Disciples on the road to Emmaus: «Are you in business? Markets?»
The unknown wayfarer: «I have to purchase an enormous number of herds for the greatest Lord. I have to go round the whole world to choose sheep and lambs…»
– enlightenment begins
621. Along a mountain road two middle-aged men are walking fast turning their backs on Jerusalem, whose mountains are disappearing more and more behind those that follow with uninterrupted undulations of summits and valleys.
They are speaking to each other. The elder one says to the other, who must be about thirty-five years old at most: «…Is it really true. Risen how? Only with His Spirit or with His Spirit and His Body?»
«But the spirit is eternal! It need not rise!» exclaims Cleopas.
«I know that, too. What I mean is whether He has risen only with His Nature of God, superior to all the snares of man. Because they laid snares to His Spirit through the terror of man. You did hear, didn’t you? Mark said that at Gethsemane, where He went to pray against a rock, there is blood everywhere. And John, who has spoken to Mark, said to him: “Do not let that place be trampled on, because it is Blood sweated by the Man-God”. If He sweated blood before being tortured, He must have been terrified of the torture!»
«Our poor Master!…» they become silent feeling dejected.
Jesus joins them and asks: «What were you speaking of? In the silence I could hear your words at intervals. Who has been killed?» It is a Jesus veiled under the humble appearance of a poor wayfarer who is in a hurry.
The two do not recognise Him. «Have you come from far away, man? Have you not stopped in Jerusalem? Your dusty tunic and your sandals in that state look like those of an indefatigable pilgrim.»
«I am. I have come from very far…»
«So you must be tired. Are you going far?»
«Yes, very far, even farther than the place from which I come.»
«Are you in business? Markets?»
«I have to purchase an enormous number of herds for the greatest Lord. I have to go round the whole world to choose sheep and lambs, and I have to go also among wild herds, which, however, once they have been tamed, will be better than the ones which at present are not wild.»
«Hard work. And have you gone on your way without stopping in Jerusalem?»
«Why do you ask Me?»
«Because you seem to be the only one who is unaware of what happened there these past days.»
«You have come from afar and therefore perhaps you do not know. And yet your way of speaking is Galilean. So, even if you are the servant of a foreign king or the son of emigrated Galileans, you must know, if you are circumcised, that for three years in our Fatherland a great Prophet had risen, named Jesus of Nazareth, powerful in deeds and in words before God and before men, and He went preaching all over the Country. And He said that He was the Messiah. His words and His deeds were really those of the Son of God, as He said He was. But only of the Son of God. All Heaven… Now you know why… But are you circumcised?»
«I am the first-born and sacred to the Lord.»
«Then do you know our Religion?»
«I know every syllable of it. I know the precepts and the customs. The Halacha, the midrash and the Haggadah are known to Me like the elements of the air, of the water, of the fire and of the light, that are the first to which tend the intelligence, the instinct and the needs of man, shortly after he is born.»
«Well, in that case you know that Israel was promised the Messiah, but as a powerful king who would re-unite Israel. This one instead was not so…»
«He did not aim at earthly power. But He said that He was the king of an eternal spiritual kingdom. He did not re-unite, on the contrary He divided Israel, because the country is now divided between those who believe in Him and those who say that He is a criminal. Really, He was not the stuff kings are made of, because He only wanted meekness and forgiveness. And can one subdue and defeat with such weapons?…»
«So the Chiefs of the Priests and the Elders of Israel captured Him and sentenced Him to death… charging Him, really, with crimes of which He was not guilty. His only fault was to be too good and too severe… we were disciples of the Prophet.»
«And are you no longer so?»
«We hoped that He would free Israel and also that, by means of a miracle, He would confirm His words. Instead!…»
«What words had He spoken?»
«We have told you: “I have come to the Kingdom of David. I am the peaceful King” and so forth. And He used to say: “Come to the Kingdom”, but, then, He did not give us the kingdom. And He would say: “On the third day I will rise from the dead”. Now this is the third day since He died. And it is even finished, because it is later than the ninth hour, and He has not risen. Some women and guards say that He has risen. But we have not seen Him. The guards now state that they said so to justify the theft of the corpse made by the disciples of the Nazarene. But the disciples!… We all abandoned Him out of fear when He was alive… and we certainly did not steal Him now that He is dead. And the women… who believes them? That is what we were talking about. And we wanted to know whether He intended to say that He would rise only with the Spirit that had become divine again, or also with His body. The women say that the angels – because they say that they saw also angels after the earthquake, and it may be, because on Friday some just people had already appeared out of their sepulchres – they say that the angels said that He is like one who has never died. And in fact that is how the women seemed to see Him. But two of us, two chiefs, went to the Sepulchre. And while they saw it empty, as the women had said, they did not see Him there or anywhere else. And it is a great desolation, because we no longer know what to think!»
«Oh! how foolish you are and hard to understand! And how slow you are in believing the words of the prophets! And had all that not already been said? The error of Israel is this: they have misinterpreted the regality of the Christ. That is why He was not believed. That is why He was feared. That is why you are now in doubt. In high places, in low ones, in the Temple, in villages, everywhere people thought of a king according to human nature. The reconstruction of the Kingdom of Israel was not limited, in the mind of God, in time, in space and in means, as it was in you…
… Here is Emmaus, My friends. I am going farther. No stop is granted to the Wayfarer Who has to travel so far.»
«Sir, you are more learned than a rabbi. If He were not dead, we should say that He has spoken to us. We should like to hear some more and wider truths from you. Because now, we are like sheep without a shepherd, upset by the storm of Israel’s hatred, and we are no longer able to understand the words of the Book… O sir, it is nearly evening and the sun is beginning to set. You are tired and thirsty. Come in. Stay with us. You will speak to us of God, while we share bread and salt.»
Jesus goes in and they serve Him with the customary Jewish hospitality, offering Him drinks and water for His tired feet.
Then they sit at the table and the two beg Him to offer the food for them.
Jesus stands up holding the bread in the palms of His hands, and raising His eyes to the red sky of the evening, He recites the thanksgiving for the food and sits down. He breaks the bread and gives some to His two guests. And, in doing so, He reveals Himself for what He is: the Risen Lord. He is not the bright Risen Lord Who appeared to the others who are dearer to Him. But He is a Jesus full of majesty, with the wounds very clear in His long Hands: red roses against the ivory of His skin. A Jesus fully alive in His recomposed Body. But He is also clearly God in the majesty of His eyes and of all His aspect.
The two recognise Him and fall on their knees… But when they dare to lift their faces, there is nothing left of Him except the broken bread. They take it and kiss it. Each takes his own piece and after enveloping it in a linen cloth, he puts it, like a relic, on his chest.
They weep saying: «It was He! And we did not recognise Him. And yet did you not feel your heart burn within you while He spoke and explained the Scriptures to us?»
«Yes, I did. And now I seem to see Him again. And in the light coming from Heaven. The light of God. And I see that He is the Saviour.»
«Let us go. I am no longer hungry or tired. Let us go and tell Jesus’ disciples…»
And in the fully purple sunset, they go speedily towards Jerusalem.