A story from Luke 24 tells two of Jesus’ disciples were on their way to a village called Emmaus. They were joined by a third man who wondered why they were so dejected. They explained to him that the man they thought would set Israel free had been crucified three days earlier. Their new companion explained to them how all of scripture pointed to this very moment. At the breaking of bread that evening, the two men recognized their traveling companion to be none other than Jesus himself, and then he vanished. “Did not our hearts burn within us?” they exclaimed. (Luke 24:13-35)
This painting by Matthias Storn depicts the exact moment when Jesus was recognized as he broke the bread. We are drawn in by the soft candlelight and warm tones. The artist has left a place for us at the table, which increases the intimate feeling of the scene. We are welcome to sit down. Hands are raised in delight and surprise as the truth is realized—one hand is even reaching out to touch Jesus’ right shoulder. Observing all of this is a young servant, holding a bowl with eyes wide with awe.
The dog may seem to just be doing what dogs do—begging for food, but the dog actually has meaning. In 17th century paintings, dogs symbolized dependence and loyalty. Most dogs didn’t have a master in those days and wandered the streets, dependent on discarded scraps. If a dog was depicted with a master, it symbolized dependence and loyalty. The artist wants us to see that this dog has found a new master and is looking longingly at him. The men, too, have discovered their new Master and gaze upon him with awe and wonder.
As they traversed the road to Emmaus, the men were confused and disoriented because of the things that had just occurred. We may be in the same boat. Current events have left us confused and disoriented. We aren’t sure where the road leads or what we will encounter upon it.
Being Human connection: Just as he met the men where they were at, Jesus meets us where we are at, and he walks alongside us. We might not always recognize him, but he is there.
Featured art: Matthias Stom, “Supper at Emmaus,” 1632 © Museum of Grenoble, France