What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? In Luke 24, two disciples on the road to Emmaus are pondering just that. They wonder what it means to be a follower of a crucified Messiah. They wonder how to make sense of unbelievable reports of an empty tomb.
A stranger joins them on the journey and they talk it out as they walk. Arriving at Emmaus, they invite the stranger to eat with them. Luke records, “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized [Jesus].”
Took. Blessed. Broke. Gave. These are the same four verbs that we heard in the description of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The same verbs describe Jesus’ actions in the Last Supper.
Theologian, Henri Nouwen, also recognized in these verbs an answer to the question of what it means to follow Jesus. In his book, Life of the Beloved, Nouwen argued that these four verbs describe the life lived in communion with God.
Taken. To put that in a more commonly used phrase, we might say that the disciple is one who has been “chosen” by God. God has taken the initiative to engage humanity — to come to us time and again throughout history. In a world that says, “You are nothing special. You are a nobody. You are only one person. What can you really do?” God speaks and says, “I. Choose. You.”
Blessed. This can be uncomfortable for some of us. It can be hard to receive words of blessing. Too often, people say good things about us, and we brush them aside with remarks like, “Oh don’t mention it . . . forget about it . . . it’s nothing . . .” To be blessed by God is to realize that the Creator of the universe looks at each one of us and says, “Yes! This one is mine. I created her. I love her. I gifted her. She is my beloved.”
Broken. We may wish that we could avoid this one. Brokenness comes in so many different forms — broken relationships, illness, rejection, regret, shame, or suffering. Our brokenness, however, is not necessarily an obstacle to the joy, peace, and communion we desire. Instead, as Nouwen states, “The great secret of the spiritual life, the life of the Beloved Sons and Daughters of God, is that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity.”
Given. The life of the disciple is a gift to the world — friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances. God wants to use disciples to bless others. God wants to transform our greatest mistakes, hurts, and failures into opportunities for ministry. God wants to use them as opportunities to comfort, heal, reconcile, bring life, and help undo the curse of sin.
Like those two disciples in Emmaus, may we recognize the true presence and identity of Christ in the taking, blessing, breaking, and giving of our lives.