A reflection for the third Sunday in Easter

Reading: Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

‘We had hoped ……’


What had you hoped for at the start of 2020? What things had you planned that have had to be cancelled or postponed as a result of the COVID-19 virus? Recently a young couple contacted me about their marriage which was planned for next December, but already they have had to think about alternative dates because we cannot say at this stage what can or cannot happen even eight months in advance.

We are aware of the disruption to business and people’s livelihoods. Education has been severely restricted and it is a worrying time for young people facing uncertainty around exams and starting college. All plans for travel and holidays have been put on hold, as have family celebrations, social events and sporting fixtures. For some people of course, disruption is the least of their worries, because they have been directly affected by the virus through ill health and sadly for so many, bereavement. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have suffered through this present crisis.
We can all identify in some way with the two people on their journey home to the village of Emmaus in our gospel reading. Those three words ‘they had hoped’ sum up their sense of loss, confusion and their shattered hopes and dreams for the future. They were not part of the inner circle of twelve apostles (Cleopas is not mentioned elsewhere in the gospels), but they were faithful disciples of Jesus of Nazareth and they had pinned their hopes on him and had joined his movement. In the space of a few short days everything they believed in had crumbled around them. Not only had their master been killed, but their own community leaders, ‘our chief priests’ had handed him over to be executed by the occupying foreign power. They felt utterly betrayed.

Their sense of loss was compounded by the rumours that had emerged about the body of Jesus. Women belonging to their group had gone to the tomb to discover there was no body, but they reported a vision of angels who told them Jesus was alive. Other disciples had gone to investigate, but there was no sign of Jesus. Sad and dejected they poured out their hearts to the unrecognised stranger who accompanied them on the road home.

Two things happened in that encounter which changed everything for the two companions. Firstly, Our Lord chided them for being ‘so slow of heart to believe’ and proceeded to explain from scripture why it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and then to enter glory. This had all been part of God’s intended plan for humanity that he had accomplished in the person of his son Jesus. Hearing the scriptures interpreted in this way had a powerful effect on them, which they later described as ‘our hearts burning within us’. It gave them meaning and a sense of purpose. They had not been abandoned without hope.

The second even more significant part of this encounter was their experience of the presence of Our Lord when ‘he took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them.’ They had not known it was him while he walked and spoke with them but they recognised him with the eyes of faith. Here we have the two essential pillars of our Christian faith which give meaning to our lives even in the most difficult and challenging of circumstances. We have the faith of the church handed down to us, as found in scripture and expressed in the creeds, reminding us that we are not adrift in life without sense or purpose. Built on that foundation we also have the experience of knowing Christ through faith – the Christ who seeks us out and walks on the road with us, whom we meet when we worship together or when we come to him in prayer. Despite the loss of many things we had hoped for, our true hope is in him.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

God our Father,
Hear the prayers we offer to you in faith and love.

We pray for your church, that we and all your people, may be renewed in faith and hope in the risen Jesus. While we are unable to meet together to worship you, help us to continue to be faithful in prayer and devotion to you.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the leaders of nations, for our country, our government and all in positions of leadership during this very difficult time. Guide them with all wisdom in shaping policy and in management of resources for the safety and welfare of all people. May there be a spirit of cooperation and solidarity in our communities.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill, especially those with the coronavirus, in hospitals, nursing homes or at home. Be with all who are anxious or fearful and grant them your strength, healing and peace. Support and care for all who cannot be with their loved ones in time of illness.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who work in our health and emergency services. Protect them from harm or illness, support them in times of stress or exhaustion, and grant them the strength they need to carry on their vital work.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember all who are bereaved and mourn the loss of a loved one. Comfort and support them in their time of grief so that they do not sorrow without hope, but trust in your eternal love.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are worried or anxious in this time of uncertainty. We pray for business owners and employers who are unable to trade. We pray for people who have become unemployed and those who are fearful of losing jobs. We remember all in financial difficulty, those burdened with debt and all who are at risk of losing their homes. Help them to find the resources to cope and to have hope for the future.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our homes and families. We pray for all who are in difficult or stressful relationships, coping with staying at home. We pray for all young people who are isolated from their friends and unable to participate in school. We pray for all who are worried about exams and for teachers who are doing all that they can to support our young people. Grant them your peace and strength.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Help us to remember that you are with us at all times, that you know our needs and come to meet us as Jesus came to the disciples on the road when they were downcast and fearful. May live by faith and trust in your unfailing love through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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