3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A | Luke 24:13-35
Square Dance with Jesus
When I was young, my parents took us for a week at a family camp in the mountains of North Carolina. The first night was a square dance. My sisters do-si-doed with the best of them, but despite my parents’ begging, I was rooted to the sidelines, petrified of embarrassment. Finally, at the very end, I edged out onto the floor…and had so much fun that I begged to stay another week so we could go to the first-night square dance all over again.
The very end of Luke’s account of the Road to Emmaus took me back to that night in the mountains. Jesus has spent an entire day with the disciples. Only at the end when He breaks the bread do “they recognize him,” but at that moment of existential clarity, “he vanishes from their sight” (v. 31). It doesn’t look like they will get to square dance with Jesus again. They must have begged for a re-do of the day.
I imagine the two disciples doing just as I would do, walking on the road, deep in conversation, pouring over every detail over the past three days. The events of the morning, the women’s return from the empty tomb and report of a conversation of an angel, would take top billing in the exchange. When another man joins them, the disciples recall the events, turning them over yet again, looking for meaning. Like us, they operate from the basis of lived experience, and so they struggle to make sense of it, between themselves and now for this stranger.
They tell the stranger that Jesus was “a prophet” (v.19), a very powerful prophet, one they “hoped…would redeem Israel…” (v.21), but they stop short of declaring Jesus to be the Messiah. Because how could these awful events have happened to the Son of God? In their imagination, the Messiah can only be bound by their earthly assumptions.
And so in a very human act, Jesus reveals His identity to them. He breaks bread. And, they see the stranger for who He really is. But, just as their eyes are opened, He vanishes. Isn’t that how it always is? My son has been teaching me piano during the quarantine. Yesterday, I finally “got” a tricky part of the waltz I’m working on, but today, that success vanished as I looked at the next lines I need to learn. The fun I had in my one square dance vanished when I thought of all the dances I didn’t do.
However, the disciples took a different tact. Rather than kick themselves over their blindness, they ran back to Jerusalem to spread the news.
Perhaps that sums up faith. Take Jesus’s forgiveness to heart and apply it to our blind spots, because He already has. Forgiveness doesn’t mean stagnant. Take the lesson forward. Square dance all night at the next opportunity. Use the mastered “tricky part” to bolster our courage to take on the next challenge. Rush back to spread the news. Revel in the breaking of the bread and all that elevates our humanity into the world of the Divine.