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 were kept from 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.
Last year I convinced my wife and a couple of friends to attempt the OKC Memorial Marathon. We set up a training schedule and stuck to it for about 3 weeks. Then life happened. My friends and I got busy with classwork. My wife’s work at the church dominated her life. We all got overwhelmed and lost track of the training regime.
Time passed by and the race drew near. With 2 weeks left before the race we all discussed dropping out. I honestly did not mind that idea. In fact I was trying to seed the soil with this idea. We decided that at the very least we could walk the 13.1 miles to complete the half marathon.
On race day we meet across the street from the memorial. It was humid and warm. I was tired, my wife was angry that I had talked her in to this. We gathered in the race corals not paying attention to where we were. The race began and we realized that we were in the elite area. This meant that we were surrounded with people that ran this race at a very fast pace. This was a pace that we were not prepared to maintain. We did our best to keep up and exhausted ourselves by the time we began to exit Bricktown.
We walked most of the race. Around mile 10 my wife and friends wanted to pick up the pace. I could not. My knees had nothing left and the blisters on my feet begged my to stop altogether. I pressed on but at a snails pace. I encouraged them to go ahead and I would meet up with them later.
That last 3 miles were the most painful steps of my life. I begged for relief and fought the urge to stop. I would walk for 10 minutes and rest for 9. I looked for a way out as I trotted along. Then I popped out of the neighborhoods and on to Broadway, facing the finish line. I gathered all my energy and tried to run. The crowd was going wild. Everyone was willing me forward. I was a galloping steed breaking the air towards the end. In reality, I was an ill-prepared man barely walking. I finally crossed the finish line with the most dejected look on my face.
I bought the photo to put on my wall to remind me to never run a race that I am not prepared to run. My experience at last years race reminds me of today’s text. We have a journey of 7 miles whose difficulty lies not in its distance but what what transpired prior to it. Jesus had just died and along with his death the hopes, dreams, and will of many went along with him.
These travelers’ hearts were burdened. These burdens prevented them from seeing the hope in their midst. “Jesus himself came near and began walking alongside them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Mired in their grief, wanting to see what they wanted to see, they were not ready to see the resurrected might of their leader, their teacher, their friend.
One of the hardest parts of faith is believing in the midst of unbelief. There is this internal debate going on inside us that seeks to weigh the options and seek the straightest path. If we are hurting we seek to hurry through that hurt and want to arrive at that island of peace. When we see folks in pain we offer platitudes of comfort, perhaps their pain, their hurt is too close a reminder of our own inevitable bout with hurt. There is nothing like revealing the mettle of our community than pain and suffering.
Staying the course against increasing difficult odds is another marker of faith. When do you cut bait and row to shore, exiting the waters never to fish again? There is much sense to speak of when one talks about the rationality of what we do. Doing the same things over and over and expecting different results is not a good recipe for change. Sometimes is seems like faith is literally a maze of blind leading the blind with a power that is acquired in some sort of charismatic talent show. What is the difference between divinely inspired and inherently decided? The answer to this can put you on varying sides of a debate that dismantles communities and does little to solve the woes of those that are homeless, dying, hungry, or seeking to exist as the world around them devolves in to a warzone.
What is faith without a little trial? Tell this to those that suffer the hands of violence or those that live in a world of inequality and injustice. Faith in the midst of trials may seem sadistic or cruel. Offering a perspective of trails of faith in this instance may not allow for the kind of intimacy that draws us to relationship, at least the kind of relationship that is needed to reveal the twisted, marred resurrected body of Jesus the Christ.
Walking along that road towards Emmaus that day these people are filled with that kind of communal fashioning and shaking stuff. The community’s intimacy is shaken. Everyone is going in a different direction. Then arrives the broken, pierced, marred resurrected body of Jesus the Christ. “Jesus himself came near and began walking alongside them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”That’s what the broken, pierced, marred resurrected body of Jesus does; he comes along side us and rebuilds our community. To prepare for this we got to let go of everything. Nothing can be left to interfere with the new life being offered. This is what we are called to do as we move away from Easter and towards the resurrection of Christ’s ministry in the world on the day of Pentecost.
We mustn’t be kept from recognizing Jesus. We must look beyond what is broken, pierced, or marred within us, within our community. Just as we placed all our woes at the foot of the cross, trusting in the power of a swaddled child that rode in to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. We mustn’t pick them up now. Let us draw nearer to God so that our eyes may be opened and our hearts be prepared. Our community be renewed.