The revealing Jesus (Luke 24:13-48)
The revelation about Jesus’ resurrection does not come from extraordinary experiences but from the explication of Scripture and a meal.10 Bovon eloquently summaries that ‘there is the structure of the Emmaus story; there is the movement of the text; and there is the context into which the narrative is inserted ... finally, there is this Jesus, is present and absent at the time of the incident, in the story, and today’.11 Some speculate that Luke’s famous story is crafted from an older oral tradition that is based around the risen Jesus, ‘the presence of two disciples and the revelation that leads to the recognition’.12 Very few commentators, in fact, have dare differed from the first four themes identified in Fitzmyer’s analysis that the Emmaus story ‘is filled with Lucan theological motifs. These are: 1) Geographical... 2) Revelatory ... 3) Chris-tological as fulfilling OTprophecy ... and 4) Eucharistic'.13 On the Emmaus Road, God fulfils his purposes and promises, in a particular place (and time), in and through the risen Christ: the revealing Jesus. The revealing Jesus is the solid, Christological base for pastoral supervision (and all faithful Christian living). More than timeless truths that float above the muck and mire of pastoral work, Luke 24 demonstrates how and why the revealing Jesus not only shines the light of God but is the light of God.
A Crucible of disappointment
B Contemplation on roads of retreat C Conversation with compassion D Cruciformity
C’ Conversation with challenge
B’ Contemplation on roads of revelation
A’ Crucible of celebration14
Light reveals darkness just as daybreak dispels the night. These rhythms and realities resonate with the deepest aspects of the human condition. Sometimes spiritual and sacred traditions have assumed or aspired to the notion that God is encountered in the light and therefore we should avoid the dark. Such assumptions and aspirations have no biblical or theological warrant.
The Emmaus journey is not simply one from the cold darkness of the empty tomb, via the two disciples’ hearts, to the warm light of the eucharistic moment of revelation and recognition. On one level, the narrative fulfils the prologue of John’s gospel (Jn. 1:9-10), ‘the true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him’. The revealing Jesus both gives light and is light. While such straightforward journeys from dark to light are spiritually and emotionally satisfying, they do not do justice to the contours and caveats of this text.
Christologically, the dramatic tension of Luke 24:13-35 revolves around an earlier part of John’s prologue: ‘that light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it’ (Jn. 1:5).
Crucible of disappointment (Luke 24:13-14)
The Emmaus story begins, to be sure, in shadow and darkness: under the shadow of Jesus’ cross and the unexpected darkness at noon just two days earlier. Also, under the shadow of the Roman Empire and the dark corners of bargains and betrayal. The darkness of death, defeat, and bitter disappointment. Cleopas and his companion’s story begins here, just as so many supervisees’ stories begin here. They do not yet believe that resurrection light shines in the darkness, despite their faith. They do not yet understand that the darkness did not overcome the light and life of the world, despite the rumours. While preachers, pastoral caregivers, and scholars might gloss over the beginning of this story, set in the darkness of disillusion and despair, the pastoral supervisor must know where to begin—and how to journey with— those in the crucible of disappointment.
What clues does Luke 24 provide about reverence and respect for those in the crucible of disappointment? Jesus’ approach, as noted by Hunter, Leach and Paterson, and many others, is exemplary.
Contemplation on roads of retreat (Luke 24:15-17)
What happens to the disappointment and despair that visits those in pastoral ministry? Where do they go? Luke describes how two disciples left Jerusalem, walking toward Emmaus, discussing what had happened over the past few days.15 As the disciples retreat from Jerusalem, their contemplation must not merely be sentimentalised or spiritualised as quiet meditation, critical reflection, or theological inquiry.16 Unwelcome and invited feelings of regret, remorse, and a sense of resignation crowd into the two disciples’ guesthouse. Myers suggests this is ‘a grief-laden, scared stiff, and contentious debriefing’ which is all too familiar for experienced pastoral supervisors. First, we must linger over the texts that describe what takes place on the Emmaus Road as needed. Then, interpreted through Luther’s Christology, particularly his theologia crucis, some biblical and theological wisdom can be interpreted for pastoral supervisors.
While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognising him.
Most crucial is the perplexing detail that these two disciples of Jesus did not recognise him. As Jesus’ companions explain why they are on the road of retreat, leaving Jerusalem, they do not recognise this companion as the resurrected Jesus, even though they had heard that the tomb was apparently empty because the women had reported it was empty. Jesus is not in the grave, and the women and others reported an angel who said Jesus was alive. He is not there, and it is not clear where he is. These two determine to walk towards Emmaus. Is this simply a case of heading in the wrong direction or a road of retreat (i.e., withdrawing to a safer location)? Retreat, in this sense, is a familiar tactic for those engaged in pastoral ministry. The crux of the story is the surprising renewal of hope and purpose that transforms these two disciples on their road of retreat. Some theories and approaches classify this as an intervention. Garland concludes ‘their incredulity reveals that they need a word of interpretation [or revelation] ... as in infancy narrative, heaven must intervene to reveal to befuddled humans what it all signifies’.17
The hiddenness of Jesus’ identity on the road is theologically complex because the text insists the two disciples ‘were kept from recognising him’ (Lk. 24:16).18 Luke does not reveal who or what kept them from recognising him. Tannehill discerns both individual failure and a larger pattern of the way God simultaneously reveals and conceals:
It is best to take this blindness as an inability to recognize their failure to understand Jesus’ passion announcements. Here, as there, something crucial ‘was concealed’ (9:45) or ‘was hidden from them’ (18:34), but this concealment reflects their unreadiness to deal with Jesus’ death.19
Concealment reflecting an unreadiness comes as a surprising gift of grace on the road of retreat. Contemplation on roads of retreat begins with grace, gentleness, and patience for the important reason that those in the crucible of disappointment may not be ready. On the Emmaus Road, walking the roads of regret with the revealing Jesus penetrated illusions about the Messiah and brought them closer to reality—seeing God’s presence and purpose in the suffering Christ on the cross.
The story does not end, however, with the disciples still waiting, still prevented from recognising him. In Luke 24:31, their condition is reversed, ‘then their eyes were opened’.20 Luke’s use of the word recognise (epegnosan, see also Lk. 1:4, 22; 5:22; 7:13) takes on a particular significance on the Emmaus Road because the risen revealing Jesus is both the object and the agent of their recognition. The theological importance of the revealing Jesus being both object and agent is crucial.21 Luther’s exposition here is remarkable: ‘God will no longer preach to them; instead, God will be seen and touched by them’.22 God’s hiddenness is revealed by God’s presence consistently emphasised in Luther’s theology of the cross.