Two texts converged on me this morning and compelled me to reflect on their intersection. The first is the Narrative Lectionary text for this weekend found in Luke 24:13-35. This is the story of how Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. The second text was Richard Rohr’s meditation titled “The Mystery of the Cross.”
Let me begin by highlighting some key points in the Road to Emmaus story, as I see them.
- The disciples were perplexed, confused, and pondering the events of the past week. “Why did Jesus have to die?” “Why did the women say the tomb is empty?” “What does this all mean?” They were in an open posture of wondering.
- Jesus was with them, but they did not realize it. I think this is the state of most of humanity, most of the time.
- The disciples could not see the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection because the lens of their assumptions would not allow it. They expected him to be one thing, so they could not see the thing he actually is. That happens to us all the time.
- Jesus allowed the Narrative of Scripture to speak for itself and then he “interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (v. 27)” The Hebrew scripture becomes the lens through which we see Jesus, and Jesus becomes the lens through which we interpret the Hebrew Scripture. This is a continual spiral. Continual reflection on Scripture is vital to seeing Jesus.
- It was in the act of hospitality to the stranger that the disciples embodied the Kingdom of God and were in a place for their eyes to be opened.
- “he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (v. 35)” We see, not in the rational understanding, but in the experiential doing.
- As soon as their eyes recognized him, he vanished. I wonder if the physical, historical Jesus can sometimes become an idol and a distraction from the Kingdom of God that Jesus invites us to share with our neighbors. We need Jesus to open our eyes, but then he steps out of the way so we can see our neighbor.
The second reading was Richard Rohr’s meditation on the cross. He says,
Jesus’ life, death, and raising up is the whole pattern revealed, named, summed up, and assured for our own lives…
Those who “gaze upon” (John 19:37) the Crucified long enough—with contemplative eyes—are always healed at deep levels of pain, unforgiveness, aggression, and victimhood. Contemplative gazing demands no theological education, just an “inner exchange” by receiving the image within and offering one’s soul back in safe return….
If all our crucifixions are leading to some possible resurrection, and are not dead-end tragedies, this changes everything. If God is somehow participating in the suffering of humans and creation, instead of just passively tolerating it and observing it, that also changes everything—at least for those who are willing to “gaze” contemplatively.
Jesus is the whole pattern revealed. Jesus reminded the disciples on the road that the prophets had been telling this story all along. God suffers with us and for us. Jesus’ resurrection sets us free from the guilt, shame, fear, hatred and violence that destroys us. Jesus invites us to the table and invites us to invite our neighbors and accept our neighbor’s invitation to sit at the table and gaze at the Christ in our neighbor, to break bread together, and live in the shalom (peace) of God’s Kingdom.
This peace can only happen when we follow Jesus in the way of the cross. We must give up ourselves, our ego, our small self, for the sake of the other and the whole. It is only when we die to that small, false self, that we can be raised to new life for the sake of the world.
We gaze at the cross, we gaze at Jesus, we break the bread, and our eyes are opened.