April 30, 2017
Fr. Phil Eberhart
On the Road to Emmaus ... Again!
This morning we've just heard the gospel, as we do with the passion gospel, from the perspective of different voices, even with our own voices mixed in, telling the story of the journey to Emmaus on the evening of the Resurrection.
This morning I want to look deeply at what has happened - at what was said, both leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, during the event itself, and what happened on the road in our reading.
First a bit of a flashback to a moment of teaching from Jesus, about his body and blood - a moment that many disciples misunderstood and some left off following him. You remember the discourse? Turn to John 6, if you have your bible or your phone handy. John 6.
Let's take a few broad strokes to paint the canvas...
V. 4. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.
This was the Passover of the second year of Jesus earthly teaching ministry, the one before He would be in Jerusalem with his disciples the next and last Passover he would celebrate. He is in Galilee probably on the natural hillside to the west of Capernaum, today called the Arbel. A natural hillside or mountain, that provided a place like an amphitheater where Jesus could speak and be heard easily by many.
Once again the disciples are gathered with him as they prepare for the Passover together. Even then the Jews spent the month prior to Passover in a season of preparation, much like our present day Lenten disciplines.
In this setting, people find him and flock to him. He feeds them, some 5000 men it says, with the 'school boys lunch' of 5 loaves of barley and two small fish.
7 items, feed 5000 men and their families, and they are instructed to gather up what remains - into 12 baskets full of bread pieces and fish scraps. Interesting numbers here - 7 the number of perfection, fullness, completion and 12 the number of the tribes of Israel, just like the loaves of the Shewbread in the Old Testament Tabernacle. The Bread of the Presence! We will come back to that thought.
Also interesting that what we see here is a form of Eucharist - Jesus action was to do what he did at the table on his last night ...
He took the loaves
He blessed the loaves
He broke the loaves
He gave the loaves and fish
Take - Bless - Break - Give ... remember those words.
The disciples were instructed to "gather up" the remains of the meal. Herein was the visible sign of the miracle!
There was more left over than there was originally - a great deal more, in fact! And people said (v 14) “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
They saw him as the Prophet, the Teacher and potentially, the coming King - in fact some wanted to make him King by force. What an advantage to have a king who could feed the troops on 5 loaves and two fish!! No more need for provisions!!
Now we skip to the end of the chapter, about v.30. The Pharisees and people are seeking a sign - a sign like the Manna from Heaven that Israel ate after the Exodus event, in the wilderness. Jesus picks up on that and teaches that He is the NEW MANNA.
[Jhn 6:33, 35 NASB] 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." ... 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
And finally Jesus become explicit in his instruction - so much so that many take offense at his teaching:
[Jhn 6:33, 35, 48-51 NASB] 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." ... 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. ... 48 "I am the bread of life. 49 "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 "This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh."
Here even his disciples get offended, as Jesus goes even further into the mystery of His Body...
[Jhn 6:33, 35, 53-56, 60 NASB] 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." ... 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. ... 53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 "For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
... 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?"
Many of those who were following him left at this point. Thinking He was advocating some kind of cannibalism, which was abhorrent to the Jews, ( as it is to the modern mind). This charge stayed with the disciples and the church for decades, because of their understanding of the Eucharist and its depth of meaning and mystery.
Now come with me to the Last Supper: Luke 22
A year later, they are near Jerusalem and a room is found, prepared for them to celebrate the Passover meal (what we know today as the Seder meal) together, in remembrance, as is Jewish custom, of the Exodus event and the Jewish identity as the People of God.
[Luk 22:19-20 NASB] 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread to them.
But something is different - He identifies the bread broken now with His body, and the wine given and drunk with His blood. He is now become the "lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
Interestingly, in the gospel account the seder meal seems to be incomplete. The cup that is passed is the 3rd cup, the cup of Redemption. It's also clear that the disciples and Jesus leave the Upper Room at that moment to go across The Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus prayed that "this cup might pass from" him. Yet, "not my will but thine be done" he concludes.
Now look at Jesus' final moments and words on the cross:
Final words were "Into your hands I commit my spirit." Just before that, "It is finished!" But what was finished? What were the words just before those? Simply, "I THIRST." Jesus takes a drink of sour wine, the fourth and final cup of the Seder meal, the cup of thanksgiving; the Hallel Cup. THE SEDER IS FINISHED. Jesus has wrapped his own sacrifice forever into the ancient atonement sacrifices celebrated for millennia by his people. The kingdom of God had been initiated and continues to this day in the Eucharistic Feast, where God and man at table are sat down!
And all of this is confirmed - has God's stamp of approval - by the Resurrection!! In his death Jesus enters with His own blood into the Holy of Holies, before the very Throne of God in Heaven, to present, once for all, his very blood as the propitiation - the payment for the sins of the whole world. The Resurrection of Jesus, like the exit of the priest from the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament, indicated and indicates to us the Acceptance of God of the Sacrifice.
Jesus walk in the evening with Cleopas and the other disciple, explained this mystery to them along with the mystery of the suffering of the Christ -- of Jesus of Nazareth.
It is apparent that they were still stuck in the belief that Jesus was "just" a Prophet or a Teacher, great in power. One we had hoped would "restore the Kingdom to Israel" but they did not understand still who Jesus actually was and the scope of His mission.
Just one last piece here. A piece of bread! Once again Jesus sits with them and does what He does, what He did on the seashore, on the mountainside in Galilee, and in the Upper Room: He takes, He blesses, He breaks and He gives. The fourfold action of the Eucharist has become recognizable to them, and Jesus uses it to reveal Himself a final time - he opens their eyes to see him.
Lord, open our eyes to see you again this morning in the taking of the bread, the blessing of the bread, the breaking of the bread and the giving of the bread. You are the host of our meal at Your Table in Your Kingdom. Come and be all that you are, both Host and victim, sacrifice and savior in our midst. Help us, -- open our eyes to see You, present and visible to us in the bread as surely as you are here with us face to face. We want to see you, Jesus.
Open our eyes, Lord
We want to see Jesus,
To reach out and touch him
And tell Him we love Him.
Open our ears Lord
And help us to listen.
Open our eyes, Lord
We want to see Jesus!
Lord, in your mercy...
Hear our prayer!