The two disciples cannot bear to part with this seemingly unknown man, who understands everything.
When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them saying, ’It is nearly evening, and the day is almost over.’ So he went on to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight (Luke. 24:28-31).
The great artist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, in 1601, captured this moment in a magnificent painting, and I have reflected on this in the form of a poem. [This painting is on permanent display in the National Gallery of London.]
Seeing Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus
We know the two disciples by their spillage:
flung arms, shocked shoulders, splayed hands.
He found them trudging toward the village –
loveable curmudgeons all wrong.
But who’s the right-hand man – studious, still,
drawn not by Luke but by artist’s skill,
drawn, by intense act of will, like me,
by desire to be with them there, to see.
not one has closed his eyes for prayer:
for Jesus is being quietly seismic.
And see, his outstreaming inwardness opens their eyes
shaken, graced, surprised beyond all telling,
they see: they marvel: they see.
Ah, yes. He tenderly gives it away. Amen, amen. This is
Him being Him so Him so real that he’s unmissable so alive
with blessing that death cannot take hold anywhere so real
that if they seize him he burns even as their hearts flame
even as they know him so real that even the shadows
cannot shadow even the shadows consecrate.
Now they may hold him only as food is held
for only the food will remain
for this is the moment
before He vanishes