“It is true! He is risen!” This verse is charged with joy. You can hear it. It leaps up off of the page at us with that exclamation mark. This verse comes near the end of the passage about the two disciples who have encountered Jesus on the road to the village of Emmaus after his resurrection. And we, today, this Monday after Easter Sunday, are filled with the same enthusiasm, the same joy.
This is one of my favorite stories in the gospels. When we meet these two disciples walking dejectedly along the dusty road to their village, in our imagination, we can see their slumped shoulders, their sadness as they talked to each other, and debated about the terrible events that they had witnessed over the last few days that ended with the death of their beloved Jesus on that rough hewn cross. We can see their wonder too at the news that some of the disciples have gone to the grave and found it empty. We can imagine their sorrow, their confusion. We might even wonder what our reaction might have been if we had been there, like these two.
They had seen so much of him, seen his power to heal and to raise people from the dead. They had seen and known his capacity for love and forgiveness. No one in all of their history was more like the promised Messiah than this Jesus. Being human, they might have pinned many earthly hopes on what Jesus would do for them in earthly terms. “Was he just another prophet in the long tradition of the faith?” “Would be become their king?” “Would he free them from the oppression of their Roman overlords?” “Would be make them prosperous and comfortable in this life?” But what they saw happen to Jesus had seemingly dashed all of those hopes. “How could the Messiah die in such an ignominious way?” “If he really was God, how could this have happened?” “He was such a good man and he taught us so many things about God and how we are to live in accord with God’s Word.” They had never seen another like him. What meaning could there be in such horrific suffering and in a criminal’s death? And, what were they to think about the things that were being reported by some of the other disciples? You can imagine such questions being discussed between the two as they walked that lonely road.
Then, they are joined by another “traveler.” They do not recognize him as he joins them on their walk. He asks them what they are talking about, and one of them, who is identified to us as Cleopas, says to this “stranger,” Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days” (verse 18)? Jesus gets them to tell him more and they tell him of all the strange and wondrous reports they had heard from others about the grave being empty, about visions of angels announcing that he was alive. Jesus then challenges them saying, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (verse 25). He then reminds them of all the prophecies and interprets them for them. They are stunned and listen with intent. They invite him to their home to stay the night. They share a meal and, in the breaking of the bread, their eyes, their physical and their spiritual eyes, are opened. They know who he is! He is risen! He is the Messiah! And Jesus vanishes. Their joy is so profound that they cannot contain it. They immediately begin to rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others. When they get there they find the others exuberant with their own joy saying: “It is true! The Lord had risen and has appeared to Simon.”
We might have, at times, wondered what it would have been like to have been there in those moments with the disciples. The resurrected Jesus had been active, indeed. He was appearing to many. The Resurrection was real. He said it would happen, and it did. The promise of salvation was fulfilled in their presence. They saw him with their own eyes! That reality! That resurrection! That salvation is real! And it is present to us in this moment–at this time! He is as present to us as he was to them. Our faith, like that of Cleopas and his companion walking to Emmaus, is tested, but it is also answered. Jesus Christ is Lord! He is the savior of the world. He wishes to be as close to us as he was to those who knew him when he walked among us. This Easter season, let our hearts be open to being met on our own “roads to Emmaus.” May our hearts be open to the challenges that Jesus gives us. May our eyes be opened to the reality of Jesus’ presence in our hearts, in the world around us, and in those that we encounter in our daily lives. We pray all of these things in the most holy and powerful name of Jesus. Amen!
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