“Now on that same day two [followers of Jesus] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:13-16, NRSV)
The season of Easter continues this week with Luke’s telling of the two followers of Jesus, who unwittingly encounter him on the Road to Emmaus. It is Easter evening, and the two people are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of approximately seven miles. I imagine these two disciples were in Jerusalem for Passover during the dramatic events around Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Earlier that day, they surely would have heard that some women who were also followers of Jesus went to his tomb and discovered that Jesus’ body was no longer there. These women also claimed angels told them Jesus was alive.
If these two disciples were anything like me, they spent the day trying to figure out who already heard these reports and if they could tell them more about what happened.
Now it was late in the day, and they still needed to return to Emmaus. All along the way, they continued to discuss the implications of the day’s events. That’s when Jesus shows up and joins their conversation. For some reason, they don’t recognize Jesus. The scripture mysteriously says, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” We could speculate about who or what was responsible for their inability to see that it was the resurrected Jesus, but Luke has another purpose for their metaphorical blindness.
I think Luke is demonstrating the human inclination to allow our expectations to shape what we see.
We generally see what we want to see.
We project so much of ourselves onto those with whom we engage. The two disciples walking with Jesus were trying to make sense of what they experienced, and so they assumed that this fellow traveler was just like them. They presumed Jesus already knew what they knew and that he was experiencing this perplexing news in the same way they were. It was only when Jesus naively questioned what they were talking about that they had to take a step back and reassess the situation. They had to bring Jesus up-to-date on what they knew. It was then that Jesus offered an alternative view of what happened by putting it into its fullest context.
As we encounter strangers or even those with whom we are the most intimate, it would serve us well to set aside our expectations and preconceived ideas about the other. It was a little over two years ago that I completed my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Along the way, I met many people who had very different experiences and perspectives than my own. I quickly discovered that curiosity served me better than judgment. I’m sure there were several days I walked with Jesus, although those who walked with me looked nothing like him. What’s preventing you from seeing Jesus in those with whom you journey?