“That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. He asked them, ‘What were you discussing as you walk along?’ One of them, Cleopas, said to Him in reply, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?’ They said to Him, ‘The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. But we were hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that He was alive.’ And He said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!’ “ — Luke 24: 13-55
Did you know that Easter is not just one day? It’s actually a 50-day period that ends on Pentecost. It marks the time of Jesus’s ministry from his resurrection to his ascension. It’s an important time for Christians to reflect upon their baptism and how their lives are meant to change as a member of God’s Kingdom. It’s a time for us to examine how Jesus is included in our daily lives.
For me, it’s impossible to think of Eastertide without thinking of the Emmaus story. This story of two disciples encountering Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, is one my favorite scriptures. Two men were walking toward Emmaus on that first Easter. They were grief-stricken over Jesus’ death. Along the road they encountered a stranger, the unrecognized Jesus.
Cleopas and his companion were surprised that the man had not heard of the recent events that had Jerusalem in turmoil. They proceeded to tell the stranger of Jesus’ crucifixion and the report of His empty tomb by the women that morning. Jesus responded, “‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Even as he said these words, the two men failed to see Jesus in front of them. They failed to see the truth that they faced. They chose to ignore the presence of God in their moment of grief and fear.
The word “Emmaus” means “an urgent longing”. Is it really surprising that of all the places for Jesus to have this encounter, it would be Emmaus — an urgent longing? Of course not!
I believe that the road to Emmaus is a road that must be walked, in one sense, by every Christian. If you are a Christian, then your urgent longing for Jesus Christ is the driving force of your life. We should long for him in the joyful moments as well as the despair. But woe to us. How often do we fail to see Jesus Christ in our daily moments? How often do we choose to ignore the truth of all the scriptures because our eyes are not open? We aren’t so unlike the two men on the Emmaus Road. And we even know the ending!!
In this account, we know that one of the men was Cleopas. But the other is not named. What if that companion is you? What if the story of the walk to Emmaus is about you and your failure to see the risen Christ … to really see him by your side?
This story ends with an awakening by these disciples as their eyes were opened upon the breaking of the bread.
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The crucified and risen Christ comes to meet us on our daily walk, to restore joy to our heart when we need it. The road to Emmaus becomes a symbol of our own faith journey: the Scriptures and Holy Communion are the incredible ways we have be given to encounter the Lord. We too carry worries, difficulties and disappointments into our worship time, preventing us from seeing Christ before us. So we go away feeling sad, towards our ‘Emmaus,’ turning our backs on God’s plan. We distance ourselves from God. But the scriptures invite us into God’s heart while Communion gives us strength. This is what happened to the disciples of Emmaus: they received the Word; they shared the breaking of bread and from feeling hopeless and defeated they became joyful.
Are you on the Emmaus Road right now? If so, is your heart burning? Perhaps you are urgently longing for the only One you will ever need.