If only I could have been there on Easter Day—to look into the empty tomb, to hear the resurrection news firsthand, to see the risen Jesus—then I would really believe.
During the Easter season (and yes, it’s 50 days and not just 1), it’s easy for me to dream of being there when it all happened. The exciting news travels through the community. One person tells another. Jesus shows up—sometimes unexpectedly—to show the disciples his resurrected self. Thomas is invited to place his hand in the marks of the nails and in Jesus’ side. But so what if I had been there? Would it be any different?
Luke gives us a post-resurrection account of the walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Two disciples were journeying down from Jerusalem when the risen Jesus showed up to walk with them. They spoke of what had happened. One disciple remarked, “Some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” In other words, “We are among those who have peered into the empty tomb, yet we still haven’t figured it out.” Jesus’ reply? “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!”
Then, Jesus explained everything to them—how the scriptures pointed to a crucified and resurrected savior. He led them through the prophets, starting with Moses, and explained Easter to them. But still they did not get it. “Hey, stranger! Want to spend the night here with us?”
In this story, what is it that brings resurrection belief? It’s not looking into the empty tomb. It’s not walking with the risen Jesus. It’s not understanding the scriptures and making sense of the prophecies. It’s breaking bread together. As soon as Jesus blessed and broke bread, these two disciples realized who he was. Their eyes were opened through the Eucharistic action. And then he vanished.
Two-thousand years later, I find myself wishing I could be there—to see it all happen and to hear the good news as it first rippled through the community. But I am reminded by Luke that the point isn’t going back in time to be there when it happened but to bring it forward into the present as the body of Christ. We gather to worship and celebrate the resurrection. We do it all the time. How might the breaking of the bread open our eyes this Sunday to behold the risen Jesus—even if only for a brief second?