Easter 3 • Luke 24:13–35 • May 8, 2011
By Travis J. Scholl
Does it strike anyone else as odd that the three-year lectionary assigns this classic Lucan text in every year but year C, the “year of Luke”? Nevertheless, here we are in the “year of Matthew” listening to Cleopas and his companion tell of all that happened on the road (v. 35).
This raises the question: is there anything in this text that echoes the themes of what we have heard from Matthew thus far? Advent and Christmas brought us what Jeff Gibbs (who talks about preaching Matthew at ConcordiaTheology.org) has called “the annunciation of Joseph.” Epiphany brought the awe- (or is it fear?) striking series of passages from the Sermon on the Mount. Lent introduces Matthew’s version of the temptation of Jesus before interludes from John. And the Sunday of the Passion gives us Matthew’s passion, including its cosmic implications—the temple curtain tearing, the earth shaking, and the rising of the dead. Finally, Matthew’s Easter account, with its tender details: “Suddenly, Jesus met [the women] and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him” (Mt 28:9, emphasis mine).
If, as many have maintained, the Gospel of Matthew is at least partly about discipleship (Martin Franzmann wrote a whole book about it), then perhaps this gives us good reason for the Lucan meat in the middle of a “Matthean sandwich.” Cleopas and his companion exemplify discipleship in spades: the initial blindness and confusion even as they think they know the whole story, the sudden spark of revelation, the breathless eagerness to run back and share the good news. “The Lord has risen indeed!” (v. 34). In this sense, perhaps this interlude from Luke in the year of Matthew exemplifies the unifying witness of the Synoptic tradition as a whole. The resurrected Christ makes disciples, whenever and wherever.
And the risen Christ is the center of this story, isn’t he? He is the listening companion, who begins in open curiosity (v. 17: “What are you discussing with each other?”). He is the interpretive dynamo, decoding the signs of the Scriptures (v. 25–27). He is the self-revelation of God, revealed in the hospitality of broken bread (v. 30–32). The stirring response of the two in verse 32 sums up this revealed identity of Jesus and how this identity transforms all who are witnesses of the risen Christ. Which includes us. This is the same person we encounter in the broken bread of the Eucharist. We are Cleopas’s companion on the road.
It is striking, and perhaps peculiarly Lucan, that this episode happens on a journey. We are people en route. We haven’t yet arrived. We keep putting one foot in front of the other. Christ meets us on the road, where the going is tough no matter who you are. Yet, in another way, could this “revelation on the road” also serve as a precursor to Matthew’s Great Commission, which we will hear on Trinity Sunday? Could Cleopas and his companion be foreshadowing the resurrection road of all Matthew’s disciples, first to Jerusalem, then to the ends of the earth?
The lectionary seems to think so. More importantly, it will be in Matthew where the risen Christ makes the promise of Emmaus explicit: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Breaking bread together is the sign that makes it certain.