The Road To Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35): Some Poems

Photo: Zvonimir Atletic/Shutterstock


When he was at 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.  (Luke 24: 30-31, NRSV)

He took me in his hands,
gathered me up,
tore me end to end
and blessed;
shared me with his friends,
morsels of his resurrected self.

Rough hands, carpenter’s hands:
used to rough bread,
delighting in crusty loaves,
tough-textured country fare.
separating grain from grain,
spilling an abundance
of baked-that-day, doughy scent

into the air.
Blessed, and vanished;
opened to their eyes,
And I lay there,
pieces on their plates,
or crumbs upon their lips:
the Word of God made flesh
for them to touch and taste

and swallow. Then,
hearts burning in their breasts,
they left, and left me to be gathered
by the servant girl:
emerging from the shadows,
unknown and unknowing, she fed –
and was blessed.


We live with Scriptural truths without understanding.
Dimly aware of struggling, groping,
until the stranger – Christ – opens our eyes
and vanishes.
This is the paradox of faith: the clearer
our vision, the deeper the mystery of God.


1. Disciples

Hearts full of grief, heart-sick
we trudged down the narrow road:
seven miles to Emmaus,
the sun setting, casting shadows.
As we walked

we talked about events:
about Jesus the Nazarene,
the prophet, the leader, the healer;
bamboozler of Pharisees,
scourge of scribes,

whipping bird-sellers, money-changers
from the Temple court.  All our hopes
vested in him, to lead
Israel, to free us from us from our bonds:
hopes dashed on Golgotha,

blown to the four winds by the
Sanhedrin; by Pilate’s weak-kneed
attempts to set him free;
by the crowd’s insistence on Barabbas.
Hopes crucified, pierced

by a Roman spear, nailed to a cross,
and then entombed.  No-one
to raise him up like Lazarus,
no-one to call him from the dead.
(Sure, some women

of our group, going there,
found the stone rolled back,
the body gone: and two
others, who said: Why search
among the dead

for those who live? But who
can credit women’s talk, women’s
news?) And so we fled,
anxious not to be there,
anxious to remove

ourselves, lest people think
we’re one of them.
Now all that’s left are
shattered hopes, abandonment,
and promise unfulfilled.

Oh – hello, stranger;
we didn’t see you standing there.

2. Christ

They looked so sad I almost laughed.
Tragic figures, doom-laden faces
like an actor’s mask, like characters
from a play by Aristophanes

or Aeschylus.  Summoned by their talk,
I stood among them, listened
as their hope gushed out, flowing
like the blood I shed

on Golgotha.  Annoyed, I politely
coughed, announced myself, asked
what it was they talked about.
Stayed silent, while they wondered

at my ignorance.  When they were done,
I let them have it:
both barrels, and no mistake.
Dullards! I said, have you no heart

or mind for prophecy? Then, step by step,
from the start with Moses,
through the prophets until the
present, I laid it out: how Scripture’s

narrative was fulfilled in Cross and tomb.
Done, I made to leave; but, gobsmacked,
they invited me to stay,
pressed me to share table and bread.

From this, I saw their minds, though dull,
were receptive still; inviting
me to stay, they invited me
to bless, and to reveal.


All day, strange reports were coming in:
first the women, claiming to have seen
two men who shone, radiant
in the darkness of the tomb;
men who said: He is not here,
He lives! And though some of us
went and checked, confirmed that their report

was correct, the tomb unoccupied
(though no-one saw the strangers there) –
still, we don’t believe what we have heard
(it’s only women afterall).

And now these two, having fled
the Holy City for Emmaus, have returned
and told us of the stranger on the road
who, unknown to them, told them the Law
and prophets were fulfilled; who broke bread
and showed himself, at last, to be Messiah,
the Christ, the Risen Lord.  These men

are of good standing in our group:
but are they drunk? Then just as we
begin to think they’ve had more wine
than bread, Light fills the room;
Light, blinding, strikes us:
we see the Teacher standing there,

one of us, smiling, offering us his hands
and side, asking us for fish to eat.
And as we tremble, gently says:
Peace be with you.

(c) Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2018. All rights reserved.