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Wednesday, 07 April 2021 07:00

Resurrection Reads #3 - On the Road to Emmaus


2021.23.Resurection Reads 3 FBNow on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 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 him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Today’s blog is a reflection written from the point of view of the disciple who was walking with Cleopas on the road to Emmaus. I pray it helps you to enter in to the story.

Have you ever gone long distance walking? Most people have at some stage in their lives, and it was something I enjoyed doing, even though it was the primary means of travel anyway. Somehow it helped to clear my head, so I would go when I was worried, stressed, confused, sad. I would walk to all kinds of places, along clearly defined paths and through scrubland, through desert like places where the dust would coat my feet, and along the shore where the gentle waves would cool me after a long day, over rocks, up mountains, through tall grass, – you name it, and it is likely to be territory that I have traversed.

Often when we go walking, it is the destination that matters, we are walking to a particular place. But on the day I want to tell you about, I was not so much walking to a place, even though I was headed for Emmaus, but away from one. You see, I was intent on leaving Jerusalem. I was confused, disappointed, and even angry, as was my friend Cleopas with who I walked. I just thought that if I left, I might escape the pain that seemed to consume me, because I would no longer have so many visual reminders of my shattered expectations. Looking back now, perhaps I was really running away, intent on escaping something that was actually inescapable.

So Cleopas and I began to walk, and as we did, the conversation soon turned to the events of the past days. You see, even though we were trying to escape it, it so consumed our beings that it was as if we were unable to speak about anything else. So even though we left, Jerusalem and the events of the previous days very much seemed to come with us.

It was about a mile out of Jerusalem that another man joined us. I expected him to engage with us and converse immediately, as people tend to do when they traverse such paths. But he was silent, and so I began to wonder if he was so disappointed that he could not even articulate what he felt inside. When there was a lull in the conversation, he spoke for the first time, asking what these things were that we were talking about. I was astounded that he seemed to know nothing of what had taken place, surely he must have been living underground to have no knowledge of the events that had taken place.

So we began to tell him about Jesus of Nazareth, the one who we had thought would set Israel free. But that a twist in events had seen the chief priests and our leaders sentence him to death and have him crucified. We told this stranger that these events had happened two days ago, and that early that morning some women had come back from his tomb and reported that his body could not be found, and that some angels had said he was alive.

2021.23.Resurrection Reads 3 Road to EmmausBut then this stranger began to speak, challenging and admonishing us for being slow to believe all that the prophets had said, pointing out that it was necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into glory. He seemed a wise man and he understood things in a way that I had not had insight into before. As we neared Emmaus, the sun was setting, so Cleopas and I invited him to stay with us. We were only going to have a simple meal, but it turned out to be the most extraordinary experience of my life. We sat down at the table and placed the crusty round loaf of bread in the centre. This man, he came to table with us, and as he picked up the bread, he blessed and broke it. As he gave it to us, my vision suddenly became clearer than ever before. This stranger was actually Jesus, meaning it was true that he was alive. This experience changed me in unspeakable ways, and I rushed back to Jerusalem with Cleopas to assure others that he had truly risen.

So what does my experience have to do with you? I wonder if you have ever walked away from Jerusalem. And before you tell me that you have never travelled there, understand Jerusalem to be a metaphor for walking away from a situation that has brought great pain, confusion, disappointment in your life. Understand Jerusalem to be a place, person or situation that you just feel you need to escape from. Understand Jerusalem to be a place where hopes seem to have been shattered. Understand Jerusalem to be a place filled with visual reminders that make it difficult to get through the day.

 Maybe your Jerusalem is in the area of your career, that it has not been what you thought, or opportunities have seemed not to come your way, or it has just not been what you expected. Maybe your Jerusalem is a relationship that has been difficult, or even failed. Maybe your Jerusalem is some expectations that have been shattered, or a prayer that has seemed unanswered -and all you want to do is to escape the pain it brings. Maybe your Jerusalem is a painful experience of being betrayed. Maybe your Jerusalem is feeling like you are not enough. Maybe your Jerusalem is a sense of inadequacy or failure.

And what is more, understand that maybe, unlike me, you never made a conscious decision to leave Jerusalem, perhaps it started by you wondering around and now some weeks, months or years later you find yourself wandering a dusty road.

What ever your reason for putting distance between yourself and Jerusalem, or whatever it means for you to have discovered that you are now far from Jerusalem, I want to remind you that maybe Jesus wants to meet you on the road too. It is true that Cleopas and I did not recognize him until he broke bread, and that it was only later that we could articulate that burning feeling we had felt in our hearts as he spoke to us, but let my story be a reminder to you to that he wants to break bread with you as well, and that he is present while you are still walking the road, perhaps longing for the taste of a meal of crunchy bread with him. He is present and wants to break bread in the midst of your pain, disappointment, regret, failed expectations, sense of inadequacy. I want my story to remind you to seek him, and to ask him to break bread with you, to ask him to show himself to you, and to be strong and keep walking even when you are weary and your vision seems cloudy. Trust that he will come and break bread with you, that he will reveal himself to you and show you just how present he is in whatever urges you to leave Jerusalem.

So keep walking, even when your vision is cloudy, keep walking when your mind tells you he is present but your heart is not so sure, keep walking, even if it feels like you have to wait forever for the experience of him revealing himself in your situation through breaking bread.

I invite you now to take a moment to reflect on your experience of walking along the road to Emmaus – is there something that stands out – a disappointment, failed expectations, an experience of feeling like Jesus is not with you – anything where you long to feel and experience his resurrection power, anything where you really want to have a bread-breaking encounter. Spend some time with Jesus talking about this.

Mel Edwards