Lectio Divina –
An example of Method and Principles in action.
Gospel reading: Luke 24:13-35
Vs 13 That very same day, the first day after the Sabbath, two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem,
Vs 14 and they were talking together about all that had happened.
Vs 15 Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side
Vs 16 but something prevented them from recognising him.
Vs 17 He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
Vs 18 Then one of them called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening these last few days.’
Vs 19 ‘What things,’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth,’ they answered, ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people;
Vs 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified.
Vs 21 Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. But that is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened,
Vs 22 and some women from our group have astounded us; they went to the tomb in the early morning,
Vs 23 and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us that they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive.
Vs 24 Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
Vs 25 Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets!
Vs 26 Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?
Vs 27 Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
Vs 28 When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on,
Vs 29 but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening, they said, ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
Vs 30 Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them.
Vs 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.
Vs 32 Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us.’
Vs 33 They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven assembled together with their companions,
Vs 34 who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and appeared to Simon.’
Vs 35 Then they told their story of what happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
Historical Situation of the Passage.
Broader Historical Context.
Event itself happened around year 33 AD. Luke wrote his gospel around the year 85 AD some fifty years later. Years 33-35 saw a rapid and vibrant spread of early Christian movement – to Antioch, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy. In 64 AD the emperor Nero declared death to all Christians. They were persecuted, tortured, slaughtered. Some were used as living torches to illuminate feasts. Two years later in 66 Ad there was a Jewish rebellion against Roman occupation in Palestine which was short lived. The Romans came back with a vengeance: Jerusalem was completely destroyed; the Temple left in ruins (70 Ad). In 67 AD the two great leaders and pioneers Peter and Paul were killed leaving the new Christian communities anxious about their future. About 15 years later Luke wrote his gospel. So understandably in telling this story he seeks to help the communities deal with their losses, make sense of their situation, and find courage and hope for the future.
Where? On the road to Emmaus – a village about seven miles from Jerusalem. There are three places in Israel today claiming to be the original Emmaus: Latrun, Al-Qubeiba, Abu-Gosh. Later in Emmaus itself, in the home of the two disciples; and then even more specifically at the dining room table. Last section in Jerusalem presumably in ‘the upper room’ where the disciples had gathered.
When? ‘That very same day’ – the same day that the women had gone to the tomb and experienced a vision of angels who told them, ‘He is not here, he has risen!’ The first day of the week, Easter Sunday. Later when they reached Emmaus it was ‘nearly evening’ – darkness was beginning to fall. The return journey to Jerusalem took place when t was dark outside.
Who? The main protagonists are Jesus and the two disciples. We know the name of one of the disciples: Cleopas. The other disciple was possibly his wife: ‘Mary wife of Cleopas who stood at the foot of the cross in John’s Gospel (Jn 19:25). Artists Carravagio and Rembrandt depict second disciple as another man. We know they were close disciples of Jesus who had great hopes for Jesus, and themselves with Jesus, but for them the crucifixion has ended it all. So they were devastated by their loss and bewildered by the rumours going around. As far as they are concerned a stranger has come up and walked beside them. Jesus at first is not recognised by the disciples. In his glorified body it was the same Jesus but different in bodily form. The eleven – no longer twelve. Judas has gone.
What? V.13-18 We are introduced to the main characters: Jesus and the two disciples. The disciples walk and talk with faces ‘downcast,’ with heavy hearts – dejected, disillusioned, disappointed. Jesus walked alongside them.
V. 19-24 The disciples speak. They told their tragic story from beginning to end – Who Jesus was for them; their own hopes; his crucifixion; their profound loss and their confusion. Jesus listened long and hard to their story without interruption.
v.25-27 Jesus speaks. He told them their problem was that they were not understanding their story properly..With the help of the scriptures he helped them to make sense of what happened. He opened up for them ‘the full message of the Prophets’ – the scriptures in dialogue with their own life experience. As Jews they knew the Bible well but as yet they did not know the ‘full Bible’ – up to now they were not able to make the connection between the scriptures and the story they had just told. That is what Jesus did for them: helping them to see that the suffering and death of Jesus were ‘ordained’ by God – that it was the will of God. That God was there. God was within it. The hand of God was at work in it. It was God’s way of revealing his total self-giving love…and the ultimate victory of that love.
Vs.28-32 The climax of the story. While sitting at table their guest took bread and broke it and their eyes were opened, and they recognised him as Jesus and he vanished from their sight. Where did he go? He went inside of them. Confirmation that ‘as he talked to them on the road and explained the scriptures’ they were deeply moved and heartened, ‘hearts were burning within them.’
Vs.32-35 Fruit of the encounter. They returned to the place where everything had gone wrong bursting with the news of their encounter with the Risen Jesus.
Suggested Guidelines for meditation.
Remember the ‘cross’ that killed our hopes as individuals, or as family, or as church, or country and filled us with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness ‘their faces downcast’ and we just wanted to cut ourselves off from community, get ‘on the road’ and find a safe sanctuary in ‘Emmaus’.
Remember the experience of ‘Jerusalem’ where our own hopes were dashed and we walked that road to ‘Emmaus’ lamenting our losses and disappointments.
Remember those who really listened to us ‘on that road’ in our troubles; how they ‘walked beside us’ and gave us their full attention; how they allowed us to talk without interruption; how they were genuinely interested and appreciative of all we had to say.
Remember how with great sensitivity and care they shared something of the wisdom of their own experience with us, and we began to see things differently. Slowly their words engendered new life and new hope in our hearts ‘Were not our hearts burning within us..’ and we longed to have more of their company, ‘stay with us’..
Remember how table fellowship – ‘while he was at table with them’ –strengthened the bonds between us and confirmed us in our belief in ourselves and in our future. It seemed that a whole new and exciting world was opening up in front of us.
Remember how ‘Jerusalem’ no longer terrified us. It no longer had the same power over us as before and we felt safe going back there –‘They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem.’
Or we could take it from the Jesus perspective. Remember the times when we ministered to the pain, disappointment and hurt of others, ‘walking beside them’, listening deeply to them, drawing on the wisdom of our own life experience and gradually awakening new hope and desire in their hearts. When we felt they were sufficiently strong we withdrew our constant presence, confident that this would help them grow in confidence and stand on their own two feet – ‘he vanished from their sight.’
Suggested Wisdom Statements.
Only when we slow down and walk beside people can we truly understand their pain.
People listen more with their eyes than with their ears.
Finding words for our suffering is the first step towards healing.
As long as there is hope, there is motivation to keep going, especially in the difficult times.
When we live without hope we are as good as dead.
The answer to the problems and crises of today lies not in today but in yesterday.
Table fellowship deepens the bonds between us.
Only when we come to terms with the pain and tragedies of the past are we free to move forward.
Community is founded on the premise of giving each other the space to tell our stories.
Useful ‘Lectio Quotes’
The objective or purpose of Bible reading is not to know the Bible but to know that God is with us today. (Carlos Mesters)
It is not a question of interpreting the Bible, it is a matter of interpreting life with the help of the Bible. Carlos Mesters)
The coming together of Bible and life experience in the personal, public, local and global arenas, makes for a fuller appreciation of God with us! (Michel de Verteuil)
The best Professor is the one who when he finishes his teaching the students say ‘but we knew all that already!’ (Denis McBride)
The raison d’être of a Lectio community is the coming together to confirm and strengthen our conviction that Jesus has risen! God is with us!
The community is the pan on which the ‘lectio food’ is cooked. (Carlos Mesters)