Has anyone seen Jesus today?
Today’s Gospel reading is Luke’s account of the risen Christ accompanying Cleopas and his friend along the road from Jerusalem. They are returning home to Emmaus, their hopes of a new start dashed. The irony is that while they initially think that they are telling Jesus what has been happening, what actually unfolds is Jesus explaining to them what is said about him in the scriptures.
They don’t recognise him until he breaks the bread at their table. How can we blame them? Who would have expected Jesus to appear on the road? Who would expect Jesus to come and keep them company during this lockdown? And if he did, would we recognise him?
Here’s a wee story – of Jesus visiting a Divinity College in the 21st century.
The Church at Emmaus
Jesus looks around for somewhere to sit, just to give himself time to get his bearings. Unobtrusive, unthreatening, unremarkable, this is a man simply sitting and watching what is going on round about him.
He notices that there seem to be as many women as men involved in the study of religion – very different from the Temple in Jerusalem, then. They are of all ages, from some who look young enough to be still at school, to others who are surely beyond the normal age of retirement. He hears different languages, and English being spoken in a wide variety of accents. Most people are casually dressed like himself – there is nothing to suggest that he is in the company of scholars.
One of the students sits down at the other end of the bench – he dumps his bag down and reaches in for his phone. After a few minutes he sighs loudly, and puts the phone away. “Bad news?” Jesus enquires. “Oh, kind of,” comes the reply. “I asked for an extension on my essay but my tutor has refused it. I don’t how I’m going to get it done today – I’ve got a shift at the pub tonight and I really need the money.”
Jesus makes sympathetic noises.
After a pause, seeing that the young man is making no sign of moving and seems lost in himself, Jesus gently asks, “What’s your essay about?”
“The miracles of Jesus as told by Luke. Huh – don’t suppose you could write it for me?”
“Sorry, no. But I could help you with what to write, if that’s any good.”
The student looks dubiously at the man on the bench. But decides he has nothing to lose.
“Okay then, let’s give it a go. I’ll just fire up my laptop.”
Fingers poised on the keyboard, the student begins to write an essay that will lead him to a first class Honours degree and post-graduate study.
He never finds out that the man who helped him with what to write was the one he was asked to write about. But, like Cleopas and his companions who unwittingly journeyed with the risen Christ on the road home from Jerusalem to Emmaus, he says later to his friends,
“I met this guy out in the quad and he offered to help me with my essay. I was so desperate I accepted. But you know, when he was talking, it was as if a fire was burning in my heart. Luke’s gospel made sense in a way it never had before. It was weird.
“I asked him to join me for a coffee just to say thank you, but when I turned round in the queue to ask him if he fancied a muffin to go with it, he’d disappeared. I looked all over the Union, but there was no sign of him anywhere. I’m telling you, it was weird.”