Blogging Towards Sunday April 7, 2013
Faith (and life) are oftentimes talked about as a journey; more about the journeying than the destination. Today’s passage is a resurrection account of encountering Jesus on the road. The two disciples are traveling, fleeing Jerusalem or maybe returning home. As they walk, they talk, of the past, of the unexpected death of Jesus which has smashed their hopes. They talk to each other, but are trapped in a circular conversation based in the past and their misunderstanding. It takes a stranger to enter their tête à tête to open their eyes and minds up to the future, that they might recognize what God is doing which cannot be limited to the parameters of the past and their personal experiences.
- The story is constructed in a chiastic – or sandwich – form, a literary device in which the very center textual item is key. In this chiasm it’s verse 23 “the women saw a vision of angels who said that Jesus is alive”.
- We see also reflective plays within the text: The women saw, but the male disciples didn’t. In verse 15-16 and 30-31 Jesus comes close, among and with the disciples. While they talk and discuss their eyes are closed and the don’t recognize him. But when he breaks the bread, blesses and gives it to them their eyes are opened and they recognize him.
- Notice the use of the preposition “with” in the text and how it reinforces a sense of with-ness or community alongside Jesus that changes things.
- The text implies that the disciples are blind and ignorant. Why? How does that change?
- Notice how movement, in particular the verb “to go” play a key role in the formation of the text. Where are the actors going? Why do they change direction?
- Presence is a larger part of this text. Jesus is with the disciples and then he isn’t. He doesn’t go away from them. The text says that he is no longer visible. [v. 31] what’s the difference? Why are they now able to travel in the dark – leaving that same hour [v.33] for Jerusalem, whereas shortly before [in v 29] they try to get Jesus to avoid the darkness of night by entering the inn?
Theological Themes, Interesting Points & Inter-textual links.
The story of Emmaus responds to some of the theological questions we often ask:
- When and how do we see – or encounter – the living presence of God?
- What is communion about?
- Why doesn’t God answers our questions more directly, or come to us instantly, when we are suffering, confused or in deep need?
- What does faith look like, lived individually and with others?
- The text points to the mystery that we can only truly understand Jesus – recognize him – in the light of the resurrection. We have to interpret him, his actions and words through that promise.
- In the desert God is invisible and present with the Israelites as the guiding column of fire and smoke [Exodus 13:21]
- Jesus talks about recognizing his presence in those we serve. [Matthew 25:13-41]
- Curiously, in the garden when Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they see how things really are. [Genesis 3:7] Cleopas and his fellow traveler also see how things really are when they break bread with Jesus.
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. A world view is the foundational way in which we see the world. It’s our response to the following four essential questions: Who are we? Where are we? What is wrong in our world? What is the solution? Where are we going? How will we get there? What does this text say about our worldview as believers in Jesus of Nazareth?
2. What troubles you and/or encourages you in these texts? Why? How does it contain good news for us?
3. How do you struggle to see, or experience God as present with us – even when invisible? How does this text respond to your fears, doubts or insecurities about the presence of God?
4. Last week we talked of the word “believe” as more correctly understood as commitment, faithfulness, a sort of entry into relationship; as opposed to adhering 100% or accepting intellectually a particular doctrine or dogma. How does that understanding of the world “believe” relate to the message of the story of the road to Emmaus in today’s scripture selection?