Rev. Heather Blais
Today’s gospel lesson is taken from Luke, where we witness a Shakespearian like story on the day of resurrection.
It begins with two disciples who have made the decision to travel from Jerusalem to Emmaus. While we do not know the reason for their travel, or what life might hold for them in Emmaus, we do know what they are leaving behind. The leader who had evoked so much hope within them had been arrested, tried, killed, and buried. They found themselves heartbroken and suddenly lacking a purpose. This grief was only compounded when some of the disciples discovered the burial tomb was empty. Another strange factor, in what felt like an impossibly hopeless situation.
So these two disciples did what we all must do in the face of tragedy and uncertainty: they kept going. They got up, bid farewell to Jerusalem, and began the seven mile walk to Emmaus.
Along the way, they encounter a fellow traveler. In an unexpected plot twist, we the listener are let in on the secret. We are told this traveler is actually the resurrected Jesus. Yet for these two disciples, they merely see another traveler, because, “...their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Lk 24:15).
The traveler asks them, What are you two talking about?
The two disciples sadly look at the stranger and the one named Cleopas asks,
Have you really not heard what happened in Jerusalem?
The traveler asks, What happened?
They tell the stranger everything.
The empty tomb.
The profound loss the disciples are feeling because Jesus has died and his body is now gone, and along with it their hope that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel.
In what I imagine is a loving tone of a parent or mentor, the stranger pokes,
Are you really so slow of heart to believe?
The stranger goes on to explain the meaning behind all of the scriptures in what must have felt like the most eye opening class ever.
After a while the three approach a village, and it looks like they might be about to part ways, when the two disciples invite the stranger to stay with them. As they made camp on the side of the road, they took out provisions for a meal. Then in the most ordinary of moments, the traveler took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight” (Lk 24:31).
It was only after the fact they recognized the signs that this had been no ordinary stranger. They asked themselves, “Were not our hearts burning within us...?” (Lk 24:32). The two disciples immediately return to Jerusalem to tell the others, where they quickly discover the resurrected Jesus has also appeared to Simon Peter.
Many of the post resurrection stories begin as the Emmaus incident does, with disciples who are unable to recognize the resurrected Jesus. I love this. It may be one of my absolute favorite factors in these stories. Primarily because it takes a two thousand year old story about other people in a far away land, and makes it a story that we can picture ourselves in.
I don’t know about you, but I know that...
What about you?
This story is so powerful because it is as relatable today as it was the very first time it was told. We may know in an intellectual way that Christ is always with us and still feel completely alone. When we go through difficult chapters in our lives, we may know Christ is with us, but it may only be long afterwards that we recognize the ways Christ was walking beside us.
Just like the disciples, we find ourselves asking,
“Were not our hearts burning within us?” or
“Were we not filled with an overwhelming peace and calm?” or
“Was not the impossible somehow made possible?”
As a species, we are quick to forget. The Emmaus incident is one of God’s many reminders to a forgetful people.
This week, I want to invite each of us to do some reflecting. Take a few minutes for you and God; maybe grab a piece of paper or a journal, and look back at your life up until this point in time.
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