Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 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?” 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 chief priests and leaders handed him over 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 these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb 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 those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they 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 in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 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.
This familiar account is the story of two people—one named Cleopas and one forever unnamed leaving Jerusalem and walking along the road—an ordinary road. Think about what they must have been feeling.
A lot had just happened. Their heads were spinning as they tried to get their minds around it. But it was really too overwhelming. And there was still a sense of grief at their loss. And, besides, they needed to pay attention to where they were walking. These days the roads were not as safe as they used to be. You really couldn’t trust anyone that you saw. And all this traffic coming out of Jerusalem made it even harder. They had to be careful. And they were tired.
And so to pass the time, they talked about it. Maybe by saying it out loud, it would begin to make sense. Maybe together, the two of them, Cleopas and the other one, could put it into some sort of perspective. And then someone approached them. You can bet they were a little wary at first. “What are you talking about?” the stranger asked. “Good grief,” they must have thought. “Where has he been? I mean, EVERYONE is talking about it.” So they told him the story of Jesus—at least the way they thought they understood it. They told the story of how this wonderful man had died, how all the hopes and the plans for the future were gone, how their world would never go back to being the way it was before.
And as they got close to the village, the stranger turned like he was headed away. But it was almost evening. The road would not be safe. So they asked him to stay with them. And that evening, as they all sat around the table together, this stranger picked up a piece of bread, blessed it and broke it. And as he handed it to them, they saw who it was. Seven miles of dusty road and it was not until this moment that they saw what they almost missed. Why didn’t they notice? Why did they miss it? They missed it because they had been so mired in loss and death that they missed life.
These times are difficult for us. Do we open up the country? What does that mean? Or do we stay a little longer where we are supposedly safe? Loss is a strange thing. We grieve, we even stay mired in the depths of despair, and we try desperately to get things back to the way they were before. But is it possible that we’re only remembering the rosy parts of what we lost? And by staying so fixated on trying to regain what we lost, maybe even trying to regain control, is it possible that we’re missing some newness that is being offered to us?
I’m sure you’ve seen the reports of the changes that the earth has experienced while we humans have been held up in our houses. The air is cleaner is every major city, opening views that younger generations have never even seen. The gondolas of Venice now float on crystal waters instead of the muck to which they had become so accustomed. Bird’s voices are returning (because they can now breathe!) and other animals are showing up in all sorts of unknown places. See, the world is starting to heal. The earth knows that things do not stay the same. The earth knows how to adapt and how to look for the places of hope, how to go where the newness is being offered.
The mystery of God’s transcendence is never static or predictable. But in the midst of our ordinary and sometimes mundane lives, we are given glimpses of the holy and the sacred. They come without warning. They come without bidding. Sometimes they come when we’re not quite ready. But life is not just about those pinnacles of holy sightings. If we spent all of our lives on the mountaintop, we would certainly get a bit of altitude sickness. Life is an ordinary road on which we travel. It’s got hills and valleys and a few potholes along the way. And every once in a while, holiness enters and dances with us. See, Jesus keeps showing up. But if we’re looking behind us, we’ll miss it.
This is a hard time. Keep walking–together. There is newness just up ahead. It’s not what we had. It’s better.
Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. (Simone Weil)
Grace and Peace,