Kept From Seeing Jesus
The part of the story that has always troubled me is the way that the disciples in question are somehow unable to perceive that the stranger they meet on the road is actually Jesus.
Here's the text:
Luke 24:13-16; 13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
The way that this is worded is odd, don't you think? "...but they were kept from recognizing him." Kept? By what?
I mean these people ought to have known Jesus by sight considering they were his followers. They were familiar enough with the Twelve that they go back to Jerusalem after their mystical encounter with Jesus, and proclaim that they have seen him. So it stands to reason they would know what he looked like.
When I was a kid, I was sold a strange line of "reasoning," which was that Jesus could make himself look any way he wanted to because he was in his Resurrection body.
Okay, I'm willing to bite on the idea that Jesus could have made himself look like someone else, but it doesn't say that anywhere in the text.
According to the text, the two disciples finally recognize Jesus when he breaks bread at their evening meal, and then Jesus immediately vanishes from their sight. So, what "kept them" from seeing him when they first meet him on the road?
This is how I'm reading that text today, which I am not sure I would have been able to do prior to the events of this past year...
The reason why the disciples were "kept from seeing" Jesus is because they were unwilling to let go of the way they saw the world and to open their eyes to a new reality.
I think this because these two disciples start to argue with Jesus about what just happened in Jerusalem and call him by a derogatory epithet that is translated either as foreigner or outsider.
Jesus then has to school them in the Scriptures and basically reconnects them to the very lessons that Jesus himself taught them during his ministry. They forgot it all.
I got to thinking about this, and it made so much sense to me.
There have been so many times in my life when I have been blinded by my own certainty, and rigid beliefs about the way things ought to look that I've completely missed experiencing Christ right in front of me.
In fact, I believe this is at the heart of why there are so many divisions between people of faith right now in our current culture.
We have convinced ourselves that God couldn't possibly turn the world upside down... that God can't change the hearts and minds of even the people who seem to deny God's image within them... that God can't raise to new life what we have left for dead.
And so we miss the experience of Christ, and all that comes with it---joy, hope, surprise, abundant life, grace, and peace...
But if we are willing to have our minds and hearts transformed, we can have our eyes opened to the new realities that come with God's kingdom present here on earth---a Resurrection reality that changes everything, and us.
Like those two disciples from the road to Emmaus, perhaps we will find ourselves utterly changed, seeing the world differently. Perhaps we will say just as they did to one another after they finally saw Jesus: "Didn't you feel your heart burning inside of you?"
May this be so for you today and every day and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.