“That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem” Luke 24:33
Three placenames in the Gospel reading help us think about our own faith and about our own response to Jesus: Emmaus, Nazareth and Jerusalem.
Saint Luke Chapter 24 Verse 13 tells us, “Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.” It is the first day of the week, it is a working day; as well as hearing stories of Jesus, the disciples would have had to get on with the business of everyday life. Sometimes, just doing the ordinary things is very difficult when our minds are on other things. What things did they think as they went about their tasks? How hard was it to concentrate on the things at hand when they would have been hearing more and more about what had happened from their friends?
They were going to Emmaus, they were going home. They were going to a place where they felt secure enough to invite a stranger into their house. Emmaus was a safe place for them it was a place where they could stop and think, a place where they could recover their energy and reflect on all that had happened.
We all need our own “Emmaus”, we all need our own place where we feel safe and secure. It’s when we feel safe and secure that we can really think about things. When we hear the story of Jesus, what do we make of it? When we think about all that we have heard, how do we respond? Are we like the disciples at Emmaus? Do our hearts burn within us when we sense his presence?
When Jesus meets with the disciples on the road, he asks them what they were discussing and they expressed surprise that he has not heard about all the things that had been going on, “what things?” Jesus asks and, in Verse 19, they replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth.” The name of Nazareth has stayed with Jesus throughout his ministry
Nazareth is distant from Emmaus, it was not a place held in high esteem among those who would become apostles. In Saint John Chapter 1 Verses 45-46, we read, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'” The mention of Nazareth by the disciples is a reminder of the humble background from which Jesus has come.
Nazareth is a reminder to us of our tendency to dismiss certain people because of their background, a tendency to hear only those people we wish to hear, a tendency to prefer people who are like us. When we hear the name “Jesus of Nazareth” does it challenge us about what we think of people? Does it remind us that attitudes of prejudice and discrimination were shown to Jesus? Nazareth should make us ask what we think about others.
Emmaus, Nazareth, the third place name is Jerusalem. Realizing that the risen Jesus has been present with them, the disciples feel they must immediately go back and tell the news, although it is dark, although it is a seven mile walk, Verse 33 says,”That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem.” The good news must be taken back to the place that for them was the centre of the world. For the Jewish people Jerusalem was the holy city; it was the place where Solomon had built his Temple, a Temple that had been rebuilt after the time of the exile in Babylon. Jerusalem was the place of the high priest and the religious leaders. Jerusalem was the place where God was especially present.
The disciples’ first instinct when they realize the good news is to return to a city that had brought death for Jesus and danger for his followers. It did not matter to them what had happened on Friday, their experience on that Sunday evening had changed their world and changed their lives. The good news must be taken back to the city, it must be carried back to the centre.
Jerusalem is a reminder to us that our faith is not just for Emmaus, for the safe and secure places, it’s for taking into the centre of our lives and into the centre of our world. Had we been the disciples, would we have left our safety and hurried back to a hostile city, or would we have preferred to keep the story to ourselves?
Emmaus, Nazareth and Jerusalem, asking us about our faith and our response.