Bible studies on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace
“Outside of their comfort zone” (Luke 24: 13-35)
Jennifer P. Martin*
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace is dedicated to the accompaniment of persons as they move along their journey, regardless of what their current circumstance might be. At times persons may be so overwhelmed by their past and present that they are incapable to grasp the help which is at hand. Pilgrims often need a patient, listening ear before they can draw the strength to carry on with their physical and spiritual pilgrimages.
Inherent in the notion of pilgrimage is movement/travelling. The very act of journeying contains within it the possibility of change and the inevitable moving away from one’s comfort zone. Although many stories about Jesus and his disciples tend to lean toward the rustic and the simple, some difficulties did arise which intimated that following Jesus would not guarantee ease and material plenty. Yet the sense of a comfort zone had crept into aspects of their life with Jesus. And even though the crucifixion and resurrection shook the roots of their relationship with Jesus, the disciples were not ready to leave their comfort zones.
Travelling with Christ
Having moved away from their former, familiar ways of travelling with Jesus, the disciples had grown to develop a new way of life. Included in their new life was a belief that Jesus would be their political deliverer (Luke 24:21). They had also surrounded themselves with a prevailing sense of unbelief that indeed a time would come, when the Jesus whom they had come to know and love, would no longer dwell among them in a fleshly form, recognizable to them.
In Luke 24:15, the Risen but as yet unrecognized Christ walks with two of his disciples. In Luke 24:25 he chides the disciples of being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken.” Sadly, it would appear that despite the quality and quantity of the time spent with Jesus these men did not “get it.” They had not allowed themselves to enter deeply into the narrative of who Christ was. So although the text opens with them walking, this is not a manner of walking which exhibited the joy of the Lord being their strength. They had not yet grasped their new relationship with the Risen Christ. The likely scenario is that they had been moving like dejected plodders, uncertain of what they were likely to find in Emmaus.
The text is at the stage wherein the fearful pilgrims are moving away from a painful witness to the wounds, death and burial of Jesus. Doubtless their own deaths may well have seemed imminent to them. This text reminds me that I still view this pilgrim journey sometimes too narrowly, through my own lens even as I am seeking to more sensitively empathize with fellow pilgrims. I am learning that the opening of our eyes, the capacity to see signs of resurrection, the ability to recognize the Lord of the resurrection who is walking alongside and talking with us, comes to fellow pilgrims in stages and at different times (e.g., Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus). As pilgrims we travel in our different stages of imperfection.
Decades ago, during my cherished youth in Jamaica, I was travelling on a bus heading home. My homeward journey was earlier than usual because I was not feeling well. I had come down with a tummy ache and convinced myself that I was on my last legs. The bus came to a halt at a bus stop and a lady came up the steps. It was my own mother. “Mama,” I called out to her. She smiled tenderly at me and moved toward me. To this day I have never understood how it was that the unbearablepain disappeared in that moment of recognizing my precious mother. I did not expect to see either of my parents on that bus. My father was at work and my mother was meant to be in her domain, our home.Yet, in that joyful moment of recognition I knew that help, support, comfort, strength, understanding and her loving arms were available to me. The umbilical connection, became realto me in that instant.
When years later my mother developed mobility issues due to deteriorating health, she carved a new role for herself; that of praying for each child, grand-child, in-law by name. She often shared loving memories of our departed dad and reminded us that the Holy Spirit would be with us through all the vicissitudes of life, allthe days of our lives regardless of which community or country our pilgrim journey would take us.
In my Caribbean context some persons boldly proclaim that their parents are so excellent and present that their actions are godlike. Some children are taught to believe that parents will be in their corner as long as the parents are alive and lucid. There is a strong cultural reliance upon the care and blessings of parents and older family members.
When our big brother embarked upon what turned to be a protracted pilgrimage of illness, I assigned him the invaluable responsibility of praying for each of us, by name, every day.At this time in our family a young niece has the guardian role of sending everyone a daily verse to remind us that Christ is with us wherever the pilgrimage oflife may take us. This personal commentary helps me understand the disciples whom we find walking on the road to Emmaus with Christ. They experienced the ever present nature of our Lord, in their lives.
The disciples, outside of their comfort zone
From my Caribbean context I take to this reading an understanding of the value of growing roots and wings in your setting so that if it becomes necessary to change communities or countries the strength which has been implantedin one can be transported and transplanted into a new setting. Christianity and Economics have been tied in a Gordian knot since the days of Chattel slavery in the Caribbean. Persistent poverty, fuelled in part by unequal global economic relations, continue to cause internal and external migration and thus people have to move out of their comfort zones. Movements of our peoples have never seemed to dull our capacity to recognize the accompanying Jesus. Believers and sometimes even those who like Peter, in situations of danger, follow Jesus at a distance (Mark15:53), recognize Jesus as a Journeyman and ask this companion, protector, Jesus to journey with them. The Jamaican folk song “My Journeyman Jesus” (see Resources below), asks Jesus to journey alongside oneself. One may be a stranger in an environment but there is certainty of Christ’s presence in the [Pilgrim] journey.
This personal reading is not intended to disguise the empathy which I feel for the mourning disciples. I can walk in their shoes. Jesus was calling them to become his disciples. Jesus wished them to understand and accept that their roles would become increasingly significant in the work of Christ’s kingdom (v. 26). The hapless, distraught disciples (v. 21) were stuck at the point of their innocent, self-preserving and wishful understanding of what Jesus would do for them and they “had trusted that it had been he who would have redeemed Israel.” Hope of their survival as individuals and as a people was dwindling. At that stage of their walk to Emmaus they could or would not permit themselves to believe the report of the women, that Jesus’s body was missing. In simple human terms, the disciples did not want him to go away. They drew comfort from his physical presence. They loved their comfort zone. I can understand that.
Christ understands that too. Then as now, he prods us out of our comfort zones. But he never leaves us without comfort, support and companionship. He provides us the knowledge necessary for the task ahead. In verse 25 he makes reference to the foolishness of his disciples, and as an exemplary parent he gives his disciples a revision lesson in verse 27: “and beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
He is Risen
Easter time is very special in the Caribbean. There is a grand mixture of celebrating the Easter Story through church services, dramatic presentations, films, processions with crosses through communities. Over the past decades there has been an increased popularization of secular carnivals at Easter time which led to interesting theological debates. But Christians hold to the unchanging fact that our Lord is risen. It is this fact that has moved us over the centuries from the utter and potentially immobilizing shock experienced by the women and men who were with Christ to our present security in the risen Christ.
At the WCC World Mission Conference held in Arusha, Tanzania this year we were called to be transformed disciples. We as disciples have to move out of our comfort zones in order to become agents of transformation in the mission of Christ’s Church. The Holy Spirit wafts us away from our comfort zone. Be alert. Be poised to move or to be moved.
1. Are you, like the two on the way to Emmaus, not yet ready to leave your comfort zone? How would you address this?
2. How can you seek to create the conditions that will cause people’s hearts to burn within them when the word is opened up in Bible Studies?
Review the Stations of the Cross at Item number 2 List of Resources. What lessons can you glean for your contexts?
1. Definition of Comfort Zone
- the temperature range within which one is comfortable
- the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity
2. Images of the Stations of the Cross
By artist from Turkana, Kenya under the leadership of Sister Janet Mulling
3. Road to Lacovia
4. Jamaican Folk Song
My Journey Man Jesus (begins at 1:54 into the video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3VaQPLB_2s
* Jennifer P. Martin, from the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, serves on the WCC Commission for World Mission and Evangelism and the international reference group for the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.