Then their eyes were opened. (Luke 24.13-35, https://www.biblegateway.com NRSVA)
I have been wondering what the walk to Emmaus would look like if Jesus and the two disciples had been forced to apply ‘social distancing’. If they were husband and wife, or siblings, or parent and child, they would still be allowed to walk together, but the stranger wouldn't be able to ‘draw near’ and go ‘with them’. They might cross the road when they see him approaching, or duck into a gateway to let him go past at a safe distance. At the very least they would have to walk on opposite sides of the road and call out to one another.
We do see people having a chat while standing, or sitting, two metres apart. We’ve done that with our neighbour. But social distancing limits the conversation somewhat. The stranger wouldn’t be able to ‘interpret to them… all the scriptures’.
And why doesn’t the stranger ‘know the things that have taken place [in Jerusalem] in these days?’ In a time of social distancing we might think that he’s decided he can’t take any more bad news and has hunkered down and started watching box sets of all his favourite escapist entertainment shows instead.
Finally, at journey’s end, when the stranger ‘walks ahead as if he were going on’ no one would ‘urge him strongly’ to stay with them. Instead he would simply vanish from their sight into the gathering gloom and the disciples would not know that Jesus is risen.
We need to experience lockdown in a different way. We need, even when things do seem at their gloomiest, to have our ‘eyes opened’ so that ‘our hearts burn within us’ as Jesus is ‘made known to us’ in everyday events like breaking bread, and we ‘recognise him’.