Summary: A monologue from one of those whom Jesus met following his resurrection on the road to Emmaus.
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 10min
Scripture: Luke 24: 13-35
It's a short journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. But for me it was the journey of a lifetime. A couple hours walk, at most, in real time.
But it was enough for the Spirit to work on us. In us. To move us, teach us, reveal to us what we should have seen with our own eyes, and believe with our own ears.
We had been told by the women. The three Mary's who had been there, at the tomb. But you know how it is with us men, sometimes. We don't believe what we're told half the time. Especially by women who seem all pumped up and excited. I know they were the first witnesses. The first evangelists, I guess you could say. But we called their story an idle tale, and went back to our card games and drinks.
To tell the truth, we didn't know what to do, or what to believe any more. Everything we had hoped for had been lost. Our leader, and, with him, our dreams, nailed to a cross. Buried in a tomb. The crowds that had followed him, listened to his teachings, brought their children for blessing, their sick for healing, where had they gone? The religious authorities, who ought to have listened, if not understood, had instead been jealous of his popularity, felt threatened by his mass appeal. The Romans thought he was about to amass a rebellion.
It had all gone so wrong. So terribly wrong. The last few days were a nightmare for us. Terrifying. Jesus betrayed by one of our own. Turned on by the mob. Tried. Whipped until he bled. And then - I can still hear the nails being driven into his wrists. The thud of hammers. The taunts of the soldiers. The cry of abandonment from Jesus' own throat.
I'm sorry. I must not talk of those things again. Or perhaps I must, at some later time. The story needs to be told. But the story I just shared is not the end of it. We thought it was. But there is more.
As I said, after the crucifixion, we were confused. Frightened for our own lives. Leaderless. Even we felt betrayed. By Jesus himself. Would we go back to our villages, to our fishing and tax collecting and carpentry. As if nothing had happened to us for three years?! We sat and talked, in hiding most of the time, for three days. Discussing the movement. Leadership. Vision for the group. Disband or re-group? No one wanted to actually say it, but it was on all of our tongues, unspoken. Jesus was a deluded prophet. And we had all fallen for his line.
And then the women came back, full of this improbable story. That Jesus had risen from the dead. We were not quick to fall for this line, too.
Peter, however, wondered about the story. He at least gave some credence to the women. The benefit of the doubt. He finished his hand of poker and went to the tomb where the body had been buried. Where the women had supposedly seen the angels. Where they heard the news. "He is not here, but has risen."
"No point arguing about it, angels or not," Peter grumped, "Let's go see for ourselves." And off he went, leaving the rest of us to stay for another hand. Yet another conversation about our future.
Peter came back a short time later. He confirmed what the women had said. Empty tomb. No body. But what did that mean? Only that the body was gone. Stolen by the guards, as a joke to throw us off?
It was something to go on, but not enough. And by this time, we were so skeptical that nothing short of the risen Christ himself would convince us. Not angels. Not hopeful women. Not even an empty tomb.
John had things to do in Emmaus. "Come with me, Cleopas," he said. So off we went. Talking as we walked, pondering, again, the events of the last days.
The road to Emmaus is well-travelled. Dozens of people are back and forth, walking to work, coming back from the market in Jerusalem. It was late afternoon by the time we got going. Plenty of time to get there before dusk.
As we walked, a stranger came beside us. Friendly enough fellow. We chatted about the weather for a while, then he asked, matter-of-fact, what we were talking about as we walked. Seems he had overheard some of our conversation as he caught up to us.
John and I looked at each other. We stopped. A feeling of sadness came over us. I could see it in John's eyes, and feel it in my heart. Here it was. The public moment. Here with this stranger, we might pour out our pain, sorrow, loss. How much would we say?
I suspected, somehow, that the man was quite unaware of our story. So I tested him out. "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know the things that happened there in these days?" To confirm my suspicions, he said, "What things?"
I looked at the stranger again. He knew nothing. Nothing about our lives. Nothing about Jesus. Or the community we had joined, the movement, the dream, the teachings, the miracles. The cross. Have you ever had that experience? A time when someone asks you, "What's wrong?" And you realize that, short of saying, "I'm sad," or "I'm afraid," there is nothing to do but tell the whole complex, sordid, painful story of how you got to that feeling?
I took a deep breath and poured out the story. All of it. Including his words and actions, his passion and compassion. His betrayal and death. Even the deep sense of disappointment we had, that we thought he would be the one to redeem Israel. I ended with the story the women had shared, and that Peter had confirmed. The empty tomb. And our still empty lives.
The stranger shook his head. At first I thought he felt sorry for us, that he empathized with our loss. But his head was shaking in disappointment. "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe!" John and I looked at each other. "How could this man say these things to us? Has he no feelings? Who is he to judge us like that?"
But the stranger went on, and as he talked we listened. We heard him tell stories we had learned from childhood. Bible stories. From the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, to Moses, and back again. Familiar prophecies, all put together, splendidly knit into a fabric of hope. All to do with the Messiah, with God's promises, with deliverance. The servant, whose suffering brings redemption to the people, and glory to the servant.
And as he talked, we marveled. Our spirits were lifted. We remembered the power of the story to inspire, to touch the heart with hope. At the end of the journey we were tired, but the man seemed eager to continue his walk. "It is dusk," I said. "Stay with us. Let's share a room. We can talk some more." the stranger agreed, we set up for the evening, and ordered some food.
What happened next I can scarcely put into words. We asked the stranger to offer the blessing for our meal. He took the bread then, blessed and broke it, and then gave it to us. It was him! In the flesh! Memories of his last meal flooded back. An upper room. Broken bread. For you. Bread of life. Body of Christ.
He left at that point. Though others saw him later. Many times, to many people, in many places.
But at that time. In that place. To the two of us, it was as if time stood still. As if a curtain had been lifted from our eyes.
It was on a road that we met him, and in a room where we broke bread and discovered hope. But let me tell you this… All the roads you walk on are paths where Jesus may meet you. And all the times and places where you break bread with a friend or a stranger may be sacred times and holy places. Keep your eyes open, and your hearts willing to listen. Christ will find you. Enjoy his company.
(c) Copyright Jim Hatherly, all rights reserved.
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