Getting away from it all.

a phrase with multiple meanings.  It can describe everything from the need for a well-earned vacation, to the need to find a new church home.  It can be a need for a simple change of scene, or a desire for an entirely new life.  For two of the followers of Jesus it represents a melancholy journey through the depths of despair, following the crushing of all of their hopes and dreams.  These emotions are summed up in the poignant phrase, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (vs 21).

Can you imagine the heartbreak in the words “we had hoped”?  Such loss and bewilderment; an end to a future that appeared filled with unlimited possibilities.  Even the reports of the women who met Jesus in the garden are of no help, for the astonishment expressed in verse 22 is one of incredulity, not excitement.  Can you picture their faces as they pour out their hearts to this man whom they met on the road to Emmaus?  

Often, at our lowest point, when all seems lost, we convince ourselves that we are far away from God; and with each passing day we sense that we are drawing even farther apart.  Yet, notice it is as the men put distance between themselves and Jerusalem that Jesus comes to them!  The very hope that was lost, now draws alongside them on their journey of despair.  “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” Jesus asks them.  “They stood still, looking sad” (vs. 17).  Then, they begin to pour out their hearts to this stranger.  The men provide a wonderfully concise summary of Jesus’ passion and death.  The account is accurate; but they lack understanding.  Jesus then provides them with the meaning of his death.  Yet, although Jesus “interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (vs. 27), they still didn’t “see” with eyes of faith, for Luke records no reaction on their part.

The men invite Jesus to spend the night with them, and to eat with them.  At this turning point, the guest takes the place of the host by presiding at the table.  Jesus’ words and actions over the bread remind Luke’s readers of the feeing of the multitude (9:16) and of the Passover meal (22:19):  “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (vs. 30).  Finally, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…” (vs. 31).  Standing face-to-face with Jesus, they did not recognize him.  Even as the scriptures were opened to them, they did not recognize Jesus.  But, in the “breaking of the bread” (vs. 35), they recognized him; they truly “saw” him.  

In this wonderful story, we learn so much about our Lord, and about ourselves:

● Life emerging from death (as one scholar puts it) is central to the Biblical saga. Whether that saga is one of slavery to freedom, or tomb to resurrection.

● The motif of “journey” is transformational – it is the unfolding story of salvation.

● The two disciples were met by Jesus as they were “talking and discussing” (vs. 15).  And Jesus still comes to us in those moments – even at SAKLC Bible studies!

● The two men had decided that life in a community of faith was over for them,yet it is back to that community (in the dangerous darkness of night) that they run with exciting news.  The message seems to be that community is worth persevering with.  

● We ought never underestimate the power of the Eucharistic meal.  It is the forgiveness of sins; communion with God in Christ Jesus; the “medicine of immortality (as Ignatius of Antioch described it); the symbol of the community’s life and witness (as another scholar describes it); and, we are taught, the means by which Jesus makes himself known to us (vs. 35).

In this time of COVID-19 – our hour of need – it is not only good but life-giving to hear that Jesus finds us at our lowest point, draws alongside us, blesses us with his presence, reveals himself to us, and brings a message of life and of possibility.  In short, Jesus points us to a future which belongs to God, which is held in God’s hands.