Apr. 13, 2012
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“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. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 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. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
We hear grief oozing out of these two men’s lives. They really believed Jesus was going to change the world … and now he is dead. As they walk back to their hometown of Emmaus, it was a journey of disappointment. One biblical scholar says the original language implies the grief was so significant their faces were twisted with grief; so overwhelming it physically changed the look of their faces.
This story reminds us that at some point in our lives, we will all have a time when our faces will be literally twisted in grief. In our grief, we’ll ask someone and/or ourselves if there really is a God. All of us will walk our own journey to Emmaus.
Our Emmaus walks will each be unique and different. For some, your Emmaus is a walk away from the doctor’s office after receiving a terrifying diagnosis. Your Emmaus walk maybe the death of a loved one. Maybe your Emmaus walk is walking into an empty house after a dissolved marriage.
Last summer, Luella’s husband died after struggling with cancer. Previously, her three children had passed away. Two weeks after her husband’s death, Luella was diagnosed with cancer. She bravely went through chemo but continued with problems and pain. The Wednesday before Easter, she had exploratory surgery. The doctors discovered significant cancer and have given her two months to live. Today, she is being moved from the hospital to a care center, where she will spend her last days. Last week as I sat at her bedside and held her hand, I thought, “Luella is on her Emmaus walk.”
Who else do you know … or are you … on an Emmaus journey right now? Who has an overwhelming sense of grief and loss right now? Who is someone you know that is questioning whether there is a God?
Despite the overwhelming grief and disappointment these men felt, Jesus came to them. Truly, they were not journeying alone. But it was their eyes that kept them from recognizing Jesus.
This is a great part of this story. The men are walking. Along comes a stranger comes and he asks why they are so sad. They question what rock he has been living under the last few days, in that he hasn’t heard the news. Then, they proceed to tell the stranger, Jesus himself, that he is dead! Think about it. Jesus could have said, “Don’t worry; it’s alright! I’m not dead! I’m alive! Look, I’m Jesus!” But he doesn’t. Instead, he walks with them and takes them through a journey.
Last Sunday during worship, I shared this concept of individual Emmaus journeys. By Tuesday, two people shared with me people they encountered since Easter worship who are traveling Emmaus journeys. I pray the struggling folks know Jesus journeys with them on their Emmaus walk.
Let us pray: Then this stranger asks a question, “What is this which troubles you?” Meets us in our pain and suffering; Jesus walks with us, unknown. Amen.