The Road of Disappointment

A few days after Jesus has risen, we hear the story of two of Jesus’ followers walking down the road to a town called Emmaus, dejected by the events of the past few days. Along the way they are joined by Jesus, but they do not recognize him. They convince Jesus to stay with them since it is getting dark. Sitting at the dinner table, Jesus takes bread, says a blessing, and breaks it. Suddenly their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus, just as he vanishes from their sight (Luke 24:13-35).

This painting by Caravaggio depicts the moment when the resurrected but incognito Jesus reveals himself to Cleopas and the other disciple, who some presume to be Luke. Cleopas, on the right, wears the scallop shell of a pilgrim. He gesticulates wildly, throwing his arms open as he realizes the identity of his dinner-mate. Luke is so startled he grasps the arms of his chair, ready to bolt to his feet.

The man in the back, with his thumbs tucked into his belt, is the innkeeper. Caravaggio is a master at using light to tell a story. Here the innkeeper’s face is in shadow because he has not yet realized, or even cared, who Jesus is. Caravaggio was criticized for painting Jesus without a beard, but in Mark 16:12, it is said that Jesus appeared to them “in another form.” This may have been why Caravaggio depicted Jesus in this unusual way—beardless.

Being Human connection: Before Jesus joined them on the road, the two men were full of grief and disappointment. They were leaving the city that killed their friend and their hopes with him. It is at that moment that Jesus came to walk alongside them. Perhaps we are walking a road of disappointment too. Current events have left us confused and we are not sure where our road leads us or who we will meet along the way. But just as Jesus met the men where they were, Jesus meets us where we are as well, and he walks alongside us. We might not always recognize him, but he is there.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Featured art: Caravaggio, The Supper at Emmaus, 1601, National Gallery London