BY Jane Thomas
Today we begin our slow journey away from the Easter weekend of remembrance, worship and celebration. A Monday off is thankfully a gentle way to ease back into every day life, however, there is a real sense after a weekend such as this, that we have been taken out of our everyday lives and thrust into another reality. The Easter reality centres on a story which is overwhelming emotionally and revolves around the largest questions we have about life, death, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, identity, expectation, hope, and God. No wonder we need some sort of respite on Monday!
The long walk away from the traumas of Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus by two followers of Jesus, happens in a space of terrible exhaustion and heightened emotion, following three days of drama, violence and distress. Their sadness is still palpable when another traveller joins them. Luke tells us straight up that the stranger is in fact Jesus, but the two disciples are unable to recognise him, and we have the awkward experience of listening to these two disciples share intimate details of their own misunderstandings and misconceptions about the very person who is now their traveling companion along the way.
The men share freely, courageously really, the multiple deaths they have experienced, which have left them utterly bereft and grief-stricken…
The horrific and brutal death of a friend, one who they considered a prophet “mighty in deed and word.”
The death of their trust in religious leaders who betrayed Jesus with such cruel, self-serving cynicism.
The death of their heartfelt hopes and anticipation that Jesus was the Messiah, sent from God to rescue the oppressed and occupied people of Israel.
To increase their confusion and disturbance, there were reports from fellow disciples of angels, an empty tomb and a missing body.
Jesus is their unrecognised companion through this outpouring of distress, listening and walking alongside. He gives them his close, intimate and undivided attention.
Jesus meets us where we are at.
The two disciples’ hearts burn within them as Jesus responds to their distress and uses scripture to lift their minds to a bigger story of rescue and God’s purposes, which culminates in the glory of a suffering Messiah. This is life giving food and the disciples are hungry for more. They urge him to share a meal with them.
Jesus doesn’t leave us where he finds us.
Jesus breaks bread with the disciples in an action reminiscent of the last supper, held only four nights previously. And it is in this moment that they recognise him for who he is. They remember the bread, symbol of his body, “given for them” (Luke 22: 19). Their eyes are opened to the mystery of a different death. A death offered freely, which has astonishingly brought nourishment, and enabled hope for rescue and new life.
Jesus takes us where we can’t go on our own.
Filled with joy and energy, able to ‘see’ at last, the two disciples return to Jerusalem, to community.
Today, in the quiet after Easter, perhaps there may be time to ponder the mystery of a death which births life rather than annihilation. And of a God who meets us in our pondering.