Jesus shows up while everyone is chatting about His encounter with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus.
Even after the accounts of the holy women and the Emmaus disciples, their first reaction to the presence of Jesus is alarm and fright.
It takes some considerable time and patience on Jesus’ behalf before they calm down enough for them to be able to listen to Him.
We see a similar pattern of gradual revelation here as we saw last week with St John’s account.
First He is present, then He speaks to them, then He invites them to inspect His body, and then to touch Him. Jesus then uncovers His hands and feet for them. Then He shows them that He is still capable of eating.
Despite their zombie-like reactions, this is a crucially important encounter. They are seeing their Jesus for the first time as the Crucified and Risen One. It is to this reality that they are to become witnesses to the whole world.
Again, just like in St John, Jesus shows His resurrection before He reveals the evidence of His crucifixion. We know ourselves how much easier it is to talk about Jesus as the Risen One compared to talking about Him as the Crucified One. We all want to partake in His resurrection; we are definitely not so keen on sharing His path of suffering, agony and death. Yet until we know Him both ways, we cannot be effective witnesses.
Once the disciples have calmed down enough for their higher brain functions to kick back in, Jesus comes to the second part of His purpose for this visitation.
It is only now that they have encountered Him as Crucified and Risen that Jesus can unfold the whole wonderful plan of God to them. It is through Jesus, Crucified and Risen, that all of salvation history makes sense. Without this lens we cannot understand the fullness of God’s eternal purpose.
How Jesus does this with the disciples is very different to how He did it with the Emmaus disciples. He deliberately and miraculously opens their minds to fully understand the Scriptures. Can you see that it is important that they receive this revelation directly from Jesus, and not indirectly from the Emmaus disciples, so that we can have confidence that our faith is founded on the power of God and not on human reasoning?
Yet the Emmaus disciples are still a gift to the other disciples, because with all this knowledge to crunch through and make sense of, having them as memory keepers of the best scriptural starting points for understanding these mysteries is a very big blessing.
Jesus tells them to look for all the times in the Law of Moses, in the writings of the Prophets and in the Psalms that prefigured and prophesied about Him, to be amazed at how the Crucified and Risen plan of God permeates the Scriptures, and to see the ultimate reason: inviting people back into full relationship with God through repentance.
We know the Church has taken these words and actions of Jesus seriously because Sunday by Sunday the readings and the psalms are chosen to shed light on each other, with the Old Testament prefiguring the New, and the New fulfilling the Old.
This means that we cannot know Jesus fully unless we know Him Crucified and Risen, AND we also know Him through all of the Scriptures.
This also means that there are levels of understanding the scriptures that can only be opened up to us by the power of God. We should diligently ask for these graces.
We can also see that Jesus knew that it would take the disciples time to unpack and digest all the infused knowledge He gave them. That is the purpose of that first season of Easter weeks. It was a vital preparation for Pentecost. Without this process they could never have preached effectively and authoritatively. We know it worked, because on Pentecost morning Peter gets up and quotes from Joel, 2 Samuel, Isaiah, and Psalms 16, 110 and 132 with great confidence.
Dear Heavenly Father, where we do not know Your Son Jesus in His resurrection, crucifixion, and Holy Scripture to the extent that You want for us, please grant to us that precious revelation. It doesn’t matter to us whether You use the Emmaus method, the Upper Room method, or a combination of both; only that we come to know Jesus in the fullness that You want for us. Please make that happen so that we can become more effective witnesses to You and to Your wonderfully grand plan of salvation. Amen.