I love Luke’s Easter story, The Road to Emmaus. The story goes like this:
On Sunday, the 3rd day after Jesus’ crucifixion, the same day that He appeared to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, two disciples walk from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. It is a long walk – seven miles. The men are talking about what they have just witnessed – Jesus, the prophet and teacher that they had followed and loved crucified on a cross with common criminals. As they walk, a man joins them on the road and walks alongside them. It is Jesus, but they don’t recognize him.
“What are you discussing? he asks. They look at him incredulously. “Are you the only person who does not know what just happened in Jerusalem?”
“What happened?” Jesus asks. And so they tell him of this man whom they loved and whom they had come to believe was the Messiah, the One who was prophesied to be Israel’s Savior. They explain how he had been crucified and buried three days before. How some women from the group said they had seen him at the tomb that very morning, but how, when some of the other disciples returned to the tomb, all they saw was an empty space where the body had been lain.
“Oh, you foolish men!” Jesus exclaims, still unrecognizable to them. “Do you still not know that the Messiah had to suffer all of these things before entering his glory?” And he goes on to recount, from the Scriptures, all that had been prophesied about him and his death and resurrection.
The men arrive at their destination. It is nightfall, and so they invite this stranger to stay with them. A meal is prepared and the men sit down to eat. The stranger takes the bread, gives thanks, and breaks it. As he hands it around the table, the disciples’ eyes are suddenly opened and they recognize Jesus. At that moment, he disappears from their sight. They look at one another in wonder, and ask, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Every time I revisit this story, I can’t help but wonder. How many times does Jesus walk alongside of us and we don’t even recognize him? How many times are we so caught up in our woundedness, pain, or pride that we can only see the world from one vantage point, closing us off from seeing God’s presence in the midst of it all?
Years ago, I had an Emmaus Road experience with my son, Joel, who has autism. In the flash of a second, Jesus was revealed to me. A wondrous experience, it taught me to keep my eyes open for His presence in the midst of the every day. Not just at Easter as we celebrate the empty cross, but in the midst of sorrow and suffering as well.
Finished with our game
of funny faces
Joel cups my face
between his palms
An offering of praise
Thirteen going on three
his childlike eyes
arrest my gaze
burn with new intelligence
Remembered words drop
in the pond of our play
shall shame the wise
Funny chipmunk face
My heart ignites
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A beautiful reflection on Emmaus–and how Jesus so often appears to us in ways we don’t recognize, with faces we don’t suspect. Thanks be to God!