Friday, April 9, 2010

Emmaus Road - Journey to the Risen Lord

The gospel reading for Wednesday and Thursday of the octave of Easter give us an account of the post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
"That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, 'What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?' And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cle'opas, answered him, 'Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?' And he said to them, 'What things?' And they said to him, 'Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.' And he said to them, 'O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, 'Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.' So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. 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. As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts?'" Luke 24:13-38 
I have often thought about this passage of scripture and wondered at the woundedness of the disciples. They are reliving the passion of Jesus over and over to no avail. They cannot get past their own expectations to even recognize Jesus, the very one of whom they speak. With almost a certain pride, they ask Jesus if He is the only one who does not "know the things that have happened there in these days concerning Jesus of Nazareth." Such irony!  The very one of whom they speak, listens to them speak of Him, and they are totally unaware. 

The point is, they weren't looking for Jesus. After all, Jesus had been crucified, died and was buried. Even His body wasn't in the tomb any more, so why should they stay in Jerusalem? Jesus couldn't have been the Messiah though He was the one they had hoped would redeem Israel! Now that Jesus was dead, they could go back to their old life and continue to wait for the Messiah. Right?

How often are we like these disciples, returning to an old way of life - to old habits and ways of relating that have not even worked for us - because our expectations have not been met? Have you held high standards of someone - someone you may think you love - and when they fail, you go back to holding those same high expectations only to be disappointed again and again?

What the disciples on the road to Emmaus needed was to experience the Risen Jesus. Only then could they change their old ways of thinking and acting to live a life that had not only died with Christ, but also rose with Him to a new life. So too, we must let go of old patterns of behavior and ways of thinking that keep us bound - that keep us from seeing Jesus in the other person. 

Come to the Word and listen with new ears. Do not look for scripture to support your own perceptions. Let the Lord reveal Himself to you in the Scriptures. Will you not find that your heart burns within you as He speaks to you through His Word?

Come to the Table of the Lord with your neighbor, your spouse, your mother-in-law - that person who continues to be a disappointment to you. Bring them with you to Holy Communion. Eventually, you too will recognize in them, Jesus Forsaken, crucified and abandoned. But when you do, look also for the Risen Christ, for He has been glorified. When you find Him, your life will be forever changed. You will not return home the same for you have come to know Him in the breaking of the Bread.

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