At the breaking of the stone

Yesterday, someone I follow on Twitter called Andy Smith shared this painting he'd done of that moment in Emmaus, when Jesus' disciples finally realise just who the "stranger" who has been walking with them really is. I'm using it here with Andy's blessing. The look of utter amazement mingled with dawning joy on the disciples' faces is certainly arresting, but after a few seconds my own gaze followed theirs, to Jesus' hands in the foreground.

I know he's breaking bread, but I can't shake off my first impression, which is that Jesus' left hand is holding a stone, some of which he has broken off.

And I thought of the stones Jesus refused to turn into bread in the wilderness... and of that huge stone, sealing his tomb, which was so heavy and huge that Mary Magdalene and her friends worried about being able to roll it away. Whatever other variations there might be in the four Gospels, this stone is one unvarying detail, as is its miraculous rolling away. And whatever power that stone might have had to hold Jesus in death, it was broken at the Resurrection, as surely as the bread through which he gave himself forever to his disciples. And then I thought of God's words to Ezekiel, promising to remove the heart of stone from our bodies, and give us new hearts of flesh instead (Ezekiel 36.26) - one of the readings during our Easter Vigil Mass, leading up to the Gospel, when we hear of Christ's glorious removal of an impeding, heavy stone.

And then I thought of how, even then, the disciples couldn't quite believe; how - even with a mighty stone removed - they failed to recognise the stranger beside them as Jesus. Belief and recognition came through gentler, quieter means... such as a name spoken, the showing of wounds... the breaking of bread...

And, of course, I thought of the stones in my own heart, which Christ longs to roll away... and of the  amazement and delight, joy and hope which can be mine, which can be ours... if we invite him to walk with us, and to stay with us...