I wrote this on Easter Sunday. Writing this reminded me of the constant presence of the Lord in our lives not matter how hopeless life may feel or how lonely life’s journey may be. This is a happy story so read till the end.
Everyone Goes Down This Road: Holy Week Reflections
April 24, 2011
They got the news of an empty tomb but that didn’t seem to help much. They didn’t want a dead man’s clothes or a tomb without a body. They wanted their teacher, they wanted their friend, and they wanted a living person. “I need a person that speaks so I may to hear and have hope. I need a person that heals so I may be touched and walk straight again.” they thought. An empty tomb is what it is—an empty tomb.
Their sandals dragged along the dusty road as they made their way back home—straps unclasped, soles worn out, stirring up dust clouds as they walked. You could tell by their gait that they were in no rush to get there either. They just didn’t want to stay still. When you lose someone, the last thing you want to do is sit still and be alone with your grief. So they slowly walked on and it didn’t seem matter how long it took.
This is the story of two friends as they walked back to Emmaus.
They tried to tell each other stories to re-live the memory of their teacher. They exchanged first hand accounts about the miracles, the parables, and just how his presence among them gave them hope. And as the stories ran out, they faced their painful truth: Jesus their hope was gone. Their hearts sank deeper. What was there to walk home to? What was there to live for?
As they walked, a stranger came to them and walked alongside the two. Good –mannered he seemed asking sympathetically, “What is wrong?” After getting over their initial disbelief that this stranger had no idea what had gone on in the last three days, they poured their hearts out to him. Cathartic it felt as they told him stories of the great works this man named Jesus performed—stories of dead men brought back to life, the blind given sight, and profound teachings never before heard. You could tell how much hope this Jesus gave these two simple men. And it all ended on Friday on the cross with their Jesus hanging mutilated and humiliated. And they sighed, “We had hoped he would redeem Israel.”1
But telling their story to this curious man was somehow easing the burden they were carrying. Sharing their accounts made time go a little faster than the agonizing seconds of walking alone on that lonely road. But the stranger offered a different angle to their story by recounting with uncanny precision and simplicity the message of prophets who foretold of the suffering Jesus would have to endure before entering into his glory. Again slowly, a little at a time, their burden got lighter. Their shoulders erected and their feet stepped higher off the dusty ground. Hope was making a way back into their hearts.
As the sun set and the crimson sky brought forth the dusk, they had found themselves in their village of Emmaus. The night was coming and everyone was slowly retiring into their homes. Shops were closing and animals tied down. The stranger wanted to walk ahead but they convinced him to stay the night, “Stay with us for night comes quickly. The day is almost over.”2 They entered the house and invited this wise stranger to a meal. Bread was the only thing on the menu. Despite their humble situation they were glad to have received such comforting wisdom from the stranger and convinced him to say a blessing at the table. Before saying the blessing, the stranger smiled at the two. He was also smiling because these men had invited him to their home and his message into their hearts.
At the table, he took the bread, said a blessing, broke it and gave each a piece. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him (it was Jesus) but he vanished from their sight.3 They stared at each other in awe of what just happened and who they were just with. It was like a sudden twist in an already great story. They could not speak. Emotion filled their hearts and held their tongues.
Suddenly hope was restored.
Doubt and despair erased.
A sense of wonder humbled them.
The Jesus the Lord ate with them. The Jesus the Lord took time to explain things to them. The Jesus Son of God did not change reality for them on that road but journeyed with them and shared the burden of their sorrow. He entered their hearts and their homes. And finally, he made himself known to them. Realizing this they said, “Were not our hearts filled with ardent yearning when he was talking to us on the road and explaining the Scriptures?”4
They immediately set out and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and their companions gathered together. They were greeted by these words: “Yes, it is true, the Lord is risen!”5
Sometimes in our despair we think we are alone in the journey; that no one really understands what we’re going through. We pull away, choosing to carry our pains on our own shoulders. But the truth is, as it was to the two desolate men on the road to Emmaus, that Christ journeys with us us. He meets us where we are and speaks in a language we understand. He is neither distant nor is he unaware of the depth of our problems. He descends to where we are and stays right there with us—mourning with us and walking with us.
At the beginning of their journey, the two friends cared not for an empty tomb. They wanted Jesus alive. They did not understand that their prayer was answered and unimaginably surpassed in blessing by his death. We too are the same in our prayers. We think we know we know what we need but the Lord’s wisdom prevails and He gives His best.
This story reminds me of a close friend whose mother was suffering in the hospital a few weeks ago. On the day of his mother’s death his Facebook wall wrote: I asked God for a miracle. His answer was not exactly what I hoped for but it is still fits the definition. My Mama is now an angel watching over us. I was moved by the faith it took to write that after losing your own mother. Without a doubt my friend had journeyed down the road to Emmaus.
Our Lord Jesus reaches out to us in many ways—through other people, through Scripture, and through inner movements of our heart. And at the very moment we recognize the presence of Jesus our hearts burn within us because we realize that The Savior, our hope that sustains us through the trials of life, is walking right alongside us.
This piece is dedicated to the family of Meg L. Leonardia, most especially her grandson Diego.
1 Luke 24:21 (Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition)
2 Luke 24:29 (Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition)
3 Luke 24:30-31 (Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition)
4 Luke 24:32 (Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition)
5 Luke 24:33 (Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition)