Road to Emmaus: Despair to Delight
As I begin this message, it is just before 4:00 pm on Resurrection Sunday, April 1, 2018. I am purposefully writing at this time because it coincides with the narrative of the Emmaus journey found in Luke, chapter 24. Our characters of this narrative, Cleopas and another disciple of Jesus, have left Jerusalem and are heading to their home in Emmaus; about a seven-mile journey. Their conversation at the start of this trek is rather animated. After all, their hopes of deliverance from the Roman empire have been dashed with the crucifixion of their Messiah. Now, with his body missing from the tomb, it is time to leave the dangerous environment of Jerusalem.
Not long into the journey, Cleopas and his partner are joined by another traveler. The traveler is none other than the resurrected Jesus, yet the Bible states, “But their eyes were prevented from recognizing him” (v. 16). Jesus asked the what they are discussing in such an animated fashion. I can almost see the expression on Cleopas’ face as he answers something like, “Dude! Where have you been? Are you the only guy in Jerusalem that doesn’t know what happened?” Jesus plays along with them and has Cleopas explain things as they resume their walk.
After Cleopas finished his dissertation on things gone wrong, Jesus gifted these two distraught disciples with a firsthand Bible study in prophecy. Starting with Genesis 3:15, the first messianic prophecy found in scripture, Jesus taught them for the continuation of the journey. All the while, Cleopas and his partner never came to grips that it’s Jesus doing the teaching. As the travelers approached Emmaus, the sun was setting, and Jesus was invited to have dinner with them. He agreed and reclined at the table with them. In this setting, Jesus assumed the role of the host; took the bread, blessed it, and began to serve his traveling companions. It is at this time the disciples eyes are opened and they recognized it is Jesus who has served them. Before they can utter a word, “Jesus vanished from their sight” (v. 31).
After the disappearance of Jesus, Cleopas and his partner recapped all that had taken place. They remember how their “hearts burned” during the journey while Jesus taught them. Their despair shifted. There was a renewed hope in their spirit. The two elected to travel back to Jerusalem and tell the other disciples what they had encountered. They found Peter and the others gathered in the upper room, and as they began to tell the story, Jesus appeared to all present. “Peace be with you” was the salutation Jesus spoke as he came into their presence.
So, what does this narrative have to do with you and me? For me, it is a message resurrection, of restoration. It is a story of how a person can have such high expectations of what being a Christian is, only to have those expectations squelched by the world. Over time our aspirations may become misguided and the next thing you know our “walk” has become somewhat crooked. Or maybe tragedy has struck your family. There has been a loss of a loved one, or a relationship severed. Perhaps there has been a job loss and the world is crushing you and all you can see is the struggle to put one foot in front of another; just to make it through another day.
Please allow me some creative liberty if you will. You ever wonder why Cleopas’ traveling companion is not named in this narrative? Sure, we can do some biblical investigation and come up with some good guesses. I believe it his wife, Mary, one of the three Mary’s found at the cross of Jesus, but that is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is the companion is not named. May I suggest you and I are the other disciple traveling with Cleopas. Insert your name into the narrative. Think about the time when you came to know Jesus as your Savior. You where excited and had visions of how life with the Messiah would be different. However, over time, the world has crept in and has left your faith and vision cloudy. You might even be in the same state of despair as our travelers.
The truth of the matter is Jesus is still walking beside you. He is still walking beside me. We have to listen to his teaching. We have to recline at his table. We have to partake of what he wants to feed us. It is only then our vision will become clear and our despair return to delight. The length of this journey is totally up to you. Sure, it might not be a two-hour, seven-mile walk, but it could be. Just don’t let it be a life-long adventure. In a note of transparency, I’m not in a state of despair but I know people who are. I’ve gone through seasons of staleness that only become refreshed when I listen, recline, and partake. How about you?