This week, we are looking at Luke 24: 13-35. I’ve included it here in case you don’t have a bible to hand.
On the Road to Emmaus
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
It’s interesting how the situations we find ourselves in colour our feelings about and interpretation of what we read.
I don’t know about you but as I read that, instead of feeling really sad for the disciples walking away from Jerusalem, consumed by grief at the loss of their friend, their hope, this time I felt a little bit jealous of them.
Why? I hear you ask! Well, not to mention the fact that they had spent time with Jesus in the flesh and heard directly from him, here we see them together as friends. There’s no sign of social distancing here or being stuck in a small space together for a long period of time. They are not only able to chat with each other, enjoying each other’s company but they also get to go for a long walk together! No suggestion here that they are overstepping the bounds in their daily exercise, that they are too far from home, that they should be limiting where they are going and with whom, that they have to remain in Jerusalem. I am guessing that you, like me, long for that freedom again. The freedom to meet and chat with those we love but don’t live with. The freedom to go out for a walk as far as we like. The freedom to travel unhindered from one place to another!
Not only that, but then another person comes along and joins them! Wow! Someone else comes ‘alongside them’ and begins talking with them to and they get to pour out their sadness face to face with another human being. I know how blessed I am just now to be in a house full of people; to have most of those I love most in the world to share this with and I don’t take it for granted recognising that for many I know, they don’t have the same and life is so far from what they want it to be right now. I’m not saying this to ‘rub it in’ but rather so that you know that I am grateful and aware that my experience is not necessarily your experience and I am praying that you will be so aware of the presence of God with you right now, sheltering you under his wing as a mother hen does.
Back to the disciples on the road. So here they are, walking along chatting with a stranger about all that has happened and listening to what he has to say about it all. Then they approach their destination and again, wow! They get to invite this stranger into their house AND they have bread enough to share! And, as Jesus breaks the bread their eyes are open and they recognise that they have been with Jesus that whole time.
Like I’ve said, there are parts of this story this year which have resonated with me in unusual ways and I’m guessing that maybe there are for you too. Teaching about this any other year, I would have spoken of how God knew their distress, that he knew they weren’t running away as much as going back to something familiar and safe in a time of grief and pain. I would have spoken about how we often don’t see the obvious because our view is clouded by that grief and that it takes something so familiar, like Jesus breaking the bread for them, to open our eyes to the fact that everything is not as bad as it seems and that Jesus was right there with them. I would have spoken about the excitement of seeing the risen Jesus sending them running back to the disciples to tell them and how that, for them, was the beginning of something new and wonderful.
Do you know what? Maybe it’s not that different after all.
God does know our distress. He does know that when we our trying hard to fill our time with anything and everything we can so that we don’t think about what we have lost, we aren’t running away but are just trying to find a way to manage our grief and our pain. He does know that sometimes we miss his presence here with us because of that grief and he gives us those moments of ‘familiar’ in order to remind us that he is actually right where we are.
What does that mean for us though? For the disciples, it meant heading back to Jerusalem. For us who aren’t heading anywhere for the forseeable future, we are still called to ‘go and make disciples’, to witness to the living, loving presence of God and to share that with those around us. For some of us, that is with those within our family as we spend maybe more time together than we are used to and find that we struggle with it and need that extra love and patience and in finding that through Jesus, we are able to show him working in us. For others, it may be in making phone calls or sending emails, in chatting over the fence in our garden (at the required distance) about how we are experiencing the presence and goodness of God even in this awful time. God is using His people at the moment in ways that are new and, actually, quite exciting and I know that he wants to use you too.