The Fifth Gospel?

Feeling driven to write my own gospel of Jesus, I’m irritated to recall that the gospel of Mark is already taken. Gospel of Browning doesn’t quite have the proper ring. I’ll keep thinking.

The reason I’m considering additional gospels is that I have been writing a lesson on Luke 24 and the “Road to Emmaus” passage. Only Luke clearly records the “road to Emmaus” story among the four gospels. (Mark has a brief note that might refer to the same event.)

Take a look at Luke’s “Easter” chapter, number 24, on the page, paying attention to where most Bibles place section headings, we notice something intriguing. He devotes 12 verses to the women and then Peter discovering the empty tomb. Then come the 23 verses of the Emmaus story. After the Emmaus portion, we have 14 verses relating an encounter with Jesus back in Jerusalem. Finally, the chapter and gospel conclude with four verses regarding the ascension.

What’s the point of all this counting? Luke dedicates 43% of his “Easter coverage” to Emmaus. That’s far more than he gives to any of the other segments. Why?

Clearly, this peculiar story in which Jesus spends a good part of that first Easter Sunday walking along with one obscure (Cleopas) and one unnamed disciple, is a major event in Luke’s Easter, but why? Looking more closely at it, we might discover ourselves in that unnamed disciple.

Let’s consider for a moment an alternative gospel account. What if, on Easter Sunday, the disciples had discovered the empty tomb and known with certainty that Jesus had indeed risen. But let’s assume that this risen Jesus did not appear to the eleven, did not cook breakfast by the Sea of Galilee, did not make a point of showing himself to Thomas, and did not walk down that road to Emmaus. What if he had always been mysterious and silent and just far enough away not to be really present with the followers? What if he had simply waved at the group and then ascended? Wouldn’t that be a less meaningful Jesus?

But that gospel account is not nearly as good of news. In reality, Jesus walked along that road to Emmaus with two unknowns who really didn’t get it. He patiently explained things to them, spending hours on the greatest day in history. And that’s the reason, I think, that Luke gave this story such prominence.

God came into the world as a man. That was a game changer, but when that man came back from death and interacted with his people, even for just 40 days, it changed even more. And when, after departing the earth in body, He gave the Holy Spirit to walk patiently along dusty roads with every nobody who might need Him, He made the news good indeed.

 

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