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Did Jesus appear to a married couple on the road to Emmaus?


Roelant Roghman | Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 04/17/20

Some scripture scholars believe the Risen Jesus revealed himself to a man and his wife while they were walking home.

One of the most common Scripture passages the Church reflects on after Easter Sunday recounts the appearance of Jesus to a pair of disciples on the road to Emmaus. This passage only appears in the Gospel of Luke and gives only a few hints about the identity of these disciples.

Luke does identify one of the disciples by name, “One of them, named Cleopas” (Luke 24:18). This name identifies a man, while the other disciple is not named.

fish, beach, Resurrection

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However, in the Gospel of John, one of the women at the foot of the cross has a husband named “Clopas.”

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala” (John 19:25).

Now, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus invited Jesus into their home, “‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.” (Luke 24:29).

These details have led some scholars to conclude that the Emmaus disciples were actually a man and wife.

Another point of evidence that points to the possibility of Cleopas’ wife being the second disciple is from the dialogue Jesus has with them. According to an early 20th-century scholar featured in the Expository Times, “At this point Cleopas ceases. But all has not been said. And what is still to be said is in another voice. It is the wife who breaks in—’But more than all these things, today is the third day since these things happened’; and more than all that, ‘certain women also of our company made us astonished …; the women found not his body; the women came, saying, that they had seen a vision of angels which said he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even as the women had said: but him they saw not.’ This is the woman’s side of the case. It is an altogether different kind of evidence and excuse for their departure from Jerusalem and return to Emmaus.”

Since Mary, the wife of Clopas, is often grouped in the women who were at the foot of the cross and who went to the tomb, it appears that she may be the one speaking to Jesus in this passage.

Considering these various facts, it is possible that Jesus appeared to a married couple and revealed himself to them in the “breaking of the bread.”

Does this matter?

Well, it can remind us that Jesus wants to walk with married couples and wants to be invited into their homes. While not speaking of the identity of the disciples, St. John Paul II comments briefly on this passage in his Letter to Families.

The life that comes from Christ is a life for us. It is for you, dear husbands and wives, parents and families! Did Jesus not institute the Eucharist in a family-like setting during the Last Supper? When you meet for meals and are together in harmony, Christ is close to you. And he is Emmanuel, God with us, in an even greater way whenever you approach the table of the Eucharist. It can happen, as it did at Emmaus, that he is recognized only in “the breaking of the bread” (cf. Lk 24:35). It may well be that he is knocking at the door for a long time, waiting for it to be opened so that he can enter and eat with us (cf. Rev 3:20).

Pope Benedict XVI also reflects on this Scripture passage in a general audience, encouraging us to invite Jesus to “stay with us” as these disciples did.

Dear friends, today too the Risen One enters our homes and our hearts, even when, at times, the doors are closed. He enters giving joy and peace, life and hope, gifts we need for our human and spiritual rebirth. Only he can roll away those stones from the tombs in which all too often people seal themselves off from their own feelings, their own relationships, their own behavior; stones that sanction death: division, enmity, resentment, envy, diffidence, indifference. Only he, the Living One, can give meaning to existence and enable those who are weary and sad, downhearted and drained of hope, to continue on their journey.

Marriage and family life are renewed with the presence of Jesus. We should make the disciples’ words our own, as Pope Benedict exhorts, “The unknown wayfarer ‘appeared to be going further’ (v. 28), but then he stayed with them because they asked him to so insistently: ‘Stay with us’ (v. 29). We too must say insistently to the Lord, over and over again, ‘Stay with us.'”


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