Emmaus or Jerusalem?

by Ray Reuter on June 9, 2016

One of my favorite stories following the resurrection of Jesus is about the disciples walking to Emmaus unable to recognize Jesus who was walking with them. I actually have a picture of this scene in my house. Recently I was enlightened with more insight pertaining to the symbolism of this story

IMG_1036The people are walking away from Jerusalem toward Emmaus. In the book, “Sacred Fire,” Ron Rolheiser points out for Luke, the author this story, “Jerusalem” represents three things: the faith dream of the disciples, the church, and the place of the crucifixion. “Emmaus,” on the other hand, represents a place of escape, of worldly consolation. Thus, in symbol, Luke is telling us this: the two disciples in this story are walking away from their faith dream, away from the church, and away from the place where Christ has been humiliated, and they are walking toward a place of human consolation.

Whoa! Isn’t that my / your temptation when our world of faith and values collapses? But note in the story that the disciples never get there! Jesus appears to them on the road, listens to their spin on things, their interpretation of the meaning of the recent events, their discouragement. And the Master challenges their “key moments” by reframing their imagination and consequently their beliefs. After that encounter, the disciples’ faith has been restored and strengthened. They get it. They see it. The humiliation of the crucifixion is now integrated into their understanding.

In our spiritual journey, we will, any number of times, find ourselves heading in the wrong direction. What we experience and understand and tell ourselves will result in times of discouragement and doubt and we will be tempted to walk away from our faith, our church, our hope, our Christ, and our God, toward some place of consolation. But somewhere on that road, as we walk toward consolation, Christ will appear, probably disguised such that we will be unable to recognize him at first. With faith, hope, and perseverance we hopefully will at some point recognize Christ in a new and much deeper way. Like Peter, we will shout … “It is the Lord!” and that recognition will turn us away from the place of consolation, “Emmaus,” and send us back to our dream of faith and our church, “Jerusalem.”

The key in all of this is our ability or inability to recognize Christ when he meets us on the road. Stay awake and keep watch …


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