In Luke 24, Jesus is raised from the dead and beings a series of appearances to his disciples. Two of those disciples are the men walking on the Emmaus Road. You may be rather familiar with the story. There, two men, at least one named being Cleopas, are walking from Jerusalem after the emotional week just experienced with Jesus’ passion, trial, crucifixion, death, and now alleged resurrection. Disheartened these men walk home thinking their hoped-for messiah was only that, merely “hoped-for”.
During their lonely walk, the two men encounter a third traveler who joins their conversation with a seeming innocuous question like, “What are y’all talking about?” The men are surprised at such a question since it seems like everyone who visited Jerusalem would’ve known full well what had transpired. Yet, they replied concerning Jesus of Nazareth:
He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.
Jesus responds saying, “How foolish and slow you are to believe.” He then sets up Seminary Shop and explains the truth of Scripture pointing to Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection, and now glory.
Could you imagine having been in that conversation? Wow! Easily the best biblical theology lecture…ever! If they had only written all that down. Yet, they didn’t. And, what’s more, even in that conversation their eyes were still not opened. Maybe this is an example of how only proclamation of Word is finally incapable of truly transforming the human heart. Something else is needed. We need to do more than hear truth, we desperately need to see truth. And, that’s precisely what happened next.
The men beseeched Jesus to stay with them as the day was far spent. Jesus acquiesced to their request and as he did. They were to share a meal together, and it wasn’t until this meal, specifically when Jesus broke the bread, that their eyes were finally opened.
Here’s how Luke 24 says it:
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Yes, the disciple’s hearts burned within as Jesus spoke. Same is true with us, right? We may hear a great sermon, maybe even the best sermon, and feel internal conviction. Yet, admittedly it’s not enough. When the truth hits home is when it no longer comes through words, but something tangible. Like the bread and blood.
Scripture is clear about Jesus’ love for us corporately and individually. However, I find that I weekly if not daily wonder if Jesus does really love me. When my faith wanes I do turn to prayer and scripture. But my heart wants more than words. I long to see God’s love for me. And, the beauty of what Christ established included this reality in his church. He left us communion.
Just like the disciples knew Christ in the bread and wine, I too see him best there at the Sacramental Table. Why? Those elements are where the words I know to be true are displayed. His broken body and his shed blood prove his love. Jesus himself said there’s no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. Yet, before we were his friends, we were enemies (Rom. 5). And, it was precisely then, when we were enemies, that Jesus’s body was broken and his blood shed.
By God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s illumination, a passage of Scripture with which there is familiarity spoke something new. I saw with fresh eyes how desperately our world needs not simply to hear us proclaim the gospel of Jesus’ love but rather to share his love by showing it. We need to live Jesus’ life of brokenness for the world. We/I need to live self-sacrificially, radically, and holy lives that affirm and prove our words. Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words, right? Well, Jesus broke his body and shed his blood. How’s that for actions that speak truth?
Jesus was fully known in his breaking the bread. Jesus was known in and through his sacrifice which summed up and affirmed everything he said. I believe it is this transformed life we are to live before the world. The world needs not to hear us proclaiming the truth only. Rather, may our hope be that the world sees the truth in us in our deeds, as we sit around tables with the world and break bread.