The Gospel Reading for the Third Sunday of Easter is drawn from Luke chapter twenty-four. This story is sometimes known as the “Road to Emmaus” account, where the risen Lord bumps into two disciples on the very day of his resurrection. Luke tells us that the disciples do not recognize Jesus (they may not have known him personally), but they explain to him the news of the crucifixion of the Lord on Friday, and that “some women among us” had discovered in the morning that the tomb where Jesus had been laid was now empty, and that the women had been told that “he was alive.”
Luke’s account of the Easter resurrection offers us some interesting clues about what transpired that day. Luke confirms aspects of John’s account of the resurrection – and keep in mind that John the Evangelist was a firsthand witness. Luke confirms that Mary Magdalene was among the women who had seen the empty tomb. Luke confirms that an angel appeared to the women. And Luke confirms that Peter ran back to the tomb, stunned to find it empty.
Luke omits some details. He does not tell us that John the Apostle also ran to the tomb. This would not be surprising, since at the time Luke wrote, John the Apostle was still alive. Most interestingly, Luke does not reveal that Mary Magdalene had seen the risen Lord herself that morning. Again, the author of the Gospel may have been circumspect about identifying too much personal information about an individual who was still living at the time the Gospel was written, and who had actually witnessed the Resurrection.
Instead, Luke tells us simply that the other women (and Peter) corroborate Mary Magdalene’s story – that the tomb was empty and that Jesus had risen.
The First Eucharist After the Resurrection
Prior to his death, Jesus celebrated a Eucharist with the twelve in the Upper Room. He took bread and blessed and offered it, and he took a cup and blessed the wine. He referred to the bread and wine as his own “body” and “blood.” Here, in Luke’s account, Jesus again blesses and offers bread, celebrating what is likely the first Eucharist after the Resurrection.
The two disciples, who up to this point did not know who the man was, instantly recognized Jesus as he completed the Eucharist. He then vanished from sight. The two men continued, saying, were our hearts not burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?
The two men returned to Jerusalem, and were told that Jesus had also appeared to Peter that evening. The two men shared their own account, testifying that Jesus “was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Luke affirms some of the Johannine data about the resurrection in this passage. He supports the assertions in the fourth Gospel that angels appeared to the women, that the women disciples informed the twelve that Jesus was not in the tomb on that Sunday morning, and that the disciples returned to confirm the account for themselves.
More importantly, Luke ties the resurrection to our celebration of the liturgy, telling us that the risen Jesus is recognized in the breaking of the bread – in the celebration of the Eucharist.