An Unexpected Traveler

Scripture: Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 16:7-11; Luke 24:13-35

The news continues about the resurrection of Jesus. It was just after dawn on Sunday morning that the women had gone to the tomb to add more spices to the body of Jesus. Let’s go with them on their journey.

Sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath had required that they cease their care of his body after He was removed from the cross. John had remained with the women at the foot of the cross until Jesus had breathed his last, but now he has joined with the other disciples behind locked doors in an attempt to escape the same fate. The women have no such fear, and so they arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled away and the body no longer there. Instead, there are two angels, messengers from God waiting for them to arrive.

The angels ask a simple question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead. He is not here. He is risen just as He said. Come inside and look at the place where He lay.”

Excited about their wonderful discovery, the women rushed to the room where the disciples were locked away and reported that they had actually seen Jesus alive and walking in the garden outside the tomb, and that Jesus had sent word to them that He was alive. The disciples agree that these are just women who, in their grief, think that they have seen Jesus, so they are not believed. But we are getting ahead of the activities of the day.

The disciples had heard, but never understood, the teachings of Jesus before his death. Jesus had said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” (Matthew 17:22-23)

As Jesus and the disciples were coming down from the mountain (after the transfiguration) He told his disciples not to relate to anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man should rise from the dead. (Mark 9:9)

As they were going up to Jerusalem, Jesus had said to his disciples, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him to the Gentiles (the Romans) and they will mock Him and spit upon Him, and scourge Him, and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.” (Mark 10:32-34)

On resurrection day Jesus will be busy with appearances. He is no longer bound by time and space. He moves where He wills in a different way than before his death and resurrection. There is nothing particularly glamorous about Jesus’ appearance after the resurrection. He appears to the casual observer as any other man. He is not accompanied by angels who hover around Him. There is no angel chorus singing about Him as there was at his birth. There are no kings bringing gifts of celebration.

Jesus chooses to show up in the most ordinary places, one of them being to two men, Cleopas and Simon, as they walk home from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a journey of about seven and a half miles northwest of Jerusalem. They are returning from the Passover Celebration in Jerusalem, but they are certainly not celebrating. We know that these two were close followers of Jesus because, as the story unfolds, we are made aware that they are friends with the remaining eleven disciples.

They know about the empty tomb but that has proved nothing to them except that Jesus’ body was gone. They had so hoped that this man, Jesus, might be the One for whom they had waited to redeem Israel, to free the nation once again from oppression. But He had been crucified last week while they were in Jerusalem. Now they walk in sadness as they return home. We can forgive Cleopas and Simon for not recognizing Jesus, for they do not yet accept that He is resurrected.  They too have not understood his teaching.

It is reasonable to think that the road on which they were walking would have been filled with many travelers making their way to their various homes. Jesus knows these two travelers and begins walking along beside them. He poses the question, “What are you two talking about?”

The two disciples assume that they know much more than this man. They respond by asking, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know what happened there in these days?” Their question helps us to understand what a scandal had spread throughout the great crowds gathered in the city for the Passover festival. The teacher, the healer, the compassionate one, had died at the hands of the Roman governor. He was buried. He was gone, as was their hope.

It is a teachable moment. Jesus asks the rhetorical question, “Oh fellows, don’t you understand that what happened was necessary?” Of course, they don’t understand, so Jesus begins to rehearse with them all of the prophecies about the Messiah, beginning with Moses, the other deliverer whom they have just been celebrating. It would have been one of those personal tutorials that we wish would have somehow been recorded so that we could read it. No doubt there were many questions from the two men and always an answer from Jesus.

Jesus continues the conversation with them all the way to Emmaus. The day was now drawing to a close and they invited Him to spend the night at their home. They have a gift of hospitality. They make this guest comfortable for the evening and prepare a dinner for Him. It matters not that He still seems to be a total stranger to them.

It is not unthinkable to infer that these two disciples had also been at that Last Supper with Jesus. For so long we have let Leonardo di Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper inform our theology about those who attended. We know that others were present because someone(s) had to prepare and serve the meal. It is reasonable to think that other disciples and family members would have also been present.

It was at that Last Supper with those gathered with Him that Jesus took bread and broke it and gave it to his disciples. Now, in the home of Cleopas and Simon, Jesus takes bread and blesses it and breaks it and gives it to them. At that moment the realization of Who this is that is with them dawns upon them. Jesus, no longer bound by time and place, disappears from their presence.

He is alive! He has been in their presence! He has made Himself known to them!

There’s only one thing to do. Even though the hour is late, they must immediately go back to Jerusalem and tell the disciples and the others gathered with them this astounding news.

Jesus still comes to journey with us in our everyday life. He still comes us to teach us about Himself and about his care for us.

  • We may be simply on our life journey;
  • we may be deeply involved at work;
  • we may be simply involved in the ordinary activities that every day holds.

We sometimes do not understand his teachings any better than those original disciples, but it is Jesus himself who says to those disciples, and to us, “It is to your advantage that I go away, back to heaven, for when I go away, I will send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with you wherever you are.” (John 16:7) “There will be no limits to my presence. There will be no time or place constraints to my presence with you.”

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. It is a day meant for assurance that even though the Risen Christ may not be physically with us, He is ever present to be our Helper. What do you need from Him today? Tell Him. He hears and answers. It was for each of us that He died and rose again. He continues to invite us to follow Him.