‘Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…’
[This is the fifth of the 11 Resurrectional Gospels of Matins]
After He was raised from the dead, Paul tells us that Jesus
…appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time… then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles…(I Cor. 15:5-7)
For forty days, the Risen Lord thus appeared to his followers before His ascension into heaven. Forty is the biblical number that signifies a period of trial ending in a revival or new beginning. If we examine the story of Cleopas on the road to Emmaus, we can see more clearly why these days were needed.
When Jesus first joined Cleopas and his partner (the evangelist Luke himself?), He appeared as a stranger. How often does Jesus thus appear in our midst. Perhaps He is manifest right now in the midst of the health-care workers caring for the victims of our pandemic. Or among the low-paid workers in the internet warehouses laboring to deliver to us the goods we need and expect. Jesus is always present, if unrecognized, in His solidarity with the suffering and the down trodden.
How sadly ironic are Cleopas’s words in asking Jesus Himself if ‘he was the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place’ (v. 18). Instead, we are the ones who are oftentimes the last to know.
Cleopas had witnessed the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, ‘a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people’ (v. 19). He had hoped He was the one to fulfill Israel’s hope of a redeemer (v. 21). But his experience had yet to catch up with his convictions. His eyes —- no, more than his eyes, his heart — had first to be opened. First, to the Scriptures.
‘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?’Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (v. 25-27)
But the revelation of the Risen Lord occurred from what happened next — at the breaking of the bread, at what amounts to the first Divine Liturgy in human history.
Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…