That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was. He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?” They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?” He said, “What has happened?” They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.” Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him. They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared. Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?” They didn’t waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: “It’s really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!” Luke 24:13-31 (The Message)
This morning, Easter Sunday morning, our Sunday School lesson was on these verses in Luke. Only one of the two people in this story is identified, Cleopas, leaving some people to think that the other person may have been his wife. Women were not always identified in Bible days since women were not considered important or valuable. Jesus was nontraditional in many ways, one of which was inclusion of women in his circle of followers. Whoever the second person was, both were discouraged and upset by recent events in Jerusalem. Christ, the One who they had their “hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel” was dead and had been dead for three days. That stinks, literally, in a culture with no way to preserve a dead body. And now, some crazy, emotional women report visions of angels. What were they to think? In their despair and confusion they looked only at the circumstances around them and felt powerless and out of control. Hmm. How often have I felt that way? And worse, they did not even recognize when the Messiah who they mourned walked beside them on the road to Emmaus. The road that took them away from Jerusalem. Away from what might have been the hope that they had looked for. Because instead of running towards the prospect of salvation, they trudged away, heads down, afraid and alone. Blinded by their circumstances. When what they perceived to be a stranger begins preaching to them, at first, they probably said, “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. That’s what He said, too. And look where it got us.” But, the more Jesus talked, the more their hearts began to burn with a flame, a flame of hope. In that hope, it became possible that Jesus had overcome death. Of course He had. Yes, we see it now, they thought. But, it was not until He sat down with them in a familial relationship that their eyes were completely opened and they saw that they were talking to not an advisor come to encourage them, but the Messiah, the One who died so that they might live. So that they might have hope. Jesus overcame death. And as a result, we can be confident that Jesus can overcome anything. Cancer, failing marriages, prodigal children, aging parents, layoffs, foreclosure. Yes, even a flooded house and a nonexistent wedding venue. Whatever the threat, whatever the disappointment, Jesus can overcome it. And in His power, so can we. But, the question we face is this. Will we live like it is the Saturday after the crucifixion or the Sunday of resurrection? Will we live in defeat and discouragement or will we give our difficulties and failures to Christ who has the power to overcome? That is where hope lies. Not in our own power. Not in our own abilities. Not in our own efforts. But, in His. What day is it? Today hope lives. Not just a little hope. Abundant hope. Open your eyes and see the risen Christ.