This is a follow-up to the piece I posted yesterday about Sunday’s Gospel reading, the conversation on the way to Emmaus. Since posting it, I continued thinking about the reading because there was something I didn’t mention in the previous.
When you look at the reading in the context of the whole of Luke 24, you see that Luke doesn’t recount the first encounter of Jesus with any of the core group of disciples following his resurrection. The sequence of events is as follows:
- Mary, Mary and Joanna meet an angel who tells them of the resurrection;
- Peter goes to the tomb, finds the linen strips and goes away wondering what has happened;
- Cleopas and his friend encounter the risen Jesus and recognise him in the breaking of the bread;
- Cleopas and his friend hurry back to Jerusalem where they are informed that Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter;
- The risen Jesus stands among all the disciples.
I’m not intending to say anything about why Luke may omit that first encounter with Peter except to say that for his readers, the first canonical encounter with Jesus following his resurrection is with two people about whom we know nothing. This is the only time Cleopas is mentioned by Luke at least (is he also Clopas mentioned in John 19.25 where his wife, another Mary, is one of the people at the cross – and if so is his companion on the way to Emmaus then Mary?) and his companion is unnamed entirely in this account.
Jesus’ resurrection – and its proclamation – is for all. It’s not just for those named as significant leaders in the church. It’s not the domain solely of the clergy. It’s not to be kept in the hands of the strong, the respected, the beloved. It is the duty and joy of the whole church. To return to 1 Corinthians 11, it is whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup that we proclaim the Lord’s death. If you are a church leader, it is your responsibility to equip the whole body, all the saints, for the work of ministry.
We can’t all be Simon Peter or Paul, after all, but we can all be Cleopas or his anonymous companion.