The Road 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.
Recently, I was thinking about these verses. Sometimes we find ourselves adrift disconnected from our friends and family
The road to Emmaus is a road to despair and a road of awakening. In this story we will cover the reactions to the return of Jesus by two groups of people. We will begin with the story in John 21 of Peter being called back by Jesus after the resurrection. It will be followe by the story of the discouraged followers on the road to Emmaus. We will conclude with a discussion of the intercession of God.
The Road of Despair
The road to Emmaus can be hostile. When viewing the disciples after the death of Christ, one cannot help but see a shattered and broken group. Let’s quick flip over to the Gospel of John chapter 21 where, we see Peter out fishing. Peter is on his road of despair. Jesus is dead. The Messiah has not come. A man calls out to him to cast out his nets. Peter does and they are too heavy to fill. Peter recognizes Jesus and swims to the shore to meet him. This Peter’s hope moment. Christ appears, dashes despair, and rekindles the faith. We learn from Peter that one can have despair. In many senses, Peter is the human example in the Christ story. Peter reacts naturally to the death of God by returning to his habits. He saw the miracles. He partook in the movement, but the movement is dead. As normal people reading the Bible, we can sympathize with Peter in this situation.
Fortunately, the dream does not die within Peter. When Peter sees Jesus at the shore, Peter does not tell Jesus to leave. Peter does not accuse Jesus of betraying his trust. Peter jumps out of the boat and towards the path of hope. What we learn from Peter is that dreams and movements of good do not die. They reside in the hearts of those who believe. They may be dormant, and we may find ourselves fishing from time to time. When the fuel is available and the vision is restored we must do as Peter does and make that leap from the safety of the boat, towards the guiding force of our belief. Peter has an almost existential quality about him, because in swimming to Jesus, his faith and purpose have been restored. Peter’s meaning and sense of being are again filled in a way that they never again dissipate.
For average Christian folks, Peter moments do not happen very often. Many do not believe in anything to the extent that Peter believed in Jesus. That’s where these two other disciples on the road to Emmaus come in handy. They are not like Peter. They walk and talk and have their hope dashed. The wrestle with the ideas of the death of Jesus. They even discuss it with a stranger. After the stranger calls them fools, they still invite the stranger to stay with them. Cleopas is a Biblical everyman in this sense. He has heard weird stories, but he isn’t sure what to believe. Cleopas has also seen some miraculous things. His smaller hope was dashed. Here is where the resurrected Christ appears. In the midst of the dashed dream. As average people with average lives, the road to Emmaus doesn’t need to be a singular event. It can be a long grueling process where one is gradually defeated. It can be years of child support, a dead end job, broken marriages, or abuse.
The Road of Hope
Regardless the dream is dead, hope has been crushed. This is where God appears in God’s resurrected glory. I believe this is where I AM WHAT I AM (I will be what I shall be) loudly intervenes and resuscitates the dormant spirit of a broken soul. By having an interaction with the Divine Incarnate one’s own being is validated and their very existence takes on meaning. The bad things in life remain; however, the unquenchable light has been sparked. This light infuses the soul, validates the being, and charges one to achieve the dream or fulfill the messianic promise of the movement. One is able to then move on boldly and with a sense of purpose. This may happen multiple times in one’s life, or it may happen only once. The key being that one remembers the passing nature of despair and wait in expectation for the coming of Christ.
::Some of this was written as a response to a book by John Dear titled Jesus the Rebel::