an unseen Presence. At the Eucharist, we remember Jesus’ own words at the Last Supper. We eat the bread, “In remembrance of me.”

There are three ways to know an event – before, in anticipation. At the time. And afterwards, in remembrance. Imagine a major life event such as our own wedding. We looked forward to it. Dreamed what it would be like. We participated in it at the time.

But most of all, we imprinted it in our minds by remembering it. The memory gets solidified by retelling it with family and friends – re-member, or put back it together again. It’s the same with the “Jesus story.”

Parallels with our Sunday Eucharist

Today’s Gospel story exactly parallels our Sunday Eucharists. First, Word (Scripture and its exposition). We remember Jesus by reading a Gospel story about his life or teachings.

Next, someone interprets that Scripture in a homily. Then, Sacrament (Communion). There, we remember the words that Jesus used at the Last Supper. That’s when Luke tells us that the disciples recognized the stranger, “their eyes were opened.”

At St. George’s, we journey up the aisle of the church for communion. May that journey help us remember not just Jesus. But also the two disciples in whose presence Christ took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them.

Today’s Gospel parallels another story by Luke

Jesus met a blind man while he was en route to Jerusalem,. The man asked to receive his sight. Jesus replied, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you” [Luke 18: 42]. To me, these accounts of eyes being opened are like bookends to the Holy Week and Easter story.

They read like parables. Because the blindness wasn’t physical, but spiritual. Like that of John Newton, author of the hymn, Amazing Grace. He, “was blind but now I see.” When he realized how wrong his life had been as a slave ship captain.

Thus, today’s Gospel describes two kinds of journey. Physical and spiritual. Physically, the two disciples went to Emmaus.  Spiritually, their journey led them to the Risen Christ. 

Journeys to faith: ours and that of our parish

At church, we tend to think of our spiritual journeys. But like those disciples, our lives are also on other journeys.  Where is my career going?  What about my relationships in my marriage. Relationships with family, friends? 

Finally, what about our parish? Where is it going? Because, “If you don’t know where you are going, you aren’t going anywhere.”  So, that’s why I urge everyone to participate as much as you can in the visioning activity that the diocese calls the Mission Action Plan. Amen.