Acts 2:14a, 36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35
The Road to Emmaus
Today’s gospel tells us an interesting and rather meaningful story. Two disciples, Cleopas and a friend are journeying from Jerusalem to a village seven miles away on the day of the Resurrection. They were not of the twelve, or rather now the eleven, but they were clearly close followers of Jesus and known to the eleven.
It’s a well-known story, one of misery turning to joy; desolation to elation. And it is a story many of us face in our own lives: when hopes and dreams are dashed, but then we find that things turn out well in the end.
Have you ever felt like you just had to get away? Have you ever been bitterly disappointed, when expectations have come to nothing? When you have felt let down? When it feels as if your world has turned to ashes? I expect we all have in one way or another and that is what Cleopas and his companion must have been feeling.
It was Easter day and it seems that these two disciples were off! Who can blame them? Jerusalem had proved to be a place of pain and loss; of death, unmet expectations and disappointment. As they made their way, they were talking about all the things that had happened, and, probably, the things that hadn’t turned out quite as they expected.
About Jesus’s arrest, crucifixion and death. They would have been disappointed, bewildered and sad. They had hoped Jesus was the one, but he was now dead. Surely there was nothing to keep them in Jerusalem, especially as they were not of the inner circle of disciples. Their lives had been shattered and there was the danger from the Jewish authorities too. They had heard the claims of Mary and the other women that an angel had told them of the Resurrection, but they were clearly doubtful and confused and felt the need to get away.
I don’t know why they chose to go to Emmaus or what they planned to do there. But went they did. Going to Emmaus was perhaps an escape from everything that had not gone right, or so they thought.
But here again we find Jesus looking after his people. Jesus listened to their fears, then explained the scriptures and why the Messiah had to die. He steered them away from pain and misery and back to life. He surprised them and he showed that he was there for them and, actually, that he needed them.
How often Jesus surprises us. We feel that things are pretty dire – they certainly are in the World at present. We need, we long for so much, not just material things. We need Jesus to be with us and to surprise us and to protect us.
“When Jesus 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 recognised him.” They recognised him as the one they had left for dead in Jerusalem. They recognised him as the one who had accompanied them on the road to Emmaus. They recognised him as the one they had hoped he would be.
Jesus wasn’t just giving them bread; he was giving them back themselves. This was their restoration, their resurrection perhaps. Jesus was supporting them with himself: with his body, his life, his love, his compassion, with all that he is and all that he has.
They returned to the place from which they had to get away. Cleopas and his companion arrived back in Jerusalem in the middle of the night with news of their Emmaus experience and when they got there, they heard that others had also had resurrection experiences of Jesus. Jesus was alive, seen, and present in Jerusalem.
They had left Jerusalem only that morning as a place of horror and death and they returned that evening to a place now full of joy and hope. Jesus had surprised them, Jesus had not left them, Jesus was there for them.
We do not hear of Cleopas again, but after such a tremendous experience of the risen Jesus one can only assume that he and his companion became part of that great missionary effort that spread Christianity so widely in such a short time. Cleopas and his friend had had their doubts satisfied. Their fears were overcome, they had seen the Risen Lord. And he had not let them go, he had a purpose for them and he brought them back to their Christian community.
We all have doubts and fears. We all have to face losses and shattering events in our lives. The same Jesus who appeared to them is there in the background looking after us. Whatever we go through, he is there, whenever things are dark, he is there. We may not have quite the striking revelation as these two disciples did, but he can surprise us with his love. I am reminded of the lines in the old hymn “Hark my Soul”, where it says – Sought me wandering, set me right, turned my darkness into light. Jesus surprises us and he brings us back - always has, always will. We all can and we all will have our own Emmaus experiences.
And to finish we can be comforted at all times by the words soon to come at the Ascension. “Be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time”.