Week 4: This is really him
How did you mark Easter last weekend? We hope you were inspired and challenged, once again, by the story as it unfolded from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday, and that you experienced something of the transformational power of the resurrection even in these really confusing and unsettling times.
We would love to hear the ways in which you ‘did Easter differently’ in your homes and communities this year! Don’t forget to send resources or short stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get them into our Together Apart hub.
This week’s reflection comes from Arthur Rank Centre trustee and Catholic priest Fr Rob Taylerson, who explores the experience of those who met with Jesus on the Emmaus road.
Until next week!
Louise, on behalf of the wider Arthur Rank Centre team
This is really him
Bible Reading: Luke 24:13-35
Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’
They stopped short, their faces downcast. Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.
‘And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’ They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
This week brings with it the anniversary of all the scripture’s appearances of the risen Lord. The accounts, so familiar, yet forever renewing our joy as, with his first friends and followers, we too take the journey from accompanying Jesus in his being betrayed, his suffering and death last week, to the amazement, wonder and overflowing joy of his risen and glorified presence here and now.
The three elements of the Emmaus account which strike me are:
- The awareness of ‘hearts burning within us’ as he talked and explained scriptures. ‘The Word who is Christ’ explains The Word of prophesies and promises fulfilled. Hearts feel as if they are set afire.
- The mixture of joy and eagerness to share the news with the others when they realised Jesus was risen and with them. The weary limbs after their walk were so reinvigorated that they set off immediately to tell others; they couldn’t wait to share the good news.
- How to explain the deepest truth to others? ‘We recognised him in the breaking of the bread.’ Jesus had taken bread, blessed it, broken it and shared it, just as at the last supper, and they had realised ‘This is really Him’; this is his risen, glorified body, given for us.
The following is one of the ancient prayers of Easter, written almost a thousand years ago:
Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb; and Christ, the undefiled, hath sinners to his Father reconciled.
Death with life contended: combat strangely ended!
Life’s own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign.
Tell us, Mary: say what thou didst see upon the way?
The tomb the Living did enclose; I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!
The angels there attesting; shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Christ, my hope, has risen: he goes before you into Galilee.
That Christ is truly risen from the dead we know.
Victorious king, thy mercy show!
The joy of knowing that Christ is risen prompts us also to recognise him, to see Christ in our own daily lives. Jesus on the Emmaus road recalled the history of the prophets and promises. He explained the fulfilment in his life, death and resurrection. Yet it was in the burning hearts, the recognising in breaking bread, and the eagerness to share and rejoice with others, that the ‘truth’ of the Word brought the fullness of recognition. The fullness of truth of the resurrection soaked into every nook and cranny of their lives.
Sometimes we see Jesus in those who are suffering, or are betrayed, those who are dying, those who are in tears as they grieve. Sometimes we see him in the words of those who set our hearts on fire by their goodness, their sacrifices, their forgiveness, their love. Sometimes Jesus’ presence through
Sacraments, Church, shared prayer – be it praise, thanksgiving or even lament – will set our own hearts on fire too.
Ask God that at the end of each day as we reflect, we may realise that this day we have met with Our Lord, and our hearts may be ever inflamed.
‘For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all nations. The Light to enlighten the gentiles and give glory to Israel, your people!’ (Lk 2:30-32)
Fr Rob Taylerson, Priest in the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and Arthur Rank Centre trustee