Jesus came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognising him
It was the first day of the week and two pilgrims were returning home to Emmaus. They had been to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover but for them the Festival had ended in disaster and now they were deep in gloomy thought. As they walked, a stranger joined them and struck up a conversation. Together they discussed the weekend’s events. On reaching Emmaus, the stranger made to go on but they invited him in and prepared supper. When they sat down the stranger took bread, blessed and broke it and as he did they recognised him; he vanished …. (Luke 24: 13 onwards).
On the open page of my Bible rests a faded bookmark. One side bears a picture of the vIrgin and child, the other, written in a child-like hand, says simply ‘From Miss S_____.’ The bookmark came from my mother’s Bible, and is now more than 80 years old. I sometimes look and ponder, who was Miss S_____, and what was her connection with my mother; a Sunday school teacher perhaps? Had she helped foster Christian faith in mother? If she had then in a way, she has influenced my faith too. I will never know, and neither will she.
Back in Emmaus and as Jesus vanished from sight, the two pilgrims rushed back to Jerusalem to tell their story. There, together with quite a crowd of Jesus’ followers, including the eleven, they encountered the risen Jesus a second time. Two strangers, one not even named. We hear no more of them, yet the story of their encounter has been told and retold and continues to inspire faith in those who hear it 2 millennia later.
It is easy for us to be overwhelmed by the Gospel stories; the heroes of our faith, men and women who actually shared with Jesus, saw him die, saw him alive once more. It’s easy to think that, unlike theirs, our own feeble voices will be lost in the noise. Then I look at a simple bookmark, and reflect that whoever Miss S ______ was, her faith in action is still working God’s purpose out through people and in ways she would never know.
God comes to us as a stranger, and to strangers bids us go.