Christ Appears to Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus

The Iconography

In Luke 24:13-35 (see below) Jesus appears to two disciples making their way to Emmaus on the day of the Resurrection. Upon arrival they dine with him but do not recognize him as Jesus until the breaking of the bread.

The story thus allows for two scenes: one on the road and one at table. Some artworks juxtapose the two scenes (example). Others feature only the road (e.g. the mosaic above) or only the table. Caravaggio's Emmaus is an example of the latter, and also of a tendency in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to present the supper table naturalistically, with real-seeming food of various kinds. Earlier works, such as the first picture at right, were simpler and more in tune with the eucharistic implications of Christ's self-revelation in the breaking of the bread.

LUKE 24:13-35 — And behold, two of them went, the same day, to a town which was sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, named Emmaus. 14And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15And it came to pass, that while they talked and reasoned with themselves, Jesus himself also drawing near, went with them. 16But their eyes were held, that they should not know him. 17And he said to them: What are these discourses that you hold one with another as you walk, and are sad? 18And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to him: Art thou only a stranger to Jerusalem, and hast not known the things that have been done there in these days? 19To whom he said: What things? And they said: Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people; 20And how our chief priests and princes delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But we hoped, that it was he that should have redeemed Israel: and now besides all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22Yea and certain women also of our company affrighted us, who before it was light, were at the sepulchre, 23And not finding his body, came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, who say that he is alive. 24And some of our people went to the sepulchre, and found it so as the women had said, but him they found not. 25Then he said to them: O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. 26Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory? 27And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him. 28And they drew nigh to the town, whither they were going: and he made as though he would go farther. 29But they constrained him; saying: Stay with us, because it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent. And he went in with them. 30And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. 31And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. 32And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in this way, and opened to us the scriptures? 33And rising up, the same hour, they went back to Jerusalem: and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were staying with them, 34Saying: The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35And they told what things were done in the way; and how they knew him in the breaking of the bread.


Prepared in 2016 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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SHOWN ABOVE

Mosaic in the nave of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy. See the description page.

OTHER IMAGES

Pontormo, 1527: Only bread and wine are shown on the table. Christ blesses the bread as a priest would at Mass. See description page

On the road – 12th century plaque. See description page.

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