Delacroix, Eugène, 1798-1863. Disciples at Emmaus, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved May 2, 2023]. Original source:

RCL Year A, Easter 3
Acts 2:14a and 36-41, Psalm 116:1-3 and 10-17, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Saint Luke 24:13-35

“The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.”[1]

Of all the things priests do, examining and pondering the Gospels of the resurrection are the most engaging and challenging. On Easter Day and last Sunday we were firmly in the early resurrection appearances in Saint John. Today we are in Saint Luke.

And today’s Gospel is Jesus’ first resurrection appearance in Saint Luke. Earlier in Saint Luke, the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb at the end of Chapter 23. This Chapter, the 24th, begins on the Day of the Resurrection with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women visiting the tomb. They find the stone rolled away. They go in, and they do not find the body. Two men in dazzling white appear and say to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”[2] They remind the women of Jesus’ predictions of the resurrection. The women go back and tell the disciples. The disciples do not believe them, but Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself. He finds the tomb empty except for the linen cloths. No Jesus and no men in dazzling white for him.

Then we have the Gospel today, Jesus’ first resurrection appearance in Saint Luke. He appears to Cleopas and an unnamed companion. And when in their sadness they fail to understand that the Messiah should suffer, the risen Lord rebukes them, “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter his glory?”[3] It is worth remembering that Luke is the only writer in the New Testament to refer to a “suffering Messiah.” He does so here and later in the chapter, and also in Acts which is the sequel to Saint Luke.[4] Nor is a “suffering Messiah” mentioned in the Old Testament or other Jewish literature though it is hinted at in Saint Mark.[5]

Jesus appears to Cleopas and his friend, and not to any of the apostles or named women we know. The thrust is outward, to new people. They recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread and not before.

I find this remarkable. At the Institution of the Eucharist in Saint Luke, Jesus says that the broken bread is his body and commands his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.”[6] And after the resurrection, his first appearance is to disciples breaking bread: not the well-known ones but Cleopas and a friend.

Everyone who recognizes Jesus in the breaking of the bread are as close to Jesus as it is possible to be. No one, not Peter, not John, nor any other disciple featured in the Gospels is closer to Jesus than Cleopas and his friend. In his resurrection life, Jesus is accessible to all, just as the angel of the Lord told the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.[7]

This resurrection appearance in Luke emphasizes that Jesus is our Savior and Lord. By his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus traverses continents and centuries to be our Savior and Lord. Recognizing him today places us no further from him than Cleopas and his friend. May our eyes always be open to recognize him in all his redeeming work.[8] And may we stay near him. By being near him may we be a marker of his presence, so that others may come to know him.

[1] The Hymnal 1982, S 167.

[2] Saint Luke 24:5.

[3] Saint Luke 24:26.

[4] Saint Luke 24:26 and 46; Acts 3:18, 17:3, and 26:23.

[5] Saint Mark 8:31-33

[6] Saint Luke 22:19.

[7] Saint Luke 2:10.

[8] BCP, page 224.