On this Third Sunday of Easter, as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we hear one of the most familiar stories in all of the gospels. We all know this touching account of the two disciples encountering the risen Jesus as they were leaving Jerusalem and going to Emmaus. We don’t know why they were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Despite all of the archeological work done in the Holy Land, we’re not even sure where Emmaus was; it’s not there anymore. But, we know that the two disciples were grappling with the death and disappearance of their teacher, Jesus. When the risen Lord joins them, he asks them what they were discussing and debating; their discussion must have been quite lively. Their response to his answer is so ironic. Astounded, and not knowing who they were talking to – you’ll notice the detail in today’s gospel passage that “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him” – they say to Jesus, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place in these days?” How ironic. In fact, they are talking to the only one in Jerusalem who really does know what has happened. And notice what happens next. Jesus goes to the Sacred Scriptures to explain all that has happened to him. This was all part of God’s plan and all that the disciples had to do was to pay attention to God’s revelation to them in the sacred texts. That’s an important lesson for all of us. That’s why we should read the Bible often; its message is true down through the ages. And, God has a plan for each of us. Reading and reflecting on the Bible will help us to recognize and follow it. And then, he reveals himself to the disciples in the Breaking of the Bread. That’s exactly what happens every time we gather together here around our Lord’s Table: we hear God’s Word and have it broken open for us and then receive his Son in the Breaking of the Bread.
So, let’s pay attention to the sacred texts we have just heard; they reveal to us the fullness of the truth that God has made known through our Lord’s death and resurrection. In today’s first reading, we hear Peter quote from Psalm 16: “My heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted … because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.” A thousand years before our Lord’s death and resurrection, God’s revealed Word proclaims the resurrection for those who keep themselves holy. After his experience of the resurrected Jesus, Peter found new meaning in these ancient lines about salvation; they help to define who we are, too, don’t they? We are people of the Resurrection who keep ourselves holy so that we will not spend eternity in the netherworld – that’s a euphemism of Hell – but instead, will share, incorruptible, in God’s everlasting glory!
Prior to Jesus, this psalm was sung in joyful anticipation of an earthly king like David who would restore his powerful throne in the earthly Jerusalem. God’s people, the people of the Old Covenant, would triumph, saved from the netherworld, through this mighty and regal descendent. But when judges, prophets, and kings like David failed to turn God’s people from sin and its destruction, and bring them to repentance and a full recognition and acceptance of God’s plan for them, God sent his only Son as the priest, prophet, and king of the New Covenant. He would reconcile us to the Father, and would save our souls not through silver or gold but by his own precious blood, as we hear explained so well in today’s second reading.
It was difficult for the disciples to understand all the events surrounding Jesus. Cleopas and his companion were debating all that had happened as they walked to Emmaus. It was not until a traveling companion interpreted Scripture for them and broke bread with them that they saw Jesus and comprehended how he had fulfilled the Scriptures.
Fulfillment in Christ was known by God before the foundation of the world, Peter tells us in today’s second reading. Salvation through Christ’s sacrificial love poured forth was always the plan. The fallen world was to be saved by it, the disciples witnessed it, and we are all redeemed by it. This is what we continue to celebrate this Easter season: God’s love and mercy from the foundation of the world through Jesus, the Christ, the true Word of God, broken and shared for us and then raised to new life; where he has gone, we hope to follow. As we continue this joyous Easter season, let us be glad and rejoice!