How does one recognize Jesus? The resurrection appearances, as I have been noting, frequently seem to include this component of non-recognition. Here we have two unnamed disciples, leaving town after the death of Jesus, not knowing what’s up, and he joins them on the road. But they don’t know who he is.
Notice that they begin telling their companion who Jesus was and what had happened to him. They even repeat the resurrection story as they have heard it from others. Jesus chides them for their foolishness. But why are they foolish? Because all the evidence they need is right there even before they recognize him. And so he explains to them, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” that none of this should have been a surprise, but rather should have shown them who Jesus was and given them hope and courage.
And while he does this, their hearts were burning within them. Something was being kindled, that had not been kindled yet. But still, they are not aware of who this is.
Then, in a eucharistic moment, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.” This is extremely curious language. We have the blindness theme, so common in the gospels and especially so important in Luke and Acts. They have been blind, and now they see. But they do not only see who this is that has been with them on the road; they see who Jesus was all along. Remember how he called them foolish? Their blindness concerned not only this fellow-traveler on the road; they were also blind to who Jesus was before his passion.
Now that they can see, he vanishes from their sight. He is no longer seen, because they have seen. What is the meaning of this? Once more, as I noted yesterday, the point is to send them back to the community from which they came. Instead of leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus, giving up hope, they are to return. Jesus did not appear to them and manifest himself to them in order to give them a pep-talk; he did so to reverse their blindness and to send them back to Jerusalem. Once their blindness had been reversed, they reversed their steps as well.
And so they rejoin the community in Jerusalem, which is by now abuzz with the news of resurrection, and they add their own story to the rest.
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