There was a day when I wanted to see how fast the coil burners heat up on the stove, so I put my hand on the burner and turned it on. Did you know the coil burners heat up really fast on your stove? You can almost – almost – get your hand off before you get burned.
Do you think God ever looks down from heaven, shakes his head, and asks himself, “You know I buy them books and send them to school, so why are they still doing foolish things?”
In our gospel reading today, when Jesus catches up to the two on the road, he declares the same thing, ”Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”
It is not stated in the Gospels why the two are headed to Emmaus, but I would be willing to make an educated guess.
As the two are walking along the road, Jesus joins them, and asked them what they were discussing. Not knowing that it was in fact Jesus who asked them, they answered him as though he had spent the last three days in a cave or something. They say to Jesus that the the greatest prophet Israel had ever known, the long awaited Messiah who was going to free the people had finally come, but the chief priest had him put to death. All their hopes and dreams had crumbled at his death. Put another way, they say, “O woe is us. All is lost.”
Why are the two headed to Emmaus? They are going home. In their minds they are defeated and there is no point hanging out in Jerusalem any longer. Even the direction they are traveling is telling. Emmaus is almost due west of Jerusalem, the sun is setting, the day is over and the sun has set on the Messiah. Where they once walked in the light, all is now turning dark. It is then that Jesus speaks, “Stop being so foolish and let me explain it to you. Let me show you how you are wrong,” and he proceeds to reveal the truth about the Savior, about himself, and he does so in two very important ways.
First, He opens the scripture for them and explains it in such a way that their hearts burned with in them. Second, he breaks bread with them just as he had done at the last supper. Jesus revealed the truth about himself in word, the explanation of Holy Scripture, and sacrament, the breaking of bread. Through word and sacrament he revealed himself to them and in that instant they knew him.
It is the same today and there is only one place where we can receive both: the church. Archbishop Rowan Williams declares, “The Church is the new creation, it is life and joy, it is the sacramental fellowship in which we share the ultimate purpose of God, made real for us now in our hearing the Word and sharing the Sacrament.”
My good friend Thomas a Kempis writes, “You have given me in my weakness Your sacred Flesh to refresh my soul and body, and You have set Your word as the guiding light for my feet. Without them I could not live aright, for the word of God is the light of my soul and Your Sacrament is the Bread of Life.” These two life giving and soul lighting gifts are found only in the Church.
The two on the road to Emmaus had lost hope, but Jesus revealed to them that he is present to us all in word and sacrament, found only in Christ’s one holy catholic and apostolic church.