Luke 24:1-35                “In the Breaking of the Bread”



            Two disciples are walking along on the road out of Jerusalem. As they are walking, a third person suddenly joins them. Where did that person come from? How is it possible that all of a sudden a third body is suddenly overhearing their conversation? At first I thought that there might be something mystical in this. Then, I was walking across the campus of the high school on Wednesday morning to come to the church when I noticed that two buses were unloading their charges at the other end of campus. As I walked toward them, the children were streaming towards me. One by one they almost hit me. They were not looking up. Almost all of them were looking sadly at the ground as they walked. One young lady came within an inch of actually running into me before I made waving motions with my hands so that she would not hit me. She was honestly startled.

            All these kids were so sad to be coming to school that morning that nothing around them seemed to register at all with them! They were utterly distracted by their distress at being forced to learn something that day.

            The bible is really clear that these two disciples walking on the road that Easter evening were indeed very sad. They are aggrieved about what has happened to Jesus. Even though it is Easter Eve, they still have not fully grasped that it is Easter at all. They heard a rumor from some women who had a vision of angels saying that Jesus was alive, but that was not convincing enough for them. Maybe they also thought that it was prattle or nonsense as the other disciples had registered in Luke’s telling of the story.


            So, Jesus is able to simply walk up to them without startling them too much. They do not recognize him. Please note that one of those two disciples is actually named. It is Cleopas. He was not one of the twelve disciples; however, he was known as a disciple. You may recall back in Luke 10 that Jesus commissions 70 disciples to go out in twos. You see that they are still going out in pairs after Easter! These 70 disciples were not named by Luke in his Gospel; yet, we have three different early-church historians who list these 70 disciples as they were remembered in the early church. In each of these three lists of 70 disciples, Cleopas is in the top six. In one he is listed in second position right after James, brother of Jesus. In two of the three lists, Cleopas is even listed as “kinsman of Jesus.” He is also noted as the second bishop of Jerusalem after James brother of Jesus. His son Saint Simeon, will also one day be the bishop of Jerusalem.

            So, the question remains as to how it is possible that Cleopas does not recognize Jesus, his kinsman, his great master who sent him out as a true apostle back in Luke 10. I think that Jesus is stopping Cleopas from recognizing him at this point. It seems almost as if Jesus is playing “secret shopper.” I wonder if Jesus has ever done that here, in our church, and if we would recognize Him.


            Who is the other unnamed disciple? Now this gets interesting. There is absolutely no clue in the text as to who the other disciple was. We do not even know the gender of the other disciple. In fact, many theologians and biblical scholars believe it is Mary, the wife of Cleopas, or even Mary of Magdala, heading home from Jerusalem after the Passover. Since I was a boy in Sunday School, I have always seen images of this text being two men walking on the road. The bible actually does not say that or portray that at all. See how we just kind of assume things when we are reading! We have to watch out for that for sure.


            Jesus does not come into the conversation with a pronouncement of who he is either. He comes in and listens. That is right. Jesus wants to hear what it is that these disciples now believe. This is in a way a test of faith right now for them. Just like we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Do not lead us into a test of faith,” this seems to be their test of faith.

            Jesus just listens until he asks a very simple query: “What is this conversation that you are holding between the two of you?” They seem annoyed with Jesus at this point: “Are you the only person in all of Jerusalem that does not know about Jesus?” Then, they for sure flunk this test because they then call Jesus “only a prophet” while “they had hoped he was the Messiah.”

            We cannot make this same mistake! Please do not ever do what Cleopas has just done. Please do not ever short-change Jesus. Never say that he was just a man who lived two thousand years ago and fell afoul of the law in the Roman Empire. Never just say that he was a prophet only.

Back in 1977 a fellow by the name of Mohammed Ata Ur-Rahim wrote the book Jesus, Prophet of Islam. The second update and revised edition came out in 2003. It has become the best-known literature on Jesus in the Muslim world. You see, even those who do not hold Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the World, can still argue that he was a great prophet! (As an aside, I should say that I am somewhat pleased that at least other faiths will hold Jesus up as a great prophet rather than just branding him and his followers as criminals!)

            So, back then on that Easter Eve, Jesus starts to tell Cleopas and his unnamed companion everything in Scripture that points to Jesus having been the Messiah, the Savior, the true Son of God. WE do not have time this morning to go back and read all of the references in the Old Testament to Jesus. I will set this out as homework for you to at least go back to Isaiah 53 and read that chapter. Isaiah was Jesus’ favorite prophet. He mentioned him more than any other.

            Now, in going back and using former prophets to name the coming Messiah, Jesus very cleverly portrays himself NOT just as another prophet. He is the one that the prophets foretold. The two disciples walking on the road must have realized that this third person walking with them is not just any ordinary Passover celebrant. He really knows his scripture. He is able to quote all of these prophecies without even consulting the ancient scrolls. So, for sure, they must now see Jesus at least as a great rabbi in their midst.

            This is important for what happens next. They came to the place where they had planned to stay the night. Jesus continues to walk on ahead of them now as if they were to part ways. It is the greatest blessing to have a rabbi come and be in your house. It is still that way today in Jewish custom. They have to invite this unknown rabbi to come in to stay with them. They really do not have a choice. It is for the benefit of the house that a rabbi will come to eat there.

            Jesus himself understands his rabbinic role. He sits down and starts to say the blessing over the bread. This is the same blessing in Hebrew that you heard me say if you came to the Maundy Thursday Seder. “Baruch ata Adonai Elohenu, ha malek ha olam ha motzi lechem ha aretz.” When he breaks the bread, they suddenly realize that it is Jesus who has been with them all along. How did that happen? What was it about breaking the bread?

            Jesus said at the last supper, “every time you break bread, do it in remembrance of me.” Oh, it is God’s command that we remember in that moment! If God commands it, then it will happen! If we have faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior, then indeed we will recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. For, we will take Him and His very resurrection into our own bodies.

            Now, I need to point out that the word for bread here is “αρτος” in the Greek. This word is not just bread, but literally “staple food.” It is that which we need to survive. So, when Jesus offers this staple to these two men, we can read here that they needed to recognize Jesus in their midst as much as they needed the bread after the long journey. It is their spiritual nourishment.

            When they receive their spiritual nourishment, suddenly they recognize Jesus as he comes into them. Yes, Jesus disappears at that moment. Where did he go? Although the Bible does not say it, I like to think that he entered their hearts in that moment in his Spirit. Indeed, in taking the sacrament of the bread, they, the two men, became the Body of Christ in the world. Just as we will do when we take the bread into our bodies this day.