Luke 24 chronicles their story. Two men walking along the road to a village called Emmaus about 60 furlongs (7-1/2 miles) from Jerusalem, talking about the things which had happened. Jesus Christ, the miracle worker, had been betrayed by one of his own. He had been sentenced to die and crucified like a common thief. The disciples were scattered. There were claims that his tomb was empty, attended by an angel proclaiming his resurrection. It was plenty to talk about.
Then the scripture says, “while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.”
The Stranger who attached himself to them joined in their conversation and “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” It was late in the evening and they invited him in for supper.
Luke tells it this way: “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”
These men were among the company of individuals who had left everything to follow Jesus. Every hope, every dream, every plan for their future involved their service to the Christ. Now he was gone. Where would they go? What would they do? The city had become stifling; so they chose a walk in the country. They had to get away from it all. They needed to escape their shattered lives that it now seemed impossible to rebuild. In fact, it seemed futile to even try to go on without Him. They wondered if they had done something wrong. They wondered what they were supposed to do now.
So they find themselves on the road to Emmaus. It’s the road one takes after a trip to Golgotha. Ken Gire said, “It’s the road we take when the other roads we’ve taken turn out to be dead ends.”
There’s nothing left for them in Jerusalem. It’s a lonely city now, as it echoes with the memories of what might have been – memories of a crucified Messiah. It is the proverbial “dark night of the soul” for them.
Again I quote the writer, Ken Gire, who put it this way: “They leave behind the rumors of his resurrection. They carry with them only the reality of his death. And their sadness. The road they travel slopes away from the city and then squirms around a convergence of hills…The expansive starkness of the terrain mirrors the landscape of their soul. The starkness makes room for solitude. And the solitude makes room for their thoughts, giving them a chance to uncurl from the fetal position they have been in the past few days. As they walk, their thoughts stretch into conversation. But the conversations are overcase with emotion. Tears come and go. So do their thoughts.”
“They think of the beautiful dream the Savior had – the coming of God’s kingdom. When his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. When nations would beat their swords into plowshares. When the wolf would lie down with the lamb. And there would be peace on earth. All the earth. And there would be goodwill among the people. All the people. It was a beautiful dream. But Friday shattered it.”
As they comfort and console each other, the Stranger joins himself to them. And they tell him their version of his own story. “Since the time they first met Jesus, they hoped he was the king he claimed to be. And they waited for him to usher in the kingdom. But then he died. And they hoped again, based on his word, that in three days he would return. And they waited again. Friday, Saturday, Sunday morning. Sunday noon. Sunday afternoon. Then they lost hope. Another one of Friday’s casualties. Without hope they couldn’t wait any longer. So they left.”
It’s interesting to note that Jesus was not angered by their fear and doubt. He didn’t blame them or chastise them for not believing the report of the women who said the tomb was empty. He did, though, blame them for not believing the Scripture. “”How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26, NIV).
What transpired next, though, is the real message of the resurrection. You see, they stopped at the edge of town and they begged him to stay on with them. When he brake the bread and gave thanks – suddenly – they recognized him. The Stranger is no stranger at all! He is the their Savior! And then suddenly, He is gone again. Vanished!
But that still was not the end of the story. Luke goes on to tell that they, “… rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread” (Luke 24:33-35, KJV). Just a glimpse of Him was enough to give new life to their dreams. It was enough to strengthen them in their sorrow. It gave them enough hope not to give up on living, believing, trusting in Him. Just a glimpse was enough to go back to Jerusalem and share the hope – He is alive! Alive forevermore.
This Easter season my prayer for you is that you will see Who it is that walks with you. There are some conversations that can only take place on Emmaus roads – some times that we will only see you when we allow you to break the bread of our lives and give thanks for it. I close this article with an excerpt from a prayer by Ken Gire:
“Stay with me, Lord, especially in times when I am disheartened. Show yourself to me, even if it is only for a moment. For your presence means more to me than my understanding. And seeing you when life doesn’t make sense is better than not seeing you when it does. Just as I pray you would be with me in my suffering, I pray I would bee with you in yours. Help me to be with you in your weakness in the wilderness, with you in your tears on the road to Jerusalem, with you in your agony in Gethsemane, with you in your tortures on the cross. Help me to understand something of the depths of your pain that I may appreciate more fully the depths of your love…”