Conversation with compassion (Luke 24:18-24)

And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’


The attitude and approach of the not-yet-recognised Jesus is crucial in Luke 24. Earlier that morning, according to John’s account, Jesus asked after Mary’s grief (‘Woman, why are you weeping?’) and Mary’s desire (‘Whom are you looking for?’). The compassion of Jesus’ questions prepares Mary (and the reader) for the moment Jesus reveals himself by saying her name, ‘Mary!’ (Jn. 20:15-16a). On the day of the resurrection, the gospels record that not only were the women the first witnesses but that their hearts and minds were ready for Jesus to reveal himself, unlike the male disciples such as Peter, Thomas, and these two on the road to Emmaus. The compassion of the not-yet-recognised Jesus even extends to doubt and disbelief: ‘[Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe’” (Jn. 20:27). The hospitality of God offers compassion to the many unwelcome and unvisited visitors to the guesthouse of sorrows and disappointment: grief and doubt, remorse and regrets, cul-de-sacs and wrong turns.

‘What [words] were you discussing (antiballete, lit. “throwing back and forth at each other”) while you walk along?’ And they stood still, looking sad/gloomy (skuthroopoi, 24:17).

Unlike John’s gospel’s account of the words to Mary in the garden, here, ‘according to Luke, are the first words the Risen One speaks, yet the speaker has not yet revealed himself’.23 Jesus observes them struggling with each other and a dark mood pervades. Cleopas’ response conveys incredulity mixed with impatience: ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ (Lk. 24:18). Most readers notice Luke’s dramatic irony in the story (Lk. 24:19a). Edwards’ observation is as dry as Cleopas’ answer: ‘On the ironic journey to Emmaus living disciples talk about a dead Jesus, while a living Jesus speaks with lifeless disciples’.24 The compassion of Jesus ensures that the irony of the situation does not devolve into bitter sarcasm or crushing despair.

Once again, Jesus’ attitude and approach is instructive.25 Underneath their concise summary of the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth (‘a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him’ (Lk. 24:19-20)), Jesus discerns the residue of faith, hope, and even love: ‘we had hoped (elpizomen) that he was the One to redeem/ransom (lytrousthai) Israel’ (Lk. 24:21). According to Robert Tannehill, the verb ‘redeem’ (lytroo-mai) and the noun ‘redemption’ (lytrosis) occur in Luke only in Luke 1:68, 2:38, and 24:21.26 Jesus’ compassionate listening embraces their crucible of disappointment: the fading hope, the sense of betrayal and confusion, the lack of belief in Jesus’ own prophecies, or the women’s reports of an empty tomb.27 What is happening? Is Jesus merely demonstrating the supervision art of listening and focussing?28 Luke Timothy Johnson’s astute observation is less concerned about what Jesus is doing than what Luke is doing, as the master-narrator

shows us narratively the process by which the first believers actually did learn to understand the significance of the events they had witnessed. .. . The ‘opening of the eyes’ to see the texts truly and the ‘opening of the eyes’ to see Jesus truly are both part of the same complex process of seeking and finding meaning.29

The meaning of Jesus’ death is a revealed truth, as Luther argued so persuasively.30 These disciples want illumination, as supervisees come to supervision seeking insight and illumination. The revealing Jesus is God’s revelation, not merely God’s illumination. God’s revelation comes through a shameful and suffering death. Luke understood God was present and active in Jesus’ death even as he describes how the first disciples (especially the male disciples) resisted a suffering, dying Saviour.

Cruciformity (Luke 24:26-27)

‘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.

(Lk. 24:26-27)

These short verses contain the essence of Luke and Luther’s Christology: suffering (pathem or passion) of the Messiah was necessary (edei). Yes, necessary to fulfil the Scripture (‘Moses and all the prophets’) but theologically necessary because of God’s hidden-yet-revealed character and purpose. Luther’s theology of the cross (theologia crucis) is not the title of a book but a central theme in his Christology because Luther said ‘the cross is the test of everything’. What Luther means by this phrase and why it is so important for pastoral supervision is expanded on in the next chapter. Cruciformity, in the Christology of Luther, is the willingness to embrace the paradox of Christ, particularly the cross of Christ. First, the paradox that God is concealed yet revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Second, the paradox of a death on a cross that seemed like the end of the story (according to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus). Paradoxically, (according to the Bible exposition of Jesus on the road) this is where God is fully revealed. The heart of Luther’s theology of the cross is the paradox of concealment and revelation through Christ’s death on the cross: cruciformity.

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