Easter III

“After his wife died, C.S. Lewis once wrote that he thought that his grief might be less if he intentionally avoided the places he and Joy had frequented by limiting his travels to only those places where they had never been together. So he switched grocery stores, tried different restaurants, walked only along streets and paths that he and Joy had never taken. But it didn’t work. To paraphrase Lewis, “I found out that grief is like the sky above—it is over everything.”[1]

The sky above Jerusalem was a sky of grief; after the Crucifixion, color was sapped from the markets, food had no taste, the laughing of children sounded like the screeching of demons. Jerusalem was a city no longer at peace with itself, and so Cleopas and his friend, both disciples of Jesus, decided to hit the road and see if the sky above Emmaus looked any different. Emmaus was only seven miles away, but early in the walk a Stranger joined the two dejected disciples and said, in effect, “What’s happening, fellas?” Cleopas and his friend didn’t know what to make of this Stranger; to them, not knowing what had happened to Jesus that weekend in Jerusalem was like a guy who worked in Dealey Plaza not knowing Kennedy was shot. “Our hope is shattered,” Cleopas told the Stranger, “our Lord and teacher, we bet everything on Him, we left our jobs and our families and put our butts on the line for this guy, but He’s dead. Some women we know said something about finding Him alive, but we didn’t see Him. We’re outta here.”

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Frederick Buechner wrote that “all of us travel to Emmaus eventually. Where is your Emmaus? Do you have a place you go to get away from it all, a place to which you escape so that you don’t have to think about how lousy life in this world can sometimes be? Maybe it’s the mall where the noise of commerce and the rush of people keep you from thinking about life. Maybe it’s a bar where the booze and the beer nuts help numb you to the more bitter truths that swirl outside the windows of that darkened, smoky room. Maybe it’s a matinee at the movies where you go to take in what Hollywood proudly touts as “escapist fare.” Maybe it’s the TV remote that takes you away from it all as you mindlessly channel surf every single evening. We try to escape our troubles…so we head to Emmaus.”[2]

“The simple fact is that we don’t spend all of our lives in obviously holy places like Jerusalem. Sometimes we even think that a holy place is the last place we want to be and so we head out of town, head to Emmaus, go someplace where, if we’re lucky, we won’t run into anyone from church.”[3] Sometimes we find ourselves with dashed hopes and sometimes our minds have just wandered, taking our feet along. Sometimes the Scriptures have not been opened to us, sometimes our hearts feel like they haven’t burned with holy fire since who knows when. Emmaus, remember is not that far from Jerusalem, geographically or metaphorically.

“You fools,” the Stranger told those disciples, “how slow of heart, how blind you are to what the prophets told you.” The Stranger then explained the entirety of the Scriptures to them. He gave them what amounted to the greatest Old Testament course in the history of man, which when summed up sounded something like “Everything written in the Scriptures was written about this Jesus, from In the beginning to let him go up.” In other words, your hopes are not dashed but rather fulfilled; you just don’t know it yet. In other words, just wait until I break the bread.

Cleopas and his friend took off to Emmaus to let go of the broken pieces of their great hopes, to leave the grief behind, to leave Jesus behind. And yet, even there, even on the road to there, Jesus was with them. He made Himself known to them in the breaking of bread, in the very act of sacrifice in which He makes Himself known to us at the altar, and when they finally stopped jumping up and down with delight, they took off back to Jerusalem, back to the friends they had ditched, back to skies made free of grief. I think the lesson here is that whatever it is that has you grieving, whatever Emmaus you’re in or whatever Emmaus you’re on the road to, Jesus is with you; you may not recognize Him just yet, but just wait until He breaks the bread.

[1] Scott Hoezee, This Week
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

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