PASTOR’S CORNER: Brad Bennett, First United Methodist Church, Liberal
Two student-followers of Jesus were talking while walking and talking together on a pathway from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about a 7-mile walk. This was the same day that the tomb was found empty, the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid after he was killed on a cross. At some point, Jesus, in his fully-functional human-being and resurrected form, joined the pair, but they were prevented from recognizing him. Jesus interrupts them and asked an almost annoying question, “Well, what sorts of things are you talkin’ about as you walk along?” This sounds intriguing!
The one named “Cleopas” responded to Jesus’ question, “are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place over the last 3 days?” Jesus might be getting under their skins to ask, Cleopas and his companion, “what things?” The sarcastic side of me might have replied, “what kind a fool are you? Have you been hiding inside some kind of rock or something!?”
However, these two were dead serious when they explained to this stranger what they knew about Jesus, a prophet whose powerful words and deeds had infuriated their chief priests and after their authorities took Jesus by force, they stretched out their law and hung him on a cross until his last breath.
These two also shared what they had heard about the women who went and found the tomb empty, were both frightened and excited with news from an angel, and ecstatic that they had seen Jesus alive again. But these 2 friends had not seen Jesus, so they were still suffering shocking grief like they’d never experience before.
Cleopas and his companion seem disillusioned . . . and wouldn’t you be? Seriously, when was the last time you were cynical or discouraged about Jesus’ absence in your life? They’ve given up on resurrection . . . pretty close to giving up on Jesus as the Messiah. Those images of vicious beatings and skin tears from whipping and flogging and all the blood, sweat, and tears that flowed too freely to forget. They were in a hopeless state of mind.
Listen to what those two said, “We had hoped he was the one who would redeem the people of God.” It’s hard for me to hear them say that - it’s nearly unbelievable, but I know what that can feel like. Perhaps you, too, know what Jesus felt near death, that God, his own loving parent in the heavens, had left him behind and forgotten him in his greatest hour of need. This is not just a big pity party. Their hearts were sunken way down to their feet.
So, Jesus resets this conversation, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then Jesus interpreted for them the things written about the Messiah in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets. This must have been a long walking talk!
If we’re looking and listening for a sugar-coated savior today, then we will hear and see a fairytale of the Messianic proportions. Love comes through suffering. And sometimes, excruciating pain runs crossways through our veins when we give up our selves for God, so that other people can know Jesus Christ and come to life - right before our eyes.
They arrived at Emmaus and Jesus appeared to be continuing on to the next place, but they BEGGED him to stay with them. So, Jesus stayed with them awhile longer and “after he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus, but he disappeared from their sight.
Talk about a turnaround! The companions were so ecstatic that they walked back to Jerusalem that night to share with the other student-followers and their companions that Jesus was not dead - Jesus was alive and well as well can be - just as he had said! You, too, can live this resurrection faith with Jesus.