This is the second of three Resurrection Appearances I will be discussing during the three days of Easter (in the afternoon), and is perhaps the most well-known and beloved of all those recorded in the Gospels: the appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (centerpiece of the liturgical Officium Peregrinorum). The extraordinary narrative—one of the longest such narratives in the Gospels—is unique to Luke (24:13-35), although there is presumably a reference to it in the so-called “long ending” of Mark (16:12-13). While Luke may well have expanded and dramatized the core tradition, it remains thoroughly convincing and lived-in; on every objective ground, the basic historicity of the event would be difficult to question. However, there is no doubt that, as a literary work, Luke has given to the narrative a careful interpretive structure. There are probably any number of ways this section could be outlined, but here is one that I offer (arranged chiastically, to indicate parallel scenes and details):
A [vv. 13-14] The two disciples are
a) travelling from Jerusalem (a)po\ )Ierousalh/m) and
b) conversing with each other (pro\$ a)llh/lou$) about all the things that had “come together”
B [vv. 15-16] As the disciples are conversing and inquiring with each other
a) Jesus comes near to them, but
b) their eyes are “held” and they cannot recognize [lit. “know upon”] him
C [vv. 17-18] The exchange:
a) Jesus acts: He draws them out (asking “what are these logoi….?”)
b) The disciples [one, Cleopas] ask
** about Jesus’ as a stranger [“one who houses along”]
** mentioning the things coming to be in these days
c) Jesus acts: He draws closer into their conversation (asking “what [things]?”)
D [vv. 19-24] What things?
a) the recent events of Jesus’ death and (reports of his) resurrection
b) they hoped he was the Anointed One [“the one about to ransom/redeem Israel”] (v. 21)
D´ [vv. 25-27] What things?
a) all that Moses and the Prophets said of his death (suffering) and resurrection (coming into glory)
b) what they say about him [the “Anointed One”]
C´ [vv. 28-29] The exchange:
a) Jesus acts: He draws them out (making toward travelling further)
b) The disciples ask
** for Jesus to come into their house as guest [“remain with us”]
** mentioning that now the day has bent down [i.e. is almost over]
c) Jesus acts: He draws closer, going in to “remain with them”
B´ [vv. 30-31] The disciples are reclining (at meal) together with Jesus
a) Jesus takes (blesses and breaks) bread and gives to them
b) their eyes are “opened” and they recognize [“know upon”] him
[b´) Jesus comes to be invisible from them]
A´ [vv. 32] The disciples
b) say to each other (pro\$ a)llh/lou$) “was not our heart burning in us as…?”
a) standing up immediately they return to Jerusalem (ei)$ )Ierousalh/m)
In a straightforward (linear, dramatic) reading of the passage, one might naturally view the recognition of Jesus during the breaking of bread as the climactic point. There is certainly truth to this (the sacramental symbolism is noteworthy and clear). However, as indicated in the outline above, I feel it is rather the exposition of Scripture (v. 25-27), in relation to the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection (vv. 19-24), which is the central moment of the narrative. This would seem to be confirmed by the disciples ultimate response—they refer not to the revelatory moment at the breaking of bread, but to the earlier exposition: “was not our heart burning in us as he spoke with us in the way…?” (v. 32).
A few brief notes on this verse in particular:
(1) Instead of kaiome/nh (“burning”), other (primarily Western) witnesses read (or translate) kekalumme/nh (“covered”), bradei=a (“heavy”) or words indicating “hardened”, etc. However, kaiome/nh is almost certainly correct. The verb can indicate the condition (or process) of being burned (up), or it can have a causative meaning—i.e., to kindle, set on fire. The passive form here would seem to indicate a fire being kindled, but also the process—ongoing action, as indicated by the progressive periphrastic construction (kaiome/nh h@n).
(2) A few key early manuscripts (Ë75 B D) and versions do not include e)n u(mi=n (“in us”). This would be a natural addition, and possibly not original, though it is probably best to retain it in the text.
(3) It is said that Jesus “opened” (dih/noigen) the Writings [Scriptures] to them. This same verb (an intensive form of a)noi/gw) is used for the opening of the disciples’ eyes to recognize Jesus at the breaking of bread. Luke uses it again in v. 45, in a very similar context, where it is stated that he “opened” the mind (or understanding) of the disciples so as to understand the Scriptures. Earlier in the Emmaus narrative here (v. 27), a different verb is used: it says that Jesus “interpreted” (diermh/neusen) the things concerning himself in all the Writings (e)n pa/sai$ tai=$ grafai=$). This verb is an intensive form of e(rmhneu/w, rendered literally “explain through”, that is, to explain from one reference point (or language) to another.
(4) There may be a symbolic import to the phrase “in the way” (e)n th=| o)dw=|): “as he spoke with us in the way”. In the narrative context this simply means that Jesus spoke to them while they were travelling; however, “the way” appears also to have a been a (short-lived) term for the early Christian Community (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 12; cf. also the testimony of John the Baptist, Luke 1:76; 3:4; 7:27 and par.).