The Road to Emmaus

The story of Cleopas and his wife Mary in Luke 24 has always been fascinating to me.  Two people are approached by the now-resurrected Jesus, and they don’t recognize him.  See John 19:25.

Luke lets us see the the pain and confusion that Jesus’ death had caused them.  The Renovare Bible, in a footnote on this text, said, “How many times on our network of roads have we lurched with broken spirits because the unexpected seized the place of the expected and that with a wrenching disappointment?”

So Cleopas and his wife were headed home to the security of Emmaus.  Away from the stress and confusion of Jerusalem.

Frederick Buechner says that “Emmaus is the place we go to in order to escape–a bar, a movie, wherever it is we throw up our hands and say, ‘Let the whole damned thing go hang.  It makes no difference anyway…’ 

“Emmaus may be buying a new suit or a new car or smoking more cigarettes than you really want, or reading a second-rate novel or even writing one.  Emmaus may be going to church on Sunday.  Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred:  that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that men have had–ideas about love and freedom and justice–have always in time been twisted by selfish men for selfish ends.”

Emmaus begins with disappointment, confusion, and sorrow.  But it ends with surprise and worship.  The surprise comes when Jesus reveals himself to Cleopas and friend in a simple meal.  Cole writes that Jesus comes “in the ordinary place and experiences of our lives, and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us.  The story warns us, however, that the Lord may come to us in unfamiliar guises, when we least expect him.”

I like preaching from this story because it reminds me that things are not always as they appear.  That holy things are sometimes cloaked and unrecognizable.  That when we least expect it, the hood is pulled off and Jesus stands before us.