They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does 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 they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah 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.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
~ Luke 24:18 - 30
It's been another day of fighting traffic, visiting patients, and meetings. I will often listen to the BBC for news around the world as I make my way home. Often, finding that I am feeling overwhelmed, not so much by the traffic, but often by the news that I hear. Depending upon the day, I may or may not already be experiencing a heavy heart, or at least one that has said "good bye" to another person that I had recently met through my ministry as a hospice chaplain.
It's times like these that I totally can identify with the two men walking on the road to Emmaus that day. The news was difficult. It's a sense of oppression that we begin to understand when our spirit seems to be overwhelmed by the events of the day. You can become weary.
Oppression is something that means different things to different people. I can most often identify the feeling when I suddenly realize that I seem to be consumed by the news, experiences of the day, or the onslaught of another night of traffic (and now in the dark because of the recent time change).
I think if I were truthful with myself, I would like to find myself feeling a little more free.
The men walking that day to Emmaus are feeling just that. They are thinking about what they have just encountered. The disruption that occurred throughout the city. The image of Christ being paraded, bleeding, through the streets. Thrust upon a wooden cross and raised upon a hill, held by nails.
The image very well paralyzed those who watched, and wondered how this could be happening.
As they walk, Jesus joins the two men, but they do not recognize him. What does he do as he walks with them? He begins by listening to their tragic story. It is very personal. He finds that as they share, he is entering into their sense of grief, and their feeling of being overwhelmed.
So much disappointment with each step, and he continues to walk with them as the words retell all that has happened and what they have seen and heard. He shares their feelings, and soon is not just on any journey, he is on THEIR journey.
So often when we think of Jesus' death, we immediately are drawn to the resurrection, but we must not forget that he had to be taken down from the cross and was buried.
It's not just about a man dying and being buried, but being buried for days and that like all things created, began to decay once the breath had left his body.
When I realize what they must have been thinking, I also am reminded of how people warned of the stench when Lazarus was about to be called out of the tomb.
So often at the bedside of someone who has died, I am reminded that death is the final surrender, and that death is the telling sign of human desperation.
It is a reminder to me that this world can at times cause us to step back and to feel pain, or fell oppressed when we encounter setbacks and pain.
The men walking that day did not recognize him. It wasn't until that they began to break bread with Christ that Jesus' existence was known.
For me, it is a reminder that while I often fail to recognize Christ with me, this reflection reminds us that Christ has overcome not just oppression of the things of this world, but death itself.
They share, "Didn't our hearts burn?"
We need to remember that there is always something more to our outlook on things. More than the things of this world that prevent us often from recognizing Christ walking with, and sometimes even carrying us.
Each day so much happens around us. We can be caught up in the news of the day as we drive. In the meetings we have at work. Or the errands we run to keep our household running smoothly.
Jesus walks with us to remind us that we have a need for hope. To stir something within each of us that provides not just a burning of our hearts, but the need to not just walk with God, but to be the living instrument of Christ's existence in the world today.
While I'm tired at the end of the day, I must admit, I am feeling something within that is reminding me that I have been walking with Christ all day. Do you feel it too?
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.