He explained the scriptures to them

When I am away on leave, wherever I am, I always attend Mass on Sunday. A few years ago I was in Santiago de Compostella, in Spain on this Sunday and I remember today’s gospel being read. When it came to the part where the disciples asked their companion if he was the only one in Jerusalem who didn’t know about the things that had happened there, and Jesus asks what things, in Spanish, he just asks…………   'Que?’ It came out just like Manuel the Spanish waiter in the sitcom Fawlty Towers who was always asking, ‘Que?’ It made me smile.

The passage from St Luke on the road to Emmaus is a wonderful story. It is curious that Luke only names one of the disciples, ‘Cleopas’ who had this intimate encounter with the risen Lord. It doesn’t matter who he was, it is the identity of the third person that is important. What happens on the Emmaus road is very different to the Damascus Road experience of St Paul, where Christ appears to Paul in blinding light and challenges him as to why he is persecuting him. This is a more subtle appearance.  Jesus is only recognized when he breaks bread, when he does something familiar, but which of course was imbued with greater meaning following the Last Supper. The words ‘this is my body’ must have resonated inside the disciples as he broke the bread.

Their vision of him is fleeting, for as soon as he is recognized, he is gone. But this epiphany, the opening of their eyes, continues in retrospect, as they look back over their encounter with this stranger. Their hearts were warmed, they had burned within them as he explained the scriptures to them while they walked along. The scripture was explained to them to help make sense of what had happened to Jesus.

All through his earthly ministry Jesus had quoted scripture to his disciples. He was grounded in the scripture from his youth and young adulthood in the Nazareth Synagogue. When he had taken the scroll and read the prophecy of Isaiah and told them that the prophecy was now fulfilled in him,  the men of Nazareth were outraged and would have thrown him off the precipice outside the village had he not escaped them.

When I was at secondary school, I was given a Gideons New Testament and it had a plan to read a piece every day to complete it in year. I read it year after year. Being a pious teenager when my grandparents celebrated their golden wedding I gave them Bibles and asked them to read a piece every day. When I looked at them later, my grandad’s was still in pristine condition. But my lovely Nan, I could see, had started reading hers from the beginning and I think she got as far as Deuteronomy. What a thing to do to her, making her read all those obscure bits of Leviticus! But she did it because I asked her to. Were I to recommend reading the Bible to someone now, I would be more considerate and say start with the gospel of Mark.

Now is a good time for us to get to grips with the Bible. In general we are less familiar with the Bible than we used to be. When we hear it read it on Sundays it is just extracts, we do not see how it relates to the Bible as a whole. The Bible, once it becomes familiar to us, becomes like a tool box, or a medicine chest, we know where to turn for the guidance and help we need. My Gideons New Testament had a section that told the reader where to look when going through various problems of life. The Bible can be our defence. When we are familiar with it, then quotations come to us to help, challenge and correct us.  Just think how Jesus used scripture to ward off the temptations of Satan in the wilderness.

The Bible is best read slowly, in small sections, letting it speak to you, thinking about how it connects with you and your life now. We have a lot of time now to think and reflect, to look back over our lives and past events, and re-interpret them in the light of the gospel. What is Christ teaching us now, what would he reveal to us now? The answer to that question will be personal to each one of us.

Jesus is still our rabbi, our teacher. He has not left us. He and his teaching are as alive as ever and still with us in the pages of the gospel. Heaven and earth shall path away, he said, but my word abides for ever. He is there to be encountered. Let us give the Holy spirit the opportunity to kindle a fire in our hearts and make them burn within us. 


Luke 24.13-35