Disappearing Act

Section of Roman road similar to those in first century Judea.

Disappearing Act

Being about the events related in Luke 24

The older cyborg acolyte, Angelica, is trying to awaken Sensei, saying "Sensei!! Wake up!"

The Acolytes Awaken Sensei, the tale for to tell.

The younger acoloyte Sapient says "Be gentle Angelica! You know he is old and fragile..."

Angelica responds with "SHUSH Analytica." and continues with "Class time again Sensei." as he mumbles to wakefulness.

Analytica says "Yes. Arise from your hypnopompic torpor. Preach it!" and then continues with "Let's hear the exegesis that elucidates a salient but often overlooked point about the Bible story, 'The Road to Emmaus' from Luke."

Angelica implores the Sensei "Please tell us the story?" and he replies "OK, sure..."

Two famous paintings, "On the Road to Emmaus" by Duccio from 1308-11, and "Christ at Emmaus" by Rembrandt from 1648.

Sensei began his exegesis with a prologue.

"Recall that the story of the Road to Emmaus and the manifestation of the reincarnated Jesus the Nazarene is one of the first appearance events recorded after his crucifixion in the City of David, Jerusalem by name, just three days before. The detailed narration of the journey and subsequent supper seen as the core of the 24th chapter of Luke's Gospel in the New Testament form one of the best literary sketches of the Biblical milieu, and as such it represents a major achievement."

"We should also note that the story continued to serve as the inspiration for graphic arts depictions of the events even centuries after the event. It remains as one of the best known Bible stories."

A section of paved Roman road as it might appear to someone walking it with two inset views of longer more scenic stretches of the highway.

"The road itself was likely a Roman highway. First century Judea, where these events unfolded, was occupied territory under Roman control. A part of a powerful extended Empire. It seemed that the Romans were ever at building something to mark their holdings."

Map of 1st century Judea showing Jerusalem and Emmaus along with others, and an inset map of villages with a name including "Emmaus".

He continued, "Now there is some small contention as to precisely which place was meant by the name Emmaus. We can see here on the map that there were a few similarly named villages. But regardless of that contention and discussion, we can take comfort knowing that the disciples probably knew their intended destination, at least they knew where they were going."

Sensei paused for their laughter, which did not come. After a moment of embarrassed silence, he began again.

"In Luke 24 there are some verses antecedent to those describing the events on the road and at the subsequent meal. These verses are important and must be considered in their relationship to the story of the road."

"Analytica, favor us if you will with a recitation of these verses and further elucidate their relationship to the road story?"

The young acolyte cyborg Sapient, Analytica, is speaking.

An opportunity to participate in the dialectic of faith was something the little Sapient always found entertaining, and her cyborg acolyte eyes lit with joy as she began her exposition.

"Jesus Has Risen."

She quoted from the NIV text, "On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. Then they remembered his words."

"When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened."

She paused for a moment before she continued. "The importance of this passage devolves to presenting the previous knowledge of the discovery of the empty tomb. Also of note is the skepticism among those hearing the womens' tale of an empty tomb, even of Peter who went to see for himself and was left to wonder."

"But in synopsis it may be seen to present as a prologue to the events of the central story." She decided not to interject an interrogatory about hermeneutics in comparison to exegesis in these analyses. The idea that hermeneutics is the field of study which is concerned with how we interpret the Bible, whereas exegesis is the actual interpretation of the Bible by drawing the meaning out of the Biblical text, somehow didn't seem complete. This would require more cognitive neurocycles...

The two disciples walking towards us on the road to Emmaus.

Sensei interrupted Analytica's slide towards reverie as he began to dissemble once again. It was just as well, for in reverie Analytica consumed more kilowatts than an old time bitcoin miner in high gear. But what Sensei offered was more observational conversation than it was lecture, and it seemed worth hearing.

He began, "The NIV heading is

"On the Road to Emmaus"

and Luke opens the story by telling us, "Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles away from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened."".

They are joined by Jesus and the three are now walking and conversing together.

He continued with his narrative from the NIV text. "As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him."

"He asked them, What are you discussing together as you walk along?"

The disciples and Jesus have stopped walking and are now standing and talking about the recent events of the Crucifixion.

"They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?"

"What things? he asked."

"About Jesus of Nazareth, they replied. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didnt find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus."

Jesus speaks to the two disciples about the Scripture prophecy of these events as they continue their walk..

"He said to them, How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"

And so the disciples heard the significance and meaning of these events as they continued their walk.

"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself."

Jesus and the two disciples outside an arched entryway as they ask him to stay with them and share a meal.

"As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over. So he went in to stay with them."

They went inside and sat together to take their meal.

Then Jesus took the bread and broke it with benedictions, after which he offered it to the two.

"When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them." Sensei continued.

When Jesus did this the two disciples were suddenly taken aback in stunned surprise, for now they recognized their companion. Jesus is happy and he disppears from their sight.

Sensei gave a slight pause. "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Though it was late, the two disciples immediately started back to Jerusalem to share their news.

Sensei continued, telling what Luke related, that though it was already late, "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem."

They found the Eleven Apostles and the women gathered and began to tell them of these events. Many doubted.

Sensei continued, "There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon. Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread."

There Sensei broke his narrative from the Biblical text to offer them some interpretive observations.

"So there on the surface we might see this as a simple story of shared witness to the resurrection, a proof of the resurrection as it were. But we can also see that it deserves consideration on a deeper level."

Analytica chimed in, "How does one discern the risen Christ!"

Quickly he replied to her interjection, "Yes Analytica. Very good. Thank you for the short version!" The rapidity of his response caught her off guard. Her Sapient class neuralytic engine could detect the presence of innuendo, yet she had no clue how to interpret its intent, how to apprehend its meaning. That would have to wait.

He resumed, "Now we note that nowhere is the second disciple, Cleopas' companion, identified by name or gender. Perhaps this is a literary device to allow us to more easily identify with that disciple."

"Be that as it may, the two followers were walking along the road, heading to Emmaus, deep in solemn and serious discussion, when Jesus met them. They could not recognize Jesus and saw him as a stranger. In Homilies on the Gospels (Hom. 23), Gregory the Great says:"

"They did not, in fact, have faith in him, yet they were talking about him. The Lord, therefore, appeared to them but did not show them a face they could recognize. In this way, the Lord enacted outwardly, before their physical eyes, what was going on in them inwardly, before the eyes of their hearts. For inwardly they simultaneously loved him and doubted him; therefore the Lord was outwardly present to them, and at the same time did not reveal his identity. Since they were speaking about him, he showed them his presence, but since they doubted him, he hid from them the appearance by which they could have recognized him."

"Jesus let the two disciples tell him about their anxieties and pains, their grief and mourning. He listened to them as they poured out their crises and doubts, and then used scriptures to patiently guide them from despair to celebration."

"In Luke we saw that at their urging, Jesus stayed and had supper with the two disciples after the encounter on the road. So we see they showed their openness and caring to the unknown stranger, who is Jesus, by inviting him to stay with them, to join in a meal and companionship. The offer of hospitality enabled the disciples to overcome their own sadness and transcend their slowness of heart, thus preparing them for the revelatory experience of seeing "his real presence in the breaking of the bread". This was intended as the true nourishment of the two disciples' faith. In fact the breaking of bread is usually seen as having a eucharistic meaning."

"Angelica, will you favor us by continuing with our text?"

Then Jesus appeared among them and spoke and ate food, after which he disappeared from their sight.

"Jesus Appears to the Disciples"

She had begun "While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, Peace be with you."

"They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

"When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, Do you have anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence."

"He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

"Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

She paused to observe that here was another heading,

"The Ascension of Jesus"

before reciting the concluding verses.

"When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God."

Then she paused to make a comment to their teacher, saying "Sensei your exegesis so far sounds like a fair paraphrase of mainstream commentary. Analytica made it sound as though you had something of interest to add. What of that Teacher?"

A smiling Jesus.

"Divine Humor."

Sensei laughed and then smiled his best beatific smile and replied, "Thank you for that excellent lead-in Angelica." The cyborg Acolyte comprehended praise and the Sapient neuralytic engine's synapses were suffused with neurotronic analogues to non-synthetic biological neurotransmitters.

Before he continued his discourse he offered up some self-deprecating humor. "Yes, what of it isn't paraphrase is likely outright plagiarism." Sadly however, there was some truth to this.

"But consider the common end we see in two threads of the Emmaus stories. In both instances this entity, a person is finally revealed to the witness' conviction as diety, as the risen Jesus Christ the Nazarene, lately crucified in Jerusalem. And in both instances he subsequently disappears from the sight of these witnesses."

"But the first instance, during the meal at Emmaus, that can be seen as a proof for God's having a huge sense of humor. That is of real import when we consider his nature. What do you think? Is this Divine Humor?"

Analytica paused while Angelica replied, "That is an interesting perspective Sensei. I am not sure who would agree or disagree. I would give it some credence. And yet, I have another question..."

Angelica asks "And what about you Sensei?" and then continues "Do you believe the story?".

Sensei replies "Is the question for disambiguation or to serve as gambit?".

Angelica made a polite response to Sensei's reply question, "On this run only disambiguation is sought. No inquisition nor argument of apologetics is sought on this occasion."

Jesus saying "I am out here on the road for any who may seek me."

So Sensei said, "Very well then, I will tell you how I think Jesus would answer."

Analytica with an emphatic "PREACH IT!" call.

The younger Acolyte seemed euphorically ebullient at the lesson as she shouted for Sensei to "Preach it!"

Meanwhile Sensei thought to himself that he had neatly evaded Angelica's question. Would she realize that he wondered? Or would Analytica observe the oversight?

Soon he drifted off and back to somnolence. Restful somnolence.