ON THE AFTERNOON of the resurrection day, two of the disciples of Jesus, Cleophas and a companion whom the Gospel does not name, were journeying from Jerusalem to a little town called Emmaus, about seven miles to the northwest of the Holy City. That morning they had listened, somewhat skeptically, to the women’s report of the empty tomb; empty hearted, they had decided to return home, leaving, apparently, before the women returned from their second visit to the tomb, with the news that they had seen the risen Christ. As they went along Jesus appeared and walked beside them, but they were engrossed in discussing the events of the morning and did not notice the traveler who had joined them.
Presently, however, Jesus interrupted their conversation and said:
“What words are these that you are exchanging as you walk and are sad?”
The disciples looked up in amazement. Because of the transfigured appearance of the risen Christ, they did not recognize Him; and they would certainly never have expected to meet Him on this lonely road, far from Golgotha. Who was this stranger, they wondered, and how could he have escaped hearing of the death of their Master. Cleophas said to Him, “Art thou the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
The stranger appeared to be genuinely interested in hearing their news, and Cleophas hastened to inform Him, saying, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people; and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be sentenced to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who should redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, today is the third day since these things came to pass. And moreover, certain women of our company, who were at the tomb before it was light, astounded us, and not finding His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He is alive. So some of our company went to the tomb, and found it even as the women had said, but Him they did not see.”
Such were the frail hopes and pitiful anxieties of the disciples. Their faith in the prophecies and promises of Jesus had weakened rapidly; they could believe more readily in the lying report of the chief priests than in the words of the holy women. And still, though disappointed, they loved Him and revered His memory; and, since the third day was not yet past, they continued to hope in the resurrection of which He had told them.
Without revealing Himself to them, Jesus chided them for their lack of faith and understanding:
“O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things before entering into His glory?”
What had depressed and disheartened them most was the humiliation Christ had suffered, and through which they them selves had lost face. And He went on to show them that all these things had been foretold in the Scriptures.
The disciples were consoled and refreshed by the words of this ingratiating traveler, and they were distressed when, as they approached Emmaus, He indicated that He was going to continue on His way. They urged Him to tarry with them, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting towards evening, and the day is now far spent.”
Jesus had only wished to test their charity, and He gladly went on with them to the village. Later, when they had sat down to dine, He took the bread and blessed and broke it and presented it to them; and through this familiar gesture they recognized their Master. After manifesting Himself in this way, He vanished from their sight, but their hearts were jubilant now at the certainty of His resurrection, and they joy fully recalled their conversation with Him, saying, “Was not our heart burning within us while He was speaking on the road and explaining to us the Scriptures?”
Cleophas and his companion hastily returned to Jerusalem and went to the Cenacle, where the apostles and some of the disciples had gathered. Jesus had meanwhile manifested Himself to Peter, and when the two travelers entered the room, the apostles shouted to them, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.” Then Cleophas and his friend related how Jesus had appeared to them on the road to Emmaus.
While they were talking together, Jesus appeared and said to them:
“Peace to you! It is I, do not be afraid.”
They started up as if they had seen a ghost, but He said to them:
“Why are you disturbed, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and feet, that it is I Myself. Feel Me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
Seeing them still doubtful and bewildered, He said:
“Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honey, and when He had eaten, He gave them what remained. Once more He said:
“Peace be to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
Then He breathed on them and said:
“Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
Meditation: Christianity is the religion of the Cross. But in His conversation with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Christ pointed out the Cross, or suffering, is not an end in itself. Rather, the Way of the Cross is the path to glory, He told them: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things before entering into His glory?” For us also, suffering, inseparable as it is from our Christian lives, is the path to glory, to eternal happiness.
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 295-298. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.