This passage occurs in the RCL during Easter (Year A, B and if you like, C).
A very moving piece of Scripture. You might argue it is the "ultimate" piece of Luke's Gospel, bringing together so many themes: importance of hospitality, completion of OT salvation and vitality of worship to name a few. This passage can often be seen as a "trump" card for the importance of Holy Communion because the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. However, a few curiosities. First, Jesus does not use the word eucharist here, which he does at the last supper. Furthermore, the resurrected Christ shows up to the disciples not in the breaking of the bread, but in the proclamation of the Word as they tell each other Jesus is risen! Finally, when Jesus first gives them the bread, it is not after the breaking but after the distribution that their eyes are opened. They had to know that Jesus was for you in order to know Christ. Ultimately though, this theological masterpiece cannot be used against communion, but I want to point out that for Luke, everything good and wonderful (including praise, the power of the Word and the importance of intimacy, even relationship with Christ and the community) is included! To put it more eloquently: This passage is about way more than breaking bread. Likewise, Holy Communion is about more than breaking bread, it is about praising God in Glory, proclaming the death and resurrection of Jesus and finally, by the Holy Spirit, recognizing Christ did this for me and my brethren.
1) Intimacy and fellowship
The story shows the main two ways in which humans are involved in intimate conversation: taking a walk together and enjoying a meal together. Here are some other hints about this 'togetherness'
συν (preposition meaning "with"; but it can also be combined with verbs to slightly change their meaning; three such verbs appear in 24:14,15) By using these words Luke plays on the sounds the words make; he also subtly suggests those on the road were together. In fact, even the word for converse (ομιλεω) has 'homo' as a root word, which means 'of one.'
παροικιες (from "παροικεω" meaning "temporarily dwell", 24:18) I love that Jesus is described as only temporarily living in Jerusalem. There is such truth to this -- He was an outsider in the extreme!
μενω ("abide," used twice in 24:29) Although a more essential word in
the Gospel of John, this word still carries import here. The disciples
invite Jesus to abide with them. Not in their heart, but at their
table! Also the one who was an outsider becomes the ultimate insider!
ηθροισμενους (perfect passive form of "αθροιζω", meaning gather, 24:33) This word for gather comes from noise. Like when you gather people, you get noise. Imagine a house full of people joyfully saying that Jesus was alive!
κατακλιθνηαι (from "κατακλινω", meaning "lie down", 24:30) Jesus is lying down on their floor!
2) Faith and Sight
ηλπιζομεν (imperfect form!, meaning hope, 24:21) This word is not in
the aorist tense. It is in the imperfect tense. They are still
hoping. They have not lost hope. They just cannot see!
εγνωσθη ("know" aorist form of γινωσκω 24:35) I point this verb out because Luke changes it from the earlier "recognize" (επιγινωσκω). I cannot figure out why Luke draws this distinction, other than to say: If you know Jesus, you will recognize him; if you recognize him, you know. To put it in familiar Lutheran terms: To know Christ is to know his benefits. When it comes to these words, I am not sure if I know the difference, even though I recognize it (haha).
It is worth putting this word in play with two other words that Luke uses:
ειδον (see, 24) The early disciples did not see Jesus; more
importantly, they did not recognize what this meant. You cannot see what you do not believe, even when it is right in front of your eyes. Until we have internalized a new story, we will reject new data. See COVID reaction in America for this. I would argue that someone has to translate the Biblical story into our lives in a way that we can see something new.
ανασταντες (raise up, 33). Once they did
recognize the risen Lord, they themselves "rose" up -- they experienced
resurrection. Even though at that point he was invisible!
κλασει ("breaking" dative of κλασις 24:35; in a verb form κλασας 24:30; also sounds like the name Κλεοπας) It is in the breaking of the bread that the disciples recognize Jesus; worth pointing out, however, is that it is also in the proclamation of Jesus resurrection (vs 35-36) that Jesus shows up. Luke does not neglect a theology of the Word! It is also worth pointing out that the first time they recognize Jesus, they do so, not in the breaking of the break, but while the bread is being distributed. Based on the verb tenses you get: Taking the bread he blessed it. After he broke it he was distributing it. And their eyes began to be opened (or became opened). The point here is that breaking the bread may not be the only "magic" moment when Jesus shows up. In other words (I know I am pushing it here), it was only when they heard the for you that the recognized Jesus. If you don't know Jesus is for you, you can't see him in the world!
3. Salvation - roots in the OT
λυτρουσθαι ("redeem," present infinitive form of λυτρομαι, 24:21) This verb means redeem in a the "ransom" sense of the word. The Bible uses this word to talk about people redeeming property with payment. People can also make a redemption payment to God to avoid punishment for their sins (see Number 35:31). In Exodus, in fact, the people must pay a ransom to God to avoid a plague (30:12).
A few other points:
- Redemption can avoid punishment but not ultimate death: Psalm 49:8-9 For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice that one should live on forever and never see the grave. (NRSV) The idea of redemption into eternal life seems a human impossibility and a new testament novel development.
- God was not the only one from whom redemption could be sought. For example, God redeems (same verb) the people from slavery in Egypt (2 Sam 7:23, Deut 13:5). In this sense, God redeems from an agent hostile to God's will for the people.
- It is worth point out that Luke employs the idea in a different manner here than in Mark 10. In Mark, Jesus is the redemption (the thing paid to do the redeeming, 10:45). Based on the structure of this sentence in Luke, Jesus is the one doing the redeeming. This small distinction raises great question for Christians: Who was Jesus redeeming Israel from (Rome?); why was Jesus redeeming them? What was the payment (his suffering?)? Who did God possibly have to deal with? But if you don't want to go there, keep it simple: Jesus gave his life that you might be redeemed, namely, set free from sin and death.
Ultimately, I think any transactional sense of Jesus' work on the cross has clear biblical roots, but also real limits. I wrote about this word extensively in a post on Mark 10.
δοξαν ("glory" accusative of δοξη, 24:26) This word has many layers; originally meaning "opinion" it can also mean "splendor." In the Old Testament, the glory of God was revealed in God's presence and thus, the two became inter-connected. So in the New Testament, borrowing from the OT, "glory" also means the amazing presence of God! Luke uses this word at some key passages to point toward the glory related to the presence of God and his kingly splendor: Glory of Christmas Angels (2:9/2:14); Devil's promise (4:6); Transfiguration (9:32); Palm Sunday (19:38); Second coming (9:26/21:27)
καιομενη (present passive participle of καιω 24:32) While God often
makes things burn out of his anger, I think the best recollection for
this verb is the burning bush -- it was not consumed, but the Word of
God kindled it brightly!
προσεποιησατο ("pretend" aorist of προσποιεω, 24:28) So, can Jesus pretend? Yes!!
Grammar review: Negative questions
Greek shows questions with a ";" mark. Some sentences can be very tricky because we miss this!
Also, in Greek, a question can include a negative. Depending on the wording, the question expects either a no or yes answer. In English we have something similar, in that a question can expect a yes or no answer, but it is the word order, if not inflection, that reveals this information in English:
"You don't think that is a good idea, do you?" (Expects a no answer)
"Don't you want you some ice cream?" (Expect a yes answer)
In Greek, the distinction is easier! When they use "μη" they expect a no answer. When they use "ου" they expect yes.
So, for example, when Jesus asks the question, "Grapes are not gathered from throns, are they?" the Greek uses a μη (7:16, technically μητι).
Again, if it has a "ου" it expects a "yes." The only challenging part is that ου can show up as ουκ when it appears before a verb; also ουχι is a more intense form, like "REALLY PEOPLE, the answer must be yes..."
In this 24:26, Jesus asks the question about the necessity of his suffering:
ουχι ταυτα εδει παθειν τον χριστον και εισελειν εις την δοξαν αυτου;
Because the sentence (really a question!) begins with ουχι it expects a "yes" answer:
"REALLY PEOPLE, wasn't it necessary for the Christ to suffer this and then enter into his glory?"