The Walk to Emmaus
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 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?” 19 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 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.
22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 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. 24 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.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 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.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 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?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
In this time of pandemic, of “stay at home” orders, it seems like walking in the neighborhood has increased 10 fold! I know it has in our neighborhood. Folks want to get out, it’s good to process walking and getting some of that angst worked out from being cooped up. I think our dogs have been walked 100 times! It also releases some endorphins, makes us feel better, and is healthy. And, on days when the sun is out, gives us vitamins!
Our lectionary passages finds two of Jesus’ disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. We can relate to them. They want to get out, they need to get out. They have been isolated, disrupted, and their expectations crushed. They need to work it out and were walking to a destination.
Richard Rohr, the Catholic priest, writer, and speaker has some good insights on this walk to Emmaus:
“Not knowing what else to do, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple were now wandering home, trying to make sense of it all.
They were suspended somewhere between loss and possible gain, grief and possible joy, profound human suffering and perhaps some kind of redemption, dashed hopes and maybe daring to hope again. They were wrung out—emotionally, spiritually and physically. They had been powerless to prevent the events of the last days, and they were powerless now to do anything to change their situation.
The road from Jerusalem to Emmaus was the road between the now and the not-yet.
Although they were probably not aware of it, these disciples were in what Richard Rohr calls “liminal space”—a particular spiritual position where human beings hate to be, but where the biblical God is always leading them. The Latin root limen literally means “threshold,” referring to that needed transition when we are moving from one place or one state of being to another.
Liminal space usually induces some sort of inner crisis: you have left the tried and true (or it has left you), and you have not yet been able to replace it with anything else.”
This passage is particularly helpful for us today. Doesn’t it seem like we are in this “liminal space”. We have been disrupted, some more than others. Yet, God has been with us in this moment. We may be disoriented, we may feel lost, we may want to go back to “normal”, but then we realize that we cannot. We have crossed a threshold that was handed to us. We must grow and move towards a new “normal”, and that new normal has to be good for everyone in some way.
In this moment, I am so grateful to have our church as “walking partners”. We are having some amazing conversations!
Along comes another walking partner in our story. At first the disciples don’t recognize him, but as they share, and as Jesus moves into sharing a meal with them, it dawns upon them, this is Jesus and they are filled with emotion.
Friends, as we walk together, aren’t we often surprised that as we sit, as we listen, as we share life together, slowly, but then suredly, along the way, we see Jesus!
This past week, on a Zoom call with Ron and Trish, Trish said something that was beautiful. As we shared about the Zoom calls, she said that it was so good to actually see folks face to face. So often, in our sanctuary, because of the way it is set up, we have to look forward. That’s not a knock on the building, it’s just the way it is…it’s a great building and we all look forward to being back in it. But, in this season, we have the opportunity to “see” one another, and in the process, see God in each other…just like we sing every Sunday when we are in the Sanctuary.
In our story, Jesus goes on to give them peace.
It’s hard to be at peace with everyone. Peace is a rare commodity, especially when we look at events in the world around us. As I watched events unfold this past week again around protests and other things that are dividing us, I couldn’t help but to wonder if peace can be possible.
Yet, we are called to peace. I am amazed at folks like Martin Luther King who were able to work towards justice while rejecting violence and seeking peace.
We also experience a lack of peace within ourselves. We are filled with self-doubt, insecurities, and a sense that something is simply not right. We often look around in a state of discontent that can lead us to question who we are and to wonder if there is something more. Sometimes that discontent can lead us towards growth if handled in loving community with God and others. But, oftentimes that discontent left on its own leads us to despair.
We live in a society that often values a certain rugged individualism. When we look at each other as individuals, we can make ourselves and others isolated, rather, we should look at each as persons created for community. This individualism often has a “me first” and has an attitude of getting ahead before the concerns of other. Our lack of seeing others as persons can cause division within our families, even our churches. And, we certainly see a lack of peace, and even civility, in our political discourse as a country. Having said that, it’s remarkable to see in these past few weeks how this particular church enjoys a great deal of peace within its community, which was present way before this pandemic hit us! This is something that we should cherish and make sure we take care of.
As we embrace who we are in Jesus and identify with his example and live in obedience to him, we can experience true peace. A peace that passes understanding. We will also be able to extend that peace to others and work towards peace. We may not be able to control what others do to us or to others or the circumstances around us, but we can live in Christ and strive to respond to others as Jesus would.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection he appears to the frightened, lonely, desperate, insecure, and hopeless disciples, along the road, and in their hiding places. They have just seen Jesus crucified, their hopes are dashed, their lives are threatened and they have locked themselves up in a room.
Jesus came to the disciples and he comes to us today, having overcome everything, even death. We can live into this season with expectation, or a hope for peace within ourselves, others, with God, and in the world. Shalom. God has made everything new desires for us to live in peace. Not only does Jesus give us peace, Jesus is our peace as he is present with us.
Friends, may we live in God’s peace and be peacemakers, may we live in God and abide in God as God lives in us.