Jerusalem is the place where the events of salvation took place. It is the place where Jesus suffered, died and rose again. But on the very same day of Jesus’ resurrection two of His disciples turned away from Jerusalem – the place of salvation. According to the narrative of Luke, Jesus journeyed setting His face towards Jerusalem – the location of His passion and death. In sheer contrast to Jesus, two of His disciples turned their back to Jerusalem and went away from Jerusalem – the place of fear and frustration. By deserting Jerusalem, they were moving away from Jesus and His salvific ministry. They were taking a wrong direction in their life; they were on a wrong journey. They were straying away from their divine destiny. As all those who move along a wrong path, these two disciples also were sad and disappointed.
Jesus, the good shepherd, wouldn’t abandon the straying sheep. In fact, He came to seek the lost. He does not disown and resent the unfaithful ones. Like the good shepherd He goes in search of the lost. He met them on the road. He did not scold them or complain against their unfaithfulness and cowardice. He patiently listened to them. Then He started explaining to them the Scriptures. The way He interpreted the Scriptures was quite unfamiliar to them. His understanding and interpretation of the scriptures were not in tone with their traditional understanding of the Torah. It undermined their age old and popular concepts of the Messiah. It questioned their view of the problem of suffering. It appeared to them that He believed that suffering has a meaning in human life. Though He spoke in categories foreign to them, they were ready to listen to Him and even believe Him because He seemed to understand their pain; what more, He was accompanying them in their suffering. Who wouldn’t listen to those who are genuinely interested about them and willing to help them?
It is worth noting that Jesus accompanied the disciples not for some time and not for the namesake; He accompanied them till their hearts were burned and their eyes were opened. Their hearts that became cold with disappointment were made warm with His empowering presence; hearts heavy with sadness were made light with His comforting words. He accompanied them till He could make a change in them. In the breaking of the bread their eyes were opened to see the meaning and richness of a self emptying life.
Jesus is risen and it means He meets us all on our way, that is, in the ordinary events of our daily life. He reaches out to us through all those who are genuinely concerned about us and who are ready to help us. We experience His comforting presence through all those who try to console us, encourage us and listen to us. As we encounter the risen Lord through all those well meaning family members, friends and even strangers, it is our mission to extend the presence of the risen Lord by extending a listening ear, understanding heart and a helping hand to our fellow travellers on the road to our common destiny. Sharing the word and bread would do a great deal in illumining the hearts and minds, paths and life of our dear ones.
To those two, erring“ disciples, the warm experience of meeting with the risen Lord was a pure gift. But they did not remain in their house cherishing that beautiful experience. They decided to go back to Jerusalem. Each gift is also an invitation to respond. The gift of the encounter with the risen Lord invited them to take a new direction in their life. It was an invitation to change their “ways,” to change the course of their action and life. They promptly responded by their action of going back to Jerusalem.
The city of Jerusalem which they forfeited in fear and disappointment now became a source of great comfort and joy as they found in the same city a group of people who have the similar kind of experience with the risen Lord. In Jerusalem these two disciples did not remain silent listeners of the experience of the apostolic community. They added their testimony to the collective testimony of the apostolic band. Listening from the apostles added a reconfirmation to their own personal experience with the risen Lord; and adding their testimony to that of the apostles authenticated what the apostles shared with them.