theRecently I learned a new way of reading one of my favorite resurrection accounts, namely, the appearance of the Risen Lord to two of his dejected disciples on the road to the town of Emmaus. I first heard this approach from Bishop Robert Barron and Father Sebastian Carnazzo (who taught the Scripture course I took from the Institute of Catholic Culture last year). It involves reading the passage, (which is read during the octave of Easter and on the 3rd Sunday of Easter), in the light of Genesis.
The identity of the person walking alongside Cleopas is not mentioned. Many have taken him to be St. Luke, or some other man, as depicted in many paintings. But, contrary to the paintings, what if this person was not a man at all, but Cleopas’ wife, Mary, who is identified as being present at Calvary, in the Gospel of John? That sheds a whole new light on the text. It gives us a starting point for reading it as a retelling, a reversal, of the of Eden. For the purposes of this post, I’ll refer to the 2 disciples on the road • to Emmaus, as a married couple, presumably Cleopas and his wife, whom we are told is named Mary (John 19:25.
Verse 13: “That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma′us, about seven miles from Jerusalem[.]”
What day? As Luke already stated in verse 1, this is all occurring on the day Jesus rose from the dead, Easter Sunday, the 1st day of the new creation. It’s the day that never ends because it is the day that inaugurated the resurrection, the 8th day, the new Sabbath, ending the 7th, and beginning the Sabbath of restoration. Every Sunday is Easter Sunday.
“[S]even miles from Jerusalem.”
They are walking away from Jerusalem. It is traditionally believed that Jerusalem is the site of the Garden of Eden. The image of a man and woman walking away from Jerusalem is reminiscent of Adam and Eve cast out from the Garden towards the East (Genesis 3:24). In Genesis 3:24, we read that they are driven away from access to the tree of life. Just outside of Jerusalem proper is the new tree of life, the Cross of Jesus Christ.
The lie of the serpent, who infiltrated the Garden, was that the eyes of our 1st parents would be opened. (Genesis 3:). This opening was actually a spiritual closing that rendered them unable to see God for who he is. They could no longer recognize their Father who loves them. Slowness of heart. Confusion, inability to see, not being able to recognize God and the designs of God— this is the state of the couple walking away from Jerusalem. And, this is signified by the couple literally being unable to recognize him in his glorified state. Jesus, God himself, came to bring us back to the Father, to restore us to right relationship. Indeed, Jesus, came to give us sight:
Jesus Said, “For Judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”– John 9:39
And whoever can truly see Jesus sees the Father (John 14:9).– John 14:9
We are told that they were sad or downcast (Luke 24:17). The fall introduced sadness into the world, a condition that affects us all. It seems they have lost hope, even though they have heard that Jesus who was handed over by the Sanhedrin, crucified by the Romans, was seen alive. And it is this frame of mind, of confusion, of doubt, of being unable to see the design of God, that afflicts the couple who are walking away from Jerusalem.
It seemed that all their hopes were dashed because they thought that Jesus would be the One to liberate the people from foreign oppression and dominion and yet he was put to death by those very powers. How could Israel be redeemed if the had so much promise to do it died on a cross? But some of the women reported to have seen him. Was that possible and what would it mean? I think these were some of the things just they were discussing.
In Genesis 315, God promised to redeem man. It was necessary that he should suffer and enter into his glory, making it possible for all who share the same human nature to enter into union with God, the union that had been lost in the fall. This is happening here! God intercepts the man and woman and walks with them. And walks and walks until it is evening. Just as he walked with Adam and Eve, “in the cool of the day,” he now walks with man and woman, restored by the Cross and Resurrection.
Elsewhere, I wrote about the greatest Bible story ever told—Jesus opening up the Scriptures to the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus. Just a word about it here: this couple representing humanity is being brought up to speed on what God has been doing to bring back the lost to him, ushering in the return to Paradise. A review of salvation history.
“Stay with us,” because we can no longer bear to be separated again. Humanity lost deep and abiding relationship with God and were barred from access to the tree of life and its fruit. But now it is possible for God to abide with us and in us, through the gift of grace
“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized him…”
When they were given the blessed fruit of the tree of life, their eyes were opened. Opened, not closed – – which is what happened to the eyes of the 1st couple when they took the fruit of the wrong tree. Life is restored in the medicine for the blindness of man – – the medicine freely given to us every Sunday. The Holy Eucharist is the antidote to death, because it is the Resurrected Christ Jesus himself. Jesus may have disappeared from their sight, but only from physical sight, and that, only temporarily. Now he is seen with the eyes of the gift of faith until we may behold him as he is, on the everlasting day.
And so, the couple are compelled to go back to Jerusalem, with joy in their hearts. They are returning back to the site of the Garden because it’s been opened back to them…