It is one of the most dissected moments in the life of the risen Jesus. On the same day His tomb was discovered empty, Jesus appears to two of His followers on the road to the village of Emmaus. Luke 24 recounts how Jesus appeared to them, feigning ignorance of the story of His own death and resurrection. We learn that one of the men was named Cleopas (perhaps because Luke interviewed him).

Jesus reveals to the pair how the Scripture they thought they knew weaves the story that leads to Jesus Himself. Yet, it’s not until they invite Him to stay the night that He breaks bread and then vanishes. This is the moment that has come under 20 centuries of scrutiny. Why did the breaking of bread open their eyes to who Jesus was? I find commentary on this point unsatisfying. William MacDonald in the “Believer’s Bible Commentary:”

The frugal meal became a sacrament, and the home became a House of God. That’s what Christ does wherever He goes. They who entertain Him will be well entertained. The two had opened to Him their home, and now He opens their eyes (Daily Notes of the Scripture Union).

As He broke the bread and passed it to them, they knew Him for the first time. Had they seen the print of the nails in His hands? We only know that their eyes had been miraculously opened to recognize Him. As soon as this happened, He vanished.

Here is Darrell Bock in the NIV Application Commentary:

Furthermore, it is no accident that Jesus is revealed as he sits having table fellowship with the two disciples. The table was the place for fellowship in the ancient world. Here family and friends gathered to share time with each other. Luke has underscored the importance of meal scenes throughout his Gospel.

This is not to say either take is wrong. But I believe something much bigger is represented here: communion, in two senses of the word. While Cleopas and his companion were not at the Last Supper, they very likely were aware of the scene in John 6 where many followers deserted Jesus after He said that to be one with Him, they must “eat His flesh and drink His blood.” In that moment with Jesus, perhaps the meaning became clear.

Secondly, the pair quickly head back to Jerusalem to be in communion with other believers; that is, in community. It is when we are in a church body, remembering what Jesus did for us, that we most easily recognize Him. Just as Jesus walked with the two followers on the Road to Emmaus, so are we to walk closely with Him through our lives. With Resurrection Sunday just a week behind us, it is good to remember that being in a church community is certainly one gift God gives us to keep walking close to Him.

Pastor Jerry Bader

This post is adapted from the message “The Burning Heart” delivered by Pastor Jerry at Samaritan’s Heart Mission church on April 7, 2004

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