That same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus. And as they were talking about everything that had happened, Jesus came up and walked with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. – Luke 24:13-16 (NIV, abridged)
These two disciples aren’t strolling, they’re fleeing. They aren’t merely disappointed, they’re scared to death. The Romans had executed Jesus, his followers could be next.
Given the danger, it may surprise us, who are always pondering the next best way to protect ourselves, that they so easily accept this stranger. They even ask him in to eat.
But if you’ve visited the Middle East, you know it’s not that surprising. There’s a naturalness to hospitality there, a reflex of readiness to put oneself out for another, even if it’s inconvenient, costly, or unwise.
Some say this reflex is historically rooted in the region’s geography. In a harsh climate with scant resources, hospitality was a necessity, not a nicety. You never turned anyone away: it could just as easily be you needing water, refuge, a bit of shade.
If that’s true, hospitality isn’t something you offer because you believe the stranger might turn out to be an angel (or Jesus) in disguise. No, it’s a matter of survival, an acknowledgement that we’re all at the mercy of harsh elements, and that if no door opens to us, despair is sure.
The wondrous thing is that sometimes, as on that evening in Emmaus, hospitality does end in recognition, revelation, and shattering joy. But it begins elsewhere, in basic human need. Without you, I die. Without me, so do you.
Let’s not die today, shall we?
Please, come in.
We’re all so exposed, Jesus. Help us to keep each other from dying. Teach us to open doors.