Despite the recent trend away from products containing gluten, bread has for centuries been one of the most important food commodities around the globe. Be it Baguette, Matzah, Cornbread, or Nan just about every region of the world has a grain and water based staple that provides calories and carbohydrates for the hard working lower class. In times of high cotton in America, workers have been said to “bring home the bacon,” but the reality is most of us are doing well to “keep bread on the table.” It is no wonder then that Jesus’ encounter with Cleopas and his companion (literally, one with whom you break bread) is so intriguing.
Sure, it is a story full of nuance and questions. Why don’t he disciples recognize Jesus? Why does he pretend to continue down the road? What were the disciples thinking as their hearts were strangely warmed? To my mind, however, the most important action in the story is their sitting down to break bread together. In the depths of their despair, the disciples offered hospitality to the stranger in their midst, invited him to spend the night, and shared a meal with him. How many of us would do the same?
There is, I think, a discipleship lesson in the Emmaus Road story. Followers of Jesus eventually realize the holiness of the mundane. Breaking bread is something we do whether in joy, as in the Eucharistic Feast, or in sadness, as in the traditional funeral reception. We take time in the midst of the highs, lows, and in-betweens of life to share a meal and remember the good things God has given us. Sometimes it is strictly ceremonial, sometimes its therapeutic pimento cheese, and sometimes it is a feast of rich foods and well aged wines, but breaking bread is something we do, no matter what.