The commutes of Jesus (part I)

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our guyanese bus, which broke down an hour laterThere aren’t many accounts of Jesus commuting. He seems to go from one place to another seamlessly.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi… Matthew 16:13

The clearest example of Jesus commuting – that is, being on a journey with what seems a pre-determined destination – would be his road to Emmaus:

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
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 and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.

This is one of those passages that invokes a lot of discussion, mostly around the issue of whether the disciples should have expected Jesus to rise from the dead… something that eminent theologians are still debating. But here I feel it’s important to consider the relationship between Jesus and his erstwhile companions from a modern, commuter, context.

First of all, it was Jesus that engaged the commuters. By walking with them and engaging with their discussion, not creating his own. The fact that their discussion was in fact about him is perhaps by the by. I have never found myself listening in to strangers’ conversations that were all about me; hands up who has.

Secondly he very much engages with their conversation. He does not remain content with niceties. As with so much of his ministry he says the awkward things, the prophetic, the insightful. He is the equivalent of a modern-day commuter dismissing the frivolity of freesheets on public transport with ideas and intelligence beyond the inane prose.

Finally the commuters, who had found themselves in Emmaus, left to go back to Jerusalem, where they had come from. It may be a major metaphorical leap, but there must be times in any commuter’s life that they realise they should rather be in the place they are not.

Commuting is a phenomenon alien to the world that the bible describes, but it is too often integral to our own. I think we need to consider what place God has in those hours between work and home.

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