The Walk to Emmaus
Now 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.
I was taking my walk the other day. My eyes were downcast so as not to stumble and my head bent with my fear and anxiety over the pandemic. All I could see was the slowly moving ground beneath my feet. The breeze shifted and I heard faint laughter coming from a distance. I stopped and looked up. Suddenly my world opened up before me. I could see the kids at the far end of the street playing on their bikes. The overcast sky was breaking a beautiful blue as the sun made its way westward. It was easier to breathe and the load I was bearing grew lighter. I began walking again, but now with a different perspective, a different spirit.
It made me think of the two disciples walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem the evening of Jesus’ resurrection. The eleven remaining disciples and some friends were sheltering in place for fear they, too, would be arrested and killed. Another two followers of Jesus decided it was risky to stick around Jerusalem, so they decided to make the trip home. Like the others, they had been traumatized by the events of the last several days. They despaired. They had hoped Jesus was the one to restore Israel to its former glory, but he had failed. To add to their grief and confusion it was rumored Jesus had been raised from the dead. What were they to think?
I imagine their heads were bent and eyes cast to the ground as they grieved together. After a while a stranger joined them. They must have looked up. He asked why they were so distraught. They then shared their experience of the past several days. In light of the scriptures, the stranger interpreted all that had taken place as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. Hospitality required they invite the stranger to stay with them. In this way the stranger might become a friend. They went about preparing supper, setting the table and making sure their guest was comfortable. When all was ready, they sat at the table and bowed their heads. As was the custom the guest said the blessing over the bread. When they looked up and watched him break the bread, they recognized their guest to be Jesus.
These days filled with suffering and uncertainty, our isolation and concern for family, friends and the world brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic; these days can easily turn our gaze downward. All our downcast eyes can see is the road or the floor the diminishing hope upon which we walk. But some kids playing on their bikes, an encounter with someone unexpected, or the voice of Jesus can cause us to stop in the tracks of our fear and loneliness and look up. And when we do, we can see what is around and before us: the sky and a world filled with life. We can hear the promises of God as they come to us through the scriptures. We can see the face of Jesus, who is with us in these traumatic times. We can see him looking back at us smiling, comforting us, granting us the courage and patience and hope that will get us through these awful times, enabling us to flourish in the midst of the fearful unknown. But this I do know: the all-powerful love of God holds us now and forever.
In hopeful expectation of what God has in store for us,