When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
(Luke 24:30-31 NRSV)
I must admit that my favourite story about Jesus, from the time after he had risen, is the account of the “Walk to Emmaus” from Luke’s Gospel.
It is Easter Day and two of Jesus’ bewildered disciples are taking the afternoon walk from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus when a stranger joins them. Luke informs the reader that the stranger is the risen Jesus, but his friends don’t recognise him.
As he walks with them he lifts their hearts with his explanation of why all these things had taken place. When they get to their destination it is dusk so they invite the stranger in to eat with them.
As they recognise him in the blessing and breaking of bread, they are astonished but, even as he disappears from them, they suddenly understand the depth of meaning in their encounter. Hearts ablaze with joy and enthusiasm, they ignore the dangers of a night-time journey and rush back to Jerusalem to tell their friends.
Jesus’ friends had thought that it had all gone horribly wrong for them; that all in which they had put their hope and trust had turned to dust; had been an illusion. Even as reports of Jesus’ resurrection began to emerge some of them (quite understandably!) struggled to take it in.
The encounter with the risen Christ changed that.
We have the benefit of the New Testament to explain this to us, and many have encountered the risen Christ starting with a tentative exploration of the Gospels.
But Luke, in his vivid account, gives us another clue. It was in the breaking of bread that his friends recognised Jesus with them; and for twenty centuries countless worshippers have discovered the same.
There are several names for it and numerous ways to understand it, but it remains true that many continue to find strength, inner healing, peace, forgiveness, renewal, enthusiasm, commitment and a deep sense of relationship with Jesus through worship which includes the breaking of bread.
Set my heart ablaze with love for you
and my neighbour.
Guide me to your truth
and enthuse me by your Spirit.