Emmaus Road

I always went to Jesus with my problems. It didn’t matter how simple, or how complicated they were: somehow he always helped me to get past my own feelings and to consider the other person. I remember a row I had with Cleopas about his mother coming to live with us: I was so concerned with how it would affect me that I couldn’t see how Rachel would hate the thought of losing her independence. Yet somehow Jesus gently turned my feelings around so I could understand her side too. It wasn’t just everyday problems either; when I had questions about God, about my beliefs, about the way he was turning my whole life around I could go and speak to him…there was the time I questioned him about the Kingdom of Heaven,  what it meant, Jesus reminded me of the time I’d lost a special coin from my headdress.

“Remember,” he said, “Remember how you searched and searched until it was found? Remember how you called to your friends with joy? That is how it is with God when one person turns to him. He rejoices. He laughs. He dances…”

So when Jesus promised us he was the Messiah and that he had come to free us from oppression we believed him. And we were ready to rise up at his word and fight for our freedom. But the word never came. He died and left us desolate. We didn’t know what to do, and he was there no longer. We couldn’t ask him to explain, to help us to understand. We sat, huddled together in our fear, in a tiny oppressive upper room, murmuring, weeping, staring into nothingness. Then two days after, Mary came rushing in, breathless, hysterical, crying about angels and empty tombs; Peter and John went to see what the matter was, to calm her down – she’d always been slightly overwrought – and they came back to tell us that the tomb had been raided and the body taken. They seemed confused, and we all became edgy and the atmosphere became more and more tense.

It was almost a relief when a message came to say that Cleopas’ mother was ill and that he was needed. He fussed about and tried to make me stay in Jerusalem, but I needed to escape. I couldn’t bear the undercurrents and confusion.

We bundled up our belongings and set off on the road, hurrying in the evening chill. It was lonely and darkness was creeping over the sky. Suddenly we were no longer two, but three on the road. A stranger joined us, but strangely there was no surprise or fear. It seemed natural. He walked with us in silence for a while, and then gently remarked that we appeared sad and distressed. I was about to rail at the man, but Cleopas gently touched my arm to silence me.

“We have lost a dear friend recently, “ he said “Our friend Jesus was killed by the Romans two days since”

“Who was this Jesus?” asked the stranger.

“Who was he?” I could keep quiet no longer. “He was our friend, a teacher, a prophet who promised us he was the Messiah, but who, finally was nothing!” All my pain, confusion, misery came pouring out as I wept for the betrayal of Jesus.

The stranger listened, silent yet compassionate, and then simply said

“Oh, Joanna. Where is your faith?” And he went on to explain the scriptures, and the prophecies right back to Moses; he spoke of how the Messiah had to suffer and die, not to free us from the oppression of the Romans but rather to free the world from the oppression of sin; how we could be brought back into communion with God, that death was conquered and the Kingdom of God had been made accessible to all. And as he spoke, with his forceful voice and eloquent hand gestures, it became clear, in the same way that things became clear as Jesus had spoken. We finally could understand; and we were comforted.

By then we had reached Emmaus, and night had fallen. As we paused at the house, the stranger made to continue, but, on impulse, I invited him to stay

“The road is long, sir”, I said, “and you have brought some light to our darkness. Stay and eat with us tonight.”

He smiled and nodded. Quietly he rested near the fire while Cleopas saw to his mother. She wasn’t really ill, just old and confused and worried about us both. I prepared a simple supper and when it was ready, I invited the stranger to say the blessing. And he took it in his hands, and raised it and used the same words to bless the bread as Jesus always had…

And I saw. It was him.

I breathed his name.

Jesus…

He smiled at me and then…he was gone.

I reached out and took Cleopas’ hand. Our eyes met and we realised that had we not invited the stranger into our homes and our hearts we would never have truly understood that Jesus was alive, that he had risen from the tomb, that he had, indeed, conquered the oppression of death. And that is how we live our lives now, remembering that as believers we need to constantly invite Jesus into our lives in order to truly know him.

That night we ran almost all the seven miles back to Jerusalem, eager to tell our news to the others, to recount our part in the resurrection story. And when we arrived we heard what others had seen too… and with them we rejoiced that Jesus is alive.

(Road to Emmausby contemporary Irish artist, John Dunne.)

 

And, back here as Dormouse, I am thrilled to have found this on YouTube. Listen and rejoice. Jesus Alive!

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One Response to “Emmaus Road”

  1. carolyn Says:

    …if they had not invited the stranger in…

    Thank you, a beautiful retelling.