The Road to Emmaus

Of course, the strange happenings at the tomb of Jesus were only one of the strange occurrences that happened in the immediate aftermath of the Resurrection.

And this is quite significant, if you think about it! If one were determined to “fake” a Resurrection, it would be easiest to make only one location have some strange miracles in which only a couple of people who were “in” on the secret could see.

But the amazing part of the Resurrection was that strange things were happening everywhere to a whole swath of people. Mind you, it started out with only a couple of people seeing the miracle. But then more and more people started seeing the miracle and came to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus because of it.

Take the trip to Emmaus, for example. Here’s what the bible has to say about this trip:

NABRE

Luke 24

13Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 14and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. 15And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, 16 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. 17He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. 21 But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. 22 Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning 23and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. 24 Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.

(If you’re reading this story and thinking, “But! Didn’t you leave out the important part with the breaking of the bread???” — don’t worry! That’s the next blog entry, I promise!)

And it just strikes me that these two disciples — who probably weren’t even very close to Jesus, seeing as they weren’t hiding of their lives like the Eleven — were approached by Jesus! Isn’t that incredible?

It gives me hope, that’s for sure!

And so, I would love to share this artwork with you of the Road to Emmaus:

Landscape with Three Pilgrims to Emmaus, by Herri met de Bles
Landscape with Three Pilgrims to Emmaus, by Herri met de Bles, c. 1500. USC Fisher Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, United States.

It’s such a beautiful artwork for several reasons, but my favorite part of this picture?

The depiction of the Crucifixion in the middle of the picture.

Now, you can argue that the Crucifixion shouldn’t have been there because it wasn’t accurate. After all, Christ’s body was taken away almost immediately to be put in the tomb, and it’s very likely that the thieves’ bodies were… um… what’s a nice way to say eaten by wild dogs?

…yeah, there’s no really nice way of putting that, sorry.

So, no, the depiction of the Crucifixion alongside the journey to Emmaus isn’t entirely accurate, as the scene at Calvary would have been very different than at the time of the Passion of Christ.

And yet, if you looked at most pictures detailing the Road to Emmaus, the artwork is typically done as an excuse to draw a landscape drawing, and so the figures, including the figure of Christ, is not necessarily as important as the landscape. In fact, in Western tradition, landscape pictures were typically frowned against until the Reformation, because most art was made firstly to glorify God in some way. And so, there were many artists who used these sorts of religious encounters to detail some pretty awesome landscapes.

Mind you, the artist made a beautiful landscape picture of some picturesque scenery complete with castles and mountains. And yet, the image of the Crucifixion brings Jesus to mind immediately. Then, when we look at the picture and see the three travelers on the road together, with Christ once more disguised in a big floppy hat, it brings to mind the scripture of the two pilgrims walking along with Jesus to Emmaus.

The other reason why I love the Crucifixion in the background is because of the question that the pilgrims ask Jesus:

NABRE

Luke 24

18One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”

Yes, the Crucifixion might have been at the past at this point.

Yet, the scene of the Crucifixion was present in pilgrims’ minds. After all, they thought that Jesus was the messiah. And then Jesus was killed in that publicly humiliating way in front of everyone in which there was no doubt that He had died. And yes, Jesus was physically walking with them, but they didn’t recognize Him. Not after the Crucifixion.

And don’t we experience the same sort of thing sometimes in our own lives? Sometimes, we are so consumed with the dark preoccupations in our minds as we carry our own crosses that we can sometimes miss the Hope that Christ brings.

So, in a way, the artist reminds us to look upon the Cross one more time, just as the pilgrims cannot forget the awful scene of the Crucifixion.

Yet, ultimately the Cross should not be looked at in despair. After all, Jesus is there to remind them — and us — that He has come to save us all.

The Cross is not a symbol of defeat — it is a symbol of triumph.

It is a reminder of the greatness of the love of God and His willingness to bear all so that He may save us.

Even death cannot stop God’s love for us!

And Jesus is willing to walk with us and remind us, even in the midst of our hardest moments, that He is with us. Even if we can’t recognize Him at the time!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

Leave a Reply