CLEOPAS, WALKING TO EMMAUS (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

The name Cleopas means the whole glory. Cleopas appears in New Testament on two occasions. First, Cleopas is named as one of the two disciples who encounter Christ on their way to Emmaus. (Lk 24, 18). Second, Cleopas name appear in the account of Crucifixion as the husband of one of two Marys at the scene (John 19, 25). The two could be one or two different persons.

The story of two disciples on their way to Emmaus is given only by Luke. As a post-resurrection story Luke has taken care to give it in considerable details.

The Emmaus story is well known. Two disciples are walking to their village Emmaus on the first day of Easter. Obviously they have witnessed the major event of the city of Jerusalem during the past two days. They are very sad about it.

As the two disciples walk Jesus, unknown to them, joins them as a fellow wayfarer and asks them what they were talking about so animatedly.

Luke describes the scene graphically. Jesus as a stranger asked the two disciples What are you talking about to each other, as you walk along?

They stood still, with sad faces. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesnt know the things that have been happening there these last few days? (Lk 24, 17-18).

Cleopas and the other disciple thought that their fellow traveller knew what all things have happened in Jerusalem. But the stranger asked them, What things?

The disciples response reveals their sad and hopeless state of mind. The things that happened to Jesus of Nazareth, they answered. This man was a prophet and was considered by God and by all the people to be powerful in everything he said and did. Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and he was crucified. And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free! Besides all that, this is now the third day since it happened. Some of the women of our group surprised us; they went at dawn to the tomb, but could not find his body. They came back saying they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. Some of our group went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they did not see him (Lk 24, 19-24).

Their fellow traveller, still as an unknown wayfarer said to them, How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory? (Lk 24, 25-26).

Then, Jesus explained to them the Scriptural references about him beginning with Moses and all the prophets (see Luke 24, 27).

When the threesome reached Emmaus, Jesus seemed to continue his journey ahead. But the two disciples persuaded him to stay with them: Stay with us; the day is almost over and it is getting dark (Lk 24, 29).

Jesus accepted their invitation and went in with to their house. When they all sat down to eat, there was sudden revelation. Luke says, He sat down to eat with them, took the bread and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight (Lk 24, 30-31).

As the disciples eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus, he disappeared from their sight!

The disciples response to the whole event of the journey and the meal is remarkable. They said to each other, Wasnt it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?

They got up at once and went back to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples gathered together with the others (Lk 24, 32-33).

The disciples had earlier told Jesus that the day is almost over and it is getting dark as a reason for not going ahead at night. But now the disciples are so excited with the vision of the resurrected Jesus that they set out at once back to Jerusalem. And to their surprise again they found the eleven disciples and others narrating their encounter of Jesus through Simon. The two disciples also told their story of encountering Jesus on the road and recognizing him at their meal.

Today the biblical scholars are not sure where exactly lies the place Emmaus in Israel. So people speculate four places as possible location of Emmaus. We also do not know who was the companion-disciple with Cleopas.

Cleopas story is a typical resurrection story. He and his companions were totally disappointed with the happening in Jerusalem. They had lost all hopes. But the encounter with Jesus on the way to Emmaus and at their ordinary house meal changed everything for them. Now they are full of Jesus and they cannot contain themselves but to return to Jerusalem and proclaim Jesus to others.

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