Not everyone catches on right away. Jesus was right there with them. And they didn't recognize him. They knew about the resurrection. They were even surprised that their travel companion didn't seem to.
They may not have been able to recognize Jesus right away, but they are ready to talk about him to strangers who show interest.
They tell of what they had been expecting and what they had been told.
They tell this stranger about Jesus, how he was a prophet and the one who had been sent to redeem them; yet he had been handed over by the religious authorities to the Romans who had consequently condemned him to death and crucified him.
The story got stranger. Some of the women in their group had told them that when they had gone to visit his tomb, a vision of angels had said he was still alive. Hearing this, some in the group went to the tomb and confirmed that the body was missing, but they didn't see Jesus.
And, on the road to Damascus, they don't recognize him yet.
Although the one that they had hoped would rescue them had himself been executed, although they had not been able to see for themselves the angels that some of the women had said had told them that he was not alive, they still allow a stranger to walk along with them, to talk with them. They even listen to a sermon from him. Then, since the day is almost over, they invite him to stay with them.
Loss. Disappointment. Frustration. Yet, an offer of hospitality.
And at the table, when he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and shared it with them, they recognized him.
Loss, disappointment, and frustration did not end with those first Christians.
And, as we celebrate Holy Communion, we can recognize him.
As soon as they recognize him, they can understand something that has already happened, something that they hadn't noticed at the time but now makes sense to them--"Were not our hearts burning within while he was talking to us about the Bible?"
It's night, they've had a long walk, it's after supper, and they decide to go back to Jerusalem right then, not the next day.
The recognition of the Lord has to be shared, and shared immediately.
In Jerusalem, they learned that the Lord had also appeared to Simon.
Note the repeat about how he had been made know to them in the breaking of the bread. We usually interpret this to be related to Holy Communion, but we may also want to think about we recognize Christ in our midst when we share those ordinary meals as well.
The other gospels don't tell us about Ascension; so, every year we turn to Luke: And then to this group of disciples who have been huddled together in fear and, even in the joy of recognition, have been disbelieving, he now commissions them, "You are witnesses that the Scriptures have been fulfilled."
Commission--I am sending upon you what my Father promised. Stay here in this city until that power comes.
While they are waiting, they gather in the temple.
I'm thinking that many of us Christians have gotten stuck in that period between Ascension and Pentecost. We have known the presence of Christ. We have heard and believed the promised made to us. We're expecting something great to come among us. We are gathered together in great joy to continue our worship of the Lord. We love church and we love the Lord and we love each other. But....
He reminds them that the part of our Bible we call the Old Testament is valid--and necessary for their understanding. We aren't supposed to cut off a large part of the Bible and we aren't supposed to cut off a large part of our neighbors--The risen Christ said to them that they were to include in their witness all nations. Does "all nations" include the people who live on my block that I have never even spoke to? Does "all nations" include people who are of a different socio-economic level?