Today’s Gospel passage from Luke is one of my favorite of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.
After Jesus’ death, two of his disciples are walking to Emmaus. Although Luke doesn’t talk about the state they are in, we can imagine that they are sad, dejected, confused, scared. All of their hopes that Jesus would be one to redeem Israel were dashed when He was arrested and put to death. We know from what they later tell the man who “drew near and walked with them” that they’ve heard some tale about some women finding an empty tomb and a message from an angelic vision, but it is not clear they believe a word of it.
They converse with the man, not recognizing him and he explains the Scriptures to them. When they get where they are going, they invite him to stay and eat with them, still not recognizing him. But then, he takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks the bread and gives it to them. “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” You can almost feel their joy and consolation when they recognize Jesus. And they excitedly run off (the Gospel says they “set off”, but you know they went running) to find their friends, recounting “what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
The question that obviously comes to mind is: why didn’t the disciples recognize Jesus? Luke says that when Jesus walked up to them “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” What prevented them? As I watch the scene unfold in my imagination, I imagine that they were so focused on their own grief and confusion that they don’t really see the man they are speaking to.
Perhaps the more useful question for us is: what prevents us from seeing Christ when he appears to us? What blinds us to His presence? What are we so focused on that we do not recognize Christ, even when He is standing right there in from of us?