The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

This very human story of how Christ talked anonymously with two mourning disciples is found in St Luke’s gospel, although it’s briefly mentioned in St Mark’s too (16:12-13).

Pope Benedict XVI once summarised it very well. He said: “It tells the tale of two followers of Christ who, on the day after the Sabbath or the third day after his death, were leaving Jerusalem sad and dejected, bound for a village that was not far off called, precisely, Emmaus. They were joined on their way by the Risen Jesus but did not recognize him. Realizing that they were downhearted, he explained, drawing on the Scriptures, that the Messiah had to suffer and die in order to enter into his glory.”

He went on: “Then entering the house with them, he sat down to eat, blessed the bread and broke it; and at that instant they recognized him but he vanished from their sight, leaving them marvelling before that broken bread, a new sign of his presence. And they both immediately headed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples of the event.”

The exact location of Emmaus isn’t known for certain. Equally, the identity of the two disciples is a matter of debate. One of the disciples is named as ‘Cleophas’, who may possibly have been a relative of St Joseph. The other is unnamed, although the amount of detail in the story – and the fact that it occurs only in St Luke’s gospel – raises the intriguing possibility that it may have been St Luke himself.

On the other hand, perhaps it was the wife of Cleophas, or any one of the other seventy disciples – male or female. The lack of specifics in the story has enabled it to be interpreted on another level. One of the underlying messages may be that Christ accompanies all of his disciples, past and present, along the journey of life.

This beautiful altarpiece panel telling the story of Emmaus is found within Holy Trinity, Dorchester. The altarpiece was carved in Oberammergau, Bavaria, and installed in the church in 1897. The Emmaus scene is featured alongside a panel of the Crucifixion and St Mary Magdalene meeting the Risen Christ. The altarpiece also includes St Peter and St Paul, as well as various other saints.

The aspect of the story pictured here is Christ seated at table with the two disciples, revealing his identity in the breaking of bread. The Eucharistic theme is reflected in the vine seen growing on the trellis, as a reminder of the wine consecrated by Christ. The disciples are portrayed suddenly recognising their Lord and responding in surprise and prayer.

See the full image:

The altarpiece as a whole:

Where to find this work of art
Holy Trinity, Dorchester

Read the relevant passage
Luke 24:13-35

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