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XVII – On the Road to Emmaus

One of the most evocative images in the Gospels, to me, is that of Jesus walking on the road to Emmaus with the two disciples, following His Resurrection, expounding to them the Scriptures related to Himself, during the whole time of which the disciples don’t recognize Him. Only after they invite Him to their lodging, and when He breaks the bread, do they recognize Him, and at that moment, He is gone. And what’s left? What do they find themselves looking at, where Jesus had been just moments before? The bread.

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him. [Luke 24:27]

By no means an exhaustive list, here is what Jesus would have expounded from the book of Genesis alone:

We know the so-called protoevangelium, Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel”, referring to the seed of the woman, Christ, crushing the head of the serpent.

Also, we have this: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return” [Genesis 3:19], referring to the work of making bread, which will be man’s offering of the work of his hands toward the making of the bread for the Eucharist. That may seem like a Catholic stretch, but we'll return to it at a later time.

Genesis 4: Abel, the righteous brother, is slain by Cain, the unrighteous brother. Cain’s sacrifice is not acceptable to God and so he slays his brother, as Christ is slain by His people whose sacrifice is not deemed acceptable.

Genesis 14: Melchisedech, the king of Salem, the priest of the most high God, brings Abram bread and wine.

Genesis 22: Abraham is commanded to offer his “only begotten son Isaac” [v. 2] as a holocaust offering. “And he took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son” [v. 6] and they go up the mountain, as Christ carries the wood of His cross up to Calvary.

Verses 7-8: “Isaac said to his father: My father. And he answered: What wilt thou, son? Behold, saith he, fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust? And Abraham said: God will provide himself a victim for an holocaust, my son. So they went on together.” After the angel stays his hand, “Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw behind his back a ram amongst the briers sticking fast by the horns, which he took and offered for a holocaust instead of his son” [v. 13] the victim that God provided is seen with its head held fast by briers, as Christ was crowned with thorns.

The significance of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, yet being stopped from doing so, has been said to be for the purpose of putting a stop to the concept of human sacrifice, but it seems clear that the real purpose was to point toward the sacrifice of the Son of God, and it was important because all these “pointers” to Christ’s Passion must actually occur, in a way similar to the Catholic concept of the sacraments- they effect what they signify.

Genesis 27: Rebecca puts the skins of kids on Jacob’s arms and neck, so that when Isaac goes to test him, he says, “…The voice indeed is the voice of Jacob; but the hands are the hands of Esau.” [v. 22] St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that this is like Christ’s appearing to us as bread and wine, so that the person and the appearance can be distinct from each other.

Genesis 28: Jacob’s dream of the ladder [quod vide]


Joseph’s brothers conspire to kill him, but he is thrown into a pit, and they sit down to eat a meal. They sell him to some Midianite traders for silver. They dip his coat of colors into goat's blood and present it to Jacob. Following the Last Supper, Jesus is sold for silver. His garments are the object of interest of Roman soldiers, as a specific fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus descends into hell, or death, or the pit.

Joseph refuses to be seduced by Potiphar's wife. Jesus refuses the temptations of Satan.

Joseph is sent wrongfully to prison, and there he is confronted with the dreams of the Pharaoh's butler, who keeps the wine cup, and his baker, who bakes bread. Of course, these represent the bread and chalice of the Last Supper. The baker is hanged on a tree, as Jesus is crucified on wood. The dreams of both men are indicative of 3 days. Jesus rises on the 3rd day.

Joseph comes to Pharaoh's court and, following the interpretation of dreams, he is made head of the land, and he is given all the authority of Pharaoh. Jesus, of course, is given all authority by God. All who want food during the years of famine must come to Joseph. All who want salvation must come to Christ and receive the true food, His Body and Blood.

Joseph's brothers do not recognize him until he reveals himself. Jesus' disciples do not recognize him on the road to Emmaus until he reveals Himself. Joseph is a type of the resurrected body in his new "incarnation" as governor of Egypt. The reason he is not recognized is because of his position- his brothers could not recognize him because they could never have conceived of him in his elevated position, even though he had told them of his dream that they would bow to them, and they knew he was alive and could well have been in Egypt, however they are blinded by circumstance. Jesus, too, though He told His disciples He would rise from the dead, is not recognized by them because (it could be argued) they couldn't really conceive of it.

When Joseph reveals himself to the brothers, he tells them not to grieve, because God sent him before them to preserve life. Jesus is sent before us into death to preserve eternal life.

The Exodus:

The parallels between the Passover and the Passion are too well-known to make it worthwhile to list them all here. Suffice it to emphasize the prominence of the Passover meal, the crossing of the Red Sea as baptism and escape from the forces of evil (Pharaoh | Satan), which are vanquished by the crossing. The manna in the wilderness, the raising of the serpent, are referenced by Christ Himself in the Gospels.

Many of these and other Christologies are known to Protestants as well as Catholics, but the prominence of the bread and wine should give great pause. I’ve said elsewhere, to think of these things as symbols is to blind oneself to a whole dimension of Scripture. Worse than that, though, it is a failure to recognize the ongoing miracle of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that continues to this very day. If as a Protestant you perceive, as I did for many years, that something seems to be missing when you compare your life today to that which you read in the New Testament, and that thing missing is the presence of the miraculous, then you owe it to yourself to investigate the Church that proclaims that a Miracle is made present every day. You already follow the Liturgical Year, just not as closely. You know when it’s Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas, and you at least are careful to demand those days off even if you think Christmas is really a celebration of the birth of Ishtar or Easter was actually begun as a fertility rite, etc., ad nauseum.

So, here’s my question for you. And if you are a strict Bible-alone Protestant, then you are not reading this Catholic blog anyway, so never mind. But for the rest, consider this question. What did Jesus say and do, after His Resurrection, but before His Ascension. We have some record of this 40-day period, but not a lot.

The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up. To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God. [Acts of the Apostles 1:1-3]

So He spoke to the apostles, showed Himself alive by many proofs, for forty days. Let’s think about the significance of this time period.

What can we say about these 40 days to differentiate them from all the rest of Christ’s earthly ministry? To narrow it down, what can we say about the apostles during this period, that makes them different? How have the apostles changed?

The Jews, therefore, answered, and said to him: What sign dost thou shew unto us, seeing thou dost these things? Jesus answered, and said to them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said: Six and forty years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days? But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen again from the dead, his disciples remembered, that he had said this, and they believed the scripture, and the word that Jesus had said. [John 2:18-22]

If you are an historian, and you read these verses, you would have to conclude that they were written following the resurrection of Jesus, because they reference the resurrection of Jesus. And if you are an apostle, in the days following the resurrection, as referenced in the Book of Acts, that Jesus showed Himself alive by many proofs, then you have a knowledge that you didn’t have before, and that is that Jesus had made reference to His crucifixion many times during His ministry, and you are just now coming to understand it. During these 40 days, as He did at Emmaus, Jesus was making known to His apostles those things that they heard Him say during His earthly life but did not understand. During those 40 days, the apostles must have thought or said words to the effect of, “Wow, I didn’t realize He meant that,” probably dozens of times. These would have been the most eye-opening days of their lives, pre-Pentecost. It is surprising that we have so few actual episodes from this time period, but all are telling.

We have the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, following which He went with them, “And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight.” [Luke 24:30-31]

Verse 35 emphasizes this: “And they told what things were done in the way; and how they knew him in the breaking of the bread.”

As they say this, having gone to Jerusalem, Jesus stands in the midst of them, and he eats a piece of a broiled fish and a honeycomb, and preaches briefly and blesses them.

St. Matthew relates a very brief episode, but again, a telling one:

And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. [Matthew 28:18-20]

“Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days…” If you don’t know what “I am with you all days” really means, you should find out, because it is obviously important. It is NOT referring to the Person of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus specifically delineated between the Persons of the Son and the Holy Spirit when He spoke of the coming of the Paraclete.

St. Mark is also brief in his account of the 40 days:

At length he appeared to the eleven as they were at table: and he upbraided them with their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen him after he was risen again. And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall cast out devils: they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover. And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God. But they going forth preached everywhere: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed. [Mark 16:14-20]

We’ve gone through St. Luke. St. John has the lengthiest account of Jesus’ 40-day post-Resurrection sojourn. There is no doubt, too, of the continuity. When He asks Peter three times if he loves Him, it is clear He is chiding him for his three denials. We are not to doubt that Jesus has not only the same body, but the same mind and memory.

St. John’s Gospel has Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. Once again, He remains unknown until He chooses to reveal Himself. Later that day, He appears unexpectedly in a room with shut doors, and shows them His side and His hands. Again, 8 days later, He appears in the room after the doors are shut, to show Himself to Thomas.

He then shows Himself to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias [chapter 21]. He has Peter cast his net on the right side of the ship, to catch so many fish they were unable to draw the net. Peter brings in the net, they dine, and Jesus asks him three times about his love for Him. He prophesies to Peter his manner of death. Then He speaks of the beloved disciple.

Finally, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, it is recorded that He told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for their baptism with the Holy Ghost, He tells them it is not for them to know “times or moments” of the restoration of the kingdom [chapter 1 verse 7], and that they would be witnesses “to the uttermost part of the earth” [v. 8]. He then ascends, and that is all. This is the fortieth day.

These brief accounts primarily emphasize two things: the quelling of doubts, showing that it is indeed He; and a reiteration of the ultimate mission of the apostles. The fact that He is said to dine with them as often as He does, considering He is in His resurrected Body, should strike us, as well as the fact that the disciples know Him in the breaking of the bread. But as long as it takes to tell it, these are still very brief accounts. Was there more to what Jesus taught His disciples in this time period?

Before we address that, we need to understand something about the Eucharist. Although it is directly addressed by St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, the whole liturgical nature of the Mass is not spelled out in the documents culled together by the Catholic Church and canonized as the New Testament. Indeed, such things were not discussed readily in public, and we must remember that the documents of the New Testament were written during a time marked by persecution by both the Jews and the Romans, but also other dangers:

The Holy Scriptures, those venerable monuments of the Apostolic age, were, from their origin, received with the respect due to the word of God. We find them quoted in the Pastor of Hennas, in the letters of St. Clement, and in the letter to Diognetus. Heretics endeavored, either to alter the sacred text, or to introduce apocryphal gospels, under the names of the Apostles, such as the "Gospel of the Infancy," the " ProtoGospel," attributed to St. James, &c. But their efforts to corrupt the Apostolic teaching at its source, have ended only in demonstrating the importance which the Church attached from the beginning to the preservation of the New Testament pure from all foreign admixtures. The sacred books and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, which have come down to us, do not form a collection of works in which the Christian doctrines are set forth in a didactic manner, but rather their history and morals. The Discipline of the Secret, which was so inviolably observed in the face of paganism, or of Judaism, explains sufficiently this reserve of the ecclesiastical authors. From this reserve, or silence, Protestants have sought to draw conclusions adverse to all points of dogma, or discipline, that are not explicitly mentioned by those early writers. Their arguments rest on a capital historic error. They argue, as if religious initiation had been effected in the first century by written instructions; whereas it is the contrary which is true. Oral instruction, or the setting forth of the truth, without ·any medium but the living voice, was the striking characteristic of Apostolic teaching. Such is the sacred origin of that tradition, or oral transmission of religious truth, which began with the Saviour, and has pursued its course amid persecutions and heresies, always unchangeable, always respected. Tradition completes the written doctrine, the sacred text confirms tradition; we cannot separate one from the other; we cannot shake either of these two columns of the temple without crumbling the whole edifice. [A General History of the Catholic Church, Vol. I, M. L’Abbe J. E. Darras, P. O’Shea Publisher, 1869, pp. 66-67]

Or, to quote a verse beloved by many Protestant preachers:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17, King James Version]

So what I want to consider is this: The apostles were coming to understand the meanings of many of the sayings of Jesus during His earthly ministry that they had not understood the first time. Not only were they coming to understand that Jesus referred to His crucifixion, and His subsequent resurrection, but they were coming to understand their role in taking over the priesthood of the new Church, which He had said He was building on Kepha, or Peter, the Rock. Jesus, Who dined with them almost every time He met with them during the 40 days, would have reminded them of His admonition to “do this for a commemoration of Me”, referring to the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine, in such a manner that St. Paul, who was not present and so was speaking of the tradition he was given by the apostles who were present, repeats the words of consecration verbatim:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. [1 Corinthians 11:23-25]

And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. In like manner the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you. [Luke 22:19-20]

Actually, St. Paul says he received this “of the Lord”, which implies he received this directly from Jesus Christ, although Catholic commentary says of this phrase, “no doubt indirectly through the other apostles [A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, ed. Dom Bernard Orchard, M.A. Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953, p. 1093]”. In either case, the important thing is that, to reiterate, then-Saul of Tarsus was not present at the Last Supper, but he saw fit to preserve Jesus’ exact words, even going so far as to condemn those who “eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily,” as has been pointed out here more than once.

What this all very strongly suggests is that, during the 40 days He spent with the apostles of His Church between His Resurrection and His Ascension, Jesus Christ made them focus on the Mass, the Passover meal of the Last Supper wherein He is the lamb that is sacrificed and eaten, His body is the bread and His blood is the wine. It says He dines with them, repeatedly. It says He tells Peter to “feed My lambs” and “feed My sheep”. The emphasis and focus on eating and drinking and His body and His blood is so pronounced that you really need to want to disbelieve it. Faith in the Eucharist is, ultimately, a matter of obedience to the One we call our Lord.

Finally, the Liturgy of the Mass was outlined by Justin Martyr in the early 2nd century, clearly incorporating these same writings:


…There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to genoito [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.


And this food is called among us Eukaristia, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone.

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