|Duccio -- Road to Emmaus|
The Gospel story for this Sunday recounts one of the best known and most intriguing of Christ’s Resurrection appearances – the Road to Emmaus. It has inspired hundreds of artists, including great masters such as Duccio, Titian, Caravaggio, Velasquez and Rembrandt. This popularity among painters made it a perfect subject for the world’s most famous art forgery – a ‘Disciples at Emmaus’ ostensibly by the celebrated Vermeer, but in reality by the unknown van Meegeren.
The episode is unique to Luke, and what makes it so intriguing is its ordinariness. Last week’s Gospel (from John) related Christ’s appearance in an upper room behind locked doors. There is mysteriousness about this that provides the context for Thomas’s understandable doubts. Luke’s account of the Emmaus appearance is quite different. To begin with, these ‘disciples’ were not among the twelve, and though their sadness and puzzlement about the death of Jesus is palpable, the journey they are on seems to be for some practical purpose of everyday life. Most striking of all is this. Unlike the disciples in the upper room, they do not recognize Jesus straight away, but walk with him along the road for quite some time, assuming he is just another traveler. Their moment of recognition comes when they suddenly recognize the characteristic way in which he performs the familiar act of breaking a loaf of bread for supper.
|Velasquez Supper at Emmaus|
These little ‘epiphanies’ invite us to repeat the same ‘question and answer’ that we find in today’s reading from Acts -- “What should we do?”. Peter’s answer to his hearers was “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven”. For those who were baptized long ago, often in infancy, this cannot be the immediate response. Nevertheless, as the practice of renewing baptismal vows implies, we need to acknowledge again and again the truth of which this week's Epistle reminds us. We have been saved from futile ways of life by the ‘death of Jesus’, and not by any ‘silver or gold’, even if this is what much of our time is spent trying to secure. Fully grasping this deep truth requires spiritual renewal. The Disciples at Emmaus provide a compelling model of how that can happen, surprising us 'on the road'. With such renewal we are enabled once more to make our own voices the voice of today’s Psalmist “O LORD, I am your servant. You have loosed my bonds.”