During the Middle Ages, this story became the biblical model for
pilgrimage. Christ himself was perceived to be appearing as pilgrim,
and was frequently depicted fulfilling such a role in artistic
representations of the journey to Emmaus. Here we have a truly scriptural
model for the alignment of pilgrimage with the telling of tales. The
narratives at stake are not only the vivid oral accounts of great events that
had just occurred, but also the understanding of those stories in relation
to older, established and written accounts, such as the scriptures
‘beginning at Moses’. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, a place
about seven miles from Jerusalem, are discussing what is recent history in
the narrative of the Gospel but also sacred action from the perspective of
a Christian reader – that is, the events of the crucifixion and the discovery
of the empty tomb. When they encounter Jesus, he specifically requests a
repetition of this narrative, which he then attempts to correct by
grounding what is at this stage (in Luke’s representation) an immediate
and oral sketch, in the deep and literary context of ‘all the scriptures’.
Only when Jesus blesses and breaks bread – a reference that is both
liturgical, in that it is eucharistic, and literary, in that it specifically refers
back to the Last Supper in Luke’s own narrative (22: 19–20) – do the
disciples evince appropriate recognition of their Lord, which is
immediately the spur for more discussion and a return journey. After their encounter and identification of its significance, they waste no time in
telling others of their experience.
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