The Road to Emmaus

This post is for Dad, who has a long history with this road.

There is a dusty little track that leads from the town of Emmaus up to Jerusalem. The gospel of Luke tells the story of two men who walked this road in despair but returned by it that very same evening with a message. Christ is risen! But that couldn’t have been all that they had to say. For Christ had spent the better part of an afternoon and evening explaining to them why “the Messiah must suffer these things and enter into his glory.” There is an aspect to this account that involves the mind grasping truth, and there is another that involves the heart. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened…” This was the first communion!

Its been said that Emmaus is too far from Jerusalem for the disciples to have gone all that distance that very same evening. But as one of the custodians of Emmaus said to me, this doesn’t account for the excitement generated by the word spoken by Jesus to his disciples. It can be done, although it would have been an exhausting journey. It is also possible that there was another Emmaus located closer to Jerusalem in Jesus day.

Geography aside, the apostle Luke gives us something to think about this Easter. A simple message has the power to change our entire outlook on life and to fill us with real joy and a sense of purpose, even if it means walking 60 or 160 stadia (10 or 20 kms) back to Jerusalem in the night!

This shot was taken from a hill looking west. The Emmaus road would have gone up the ridge to the right. The main route up to Jerusalem today can just be seen on the left.
Roman milestones found scattered along the Emmaus Road have been collected in one place.
One of the milestones with an inscription dedicating the improvement of a portion of the road to a Roman emperor (3rd century AD).
A Herodian tower built on a prominent hill on the way up to Jerusalem.
Roman Milestones
The Emmaus Road looking east.

Joseph Martin-Dauch

One of my heroes is Joseph Martin-Dauch.  He was the only member of the Estates General to refuse to sign the Tennis Court Oath.  Five hundred and seventy six voted for it and one voted against it – Joseph Martin-Dauch.  The scene was captured by the painter Jacques-Louis David.  You can see Martin-Dauch seated to one side while everyone around him raises their hands in a salute – a symbol that would later come to define European fascism.

Martin-Dauch was commanded not to publicly express his opposition to the National Assembly but he defied the wishes of the Assembly and wrote the word ‘opponent’ next to his name on the Oath.  Martin-Dauch was told to stay away from the Estates General but he attended anyway.  And he was the only one to stand when king Louis XVI entered the hall.  Five hundred and seventy six remained seated and one stood –  Martin-Dauch.   His public stance cost him dearly.  He survived one assassination attempt and spent time in prison.  He only survived the Reign of Terror by going under a false name.

When I look at Martin-Dauch seated there, I think of Jotham, Nathan, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah… men who stood alone.  They are the only ancient historical figures of whom I am aware that openly challenged the will of the king until Aristophanes criticized Cleon in the 5th century BC.  Even so, Aristophanes had to couch his criticism in satire.

Pascal wrote,

Power rules the world, not opinion.  It is power that makes opinion.  Anyone who wants to dance the tightrope will be alone.  (Pascal, Pensees, 303)

Martin-Dauch stood against those in power, which, according to Pascal, is the same as going against public opinion.  He danced the tightrope… alone.