On this morning two people were walking towards a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about what had happened over the last few days. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and began walking alongside them, but their eyes could not recognizing him. And Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?”
They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place here in these days?” 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, and how our…HOW THE…chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and to be crucified. But we had believed that he was the one to redeem Israel, the Messiah.
Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Earlier this morning, some women of our group puzzled us. They were at the tomb very early this morning, 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. Some of us went to the tomb and found it just like the women had said; but we did not see him.
Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went with them to stay. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to everyone there. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
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?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Easter is finally here. With baited breath we have waited for this day. The tomb is empty. The Christ, Jesus, has risen. Death has lost its sting. For death cannot hold Jesus in the grave. Resurrection has conquered death and given us eternal hope. Jesus the Christ has gone to hell and back. Glory Hallelujah.
I imagine that all of us here are well versed in the story surrounding Easter. It is a seminal event in the life of Christendom. We invest a good part of the Christian calendar preparing for or recovering from Easter. It’s a pretty big deal.
Why do we spend so much time in the story of Easter? Is it Jesus dying on the cross to appease the debt of sin for the world? Perhaps it is a selfless act of devotion in love to blanket the world with peace via the blood of Christ? For me it is about that walk towards Emmaus.
There they were…baffled, bewildered, and vexed. Walking together, finding comfort in each other. Trying to make sense of those three days. If this were a movie it’d be complete with flashbacks, cut scenes, and dramatic music. The horror revisited of their beloved friend turned over to the authorities and killed.
Perhaps, guilt, shame, and woe tainted the walk as well. There was surely something heavy bearing down upon the backs of those weary travelers on that road towards Emmaus that morning. Was it the empty tomb? If Jesus was not in the tomb, then where was he?
A stranger joins their walk. Listens to them. Offers them a different perspective and motions to depart from them. Not wanting the peace found in the company of this stranger they plead with him to stay with them.
The stranger obliges them and comes with them. Hands washed, tired feet resting, the meal is served. The stranger is still a guest. Then the meal begins. Something, perhaps that something they were burdened with back on that road to Emmaus was being lifted.
The stranger took a loaf; he blessed it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they saw it was Jesus.
The disfigured, battered, and resurrected body of Jesus walked with them on that road. Having departed from the tomb, Jesus wandered the earth. According to the Gospels, Jesus wandered the earth searching for his friends in need of comfort and peace.
When I was about to start seminary a well-meaning deacon of my home church offered me this advice “don’t let them take your faith from you.” I get what he was saying. He was cautioning me to that liberal theological path, the one that takes you away from orthodoxy, tradition, and Jesus. The path that most assuredly delivers you to apostasy and is the direct opposite of the path that he and I were on at this particular church. All of this was secret code around the language of inclusivity and the loving acceptance of lesbian and gay Christians.
The funny thing was that in order to find your faith, you must lose it. On that road to Emmaus their faith was most defiantly lost. All of that orthodoxy, tradition, and Jesus was gone. What was left? A tiny ray of hope that the tomb was empty.
Then this stranger at the table breaks bread. Passing the fractured loaf around to everyone in the room. The wounds of the cross are visible to those that receive the bread. The stranger’s limp is noticeable in that room. With difficulty he moves from person to person. His breath is staggered and inconsistent. Memories return. Intimately the loaf is passed around, relationships renewed, stories shared, and the Christ revealed.
The glory of Easter revealed.
This is why we await today with baited breath. Our lives are forever changed. The tomb is empty. The Christ, Jesus, has risen. Death has lost its sting. Death cannot hold Jesus in the grave. Resurrection has conquered death and given us eternal hope. Jesus the Christ has gone to hell and back. Glory Hallelujah.