As mentioned in my last blog post, Cafe Worship on Easter Sunday evening was on the theme of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-49).
We began by looking at Antonia Rolls’ painting ‘Jesus on the Tube‘, discussing how Jesus and his fellow passengers are depicted. Antonia comments of her painting:
This painting is about Jesus sitting on the Circle Line one day, and being studiously ignored by those sitting next to him. He looks directly out at you, so you cannot ignore him, even if you want to. Maybe Jesus did sit next to you once; maybe he sits next to all of us, frequently. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he is waiting for you to recognise him, and won’t give up or get off the Northern Line until you do.
After reading the story of the Emmaus Road from the Bible, I suggested:
The idea that Christ walks with us incognito, in the guise of a stranger is very compelling. We are invited to identify with the two who walked the Emmaus Road, in all their disappointment and uncertainty, and found themselves in the presence of the risen Christ, revealed in the sharing of scripture and the breaking of bread.
One of the curious features of this story is that this is the first and last time we meet Cleopas and his companion. Of Cleopas we know nothing more than his name; in the case of his companion we don’t even know that.
Neither do we know precisely where this encounter took place. Historians are uncertain about the location of the biblical Emmaus, and therefore the route that Cleopas and friend were walking.
We are left with the strange fact that the first encounter with the risen Christ in Luke’s gospel is with anonymous disciples on an unknown road. But it is this that gives the story its power.
For any road can lead to Emmaus. Whether it is the Caledonian Road or the ruined streets of Japan’s tsunami blighted cities, the risen Christ is there and still takes people by surprise, ministering to them in their sadness and brokenness.
In the words of Barbara Brown Taylor,
“He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconsolate. He comes to those who do not know their Bibles, who do not recognize him even when they are walking right beside him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home…” (Home By Another Way)
It’s a comforting story. But it also contains a challenge. Are we willing and able to open our hearts and minds to Christ, the stranger in our midst, or are we like the passengers in Antonia Rolls’ painting, self-absorbed in their own personal space and thoughts? If the two on the Emmaus Road had not taken time to engage with and speak to a stranger they would not have met the Christ.