The road to Emmaus reveals the dream of God
This is among the most famous walks in history. Two followers of Jesus meet a stranger on the road and walk with him, only to find out the stranger is Jesus. It’s a great metaphor for the confusion and misunderstanding of the faithful. For the ones who came with Jesus to Jerusalem. Carried their proverbial crosses. Expecting the revolution to look like all the others.
Still totally unaware of how different this one was. Is.
Easter 3A | Luke 24:13-35
These two disciples are walking alone; a far cry from last week’s frightened huddle behind a locked door. Only Thomas seeming to have the courage to face the outside world. Here there is little fear. Not from these two. Two willing to walk with a complete stranger.
And they pick up a conversation with him. A conversation about Jesus.
Can we pause for a second to say that for many of us today, the idea of bringing up Jesus with a total stranger is about the last thing we’d do while walking along. So let’s put ourselves in these shoes a little bit more. Let’s not just nod along and agree intellectually. We all know few of us would do this. Let’s acknowledge that now and wear that badge as we walk forward.
So they’re walking along and they bring up all the excitement of the recent days and this stranger doesn’t seem to know about it. So the disciples speak to what has happened. And notice what they name.
Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet who was crucified a couple days ago. But this morning, “some women of our group” brought word that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb, some angels said he’s alive, and some of our people double-checked. He isn’t there.
It all sounds familiar to us. This is what we know from other accounts, similar variations of the Easter story. But what startles me in the telling is how oblivious these two are to the revolution in front of them.
In the middle of talking about the crucifixion, they say
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.
We take for granted that the disciples didn’t understand the revolution Jesus was offering. But I don’t think we give it enough thought.
Every king, messiah, anointed one of the past was a ruler. Every one commanded armies and led, not only the spiritual vitality of the people, but their national interests as well. Church and state were the same.
Every Son of David would bring a literal, physical revolution. Every Son of God would bring liberation from the oppressive rule of an outside power. A new Moses. Like Joshua. Liberation through might, conquering the Canaanites and giving the people their true home back.
That Jesus didn’t do this. That he didn’t look like Joshua or David or lead to their national liberation was not only disappointing, it was soul-crushing.
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
Despite all he taught them along the road to Jerusalem. All he said before his death. Their revolution didn’t involve weapons or the building of armies. The overtaking of strongholds or the assassination of Temple leaders. It would come in living out the kin-dom of God now. With each other.
They didn’t get it. But not any less than we.
This is the problem with flipping the expectations and definitions of success. It is all so counterintuitive. Like swinging a racket with your other hand. It doesn’t feel right. What feels right is overcoming your enemies and establishing peace after the competition is gone. Talking peace after the violence has ended.
But Jesus says what good is it to love a person you agree with? Real love is showing love to someone you can’t stand. Anyone can engage this stuff when its easy and expected. But making peace in the midst of violence and the specter of retribution? That’s hard.
It isn’t just hard to know what success looks like, it’s that our hearts mistake it for failure.
The cross doesn’t look any more like victory than empty pews look like fruit of the spirit.
But these measures are flipped by Jesus and the kin-dom. Easily misunderstood like these disciples, still misunderstanding the revolution. They can’t see the revolution is happening because their eyes are focused on earthly things, as Jesus might say.
Notice then that Jesus expands their story along the way, tying that death and resurrection into the great narrative of God’s work with the Hebrew people; the promise of community, liberation, and presence with them. That this moment, these exciting events they are eager to share have a context, a fuller context. One in which Jesus is the fulfillment.
Notice how they’re being drawn in again to this new revolution in a way they didn’t know before. They don’t want him to leave yet. It isn’t done. Their hearts are warm.
They break bread together.
That’s when it happens. That’s when they understand this revolution will not be televised. It won’t be YouTubed or Facebooked. And it won’t be megachurched or campus ministried. The revolution happens in the connection, in the Eucharistic feasting and the re-membering.
The revolution builds when we get together and connect. When we embody community in a world which would isolate and separate.
The revolution builds when we commune. When we overcome division to share generously rather than retaliate and destroy.
The revolution builds when we see the kin-dom actually is different. When it isn’t about the rules of the world and the order we have known.
Jesus shows us a positive model for life, not a negative one. Like peace as Shalom, the presence of peace rather than an absence of war.
And he reveals a way of being together which is still revolutionary, still building steam, still inviting us in to a more fulfilling and Godly existence. Jesus is still fulfilling the Law by offering a vision of God’s dream for us. A positive dream of liberation from what oppresses us still: our lame, faithless expectations for our world.
He invites us to see how we might continue this revolution. A revolution against oppression and power. Against ignorance and hatred. And one which awakens our hearts and minds to the pain and suffering of those failed by our systems and jaundiced hearts.
An awakening and revealing of Jesus’s most revolutionary idea: that in spite of all the ways our culture encourages division and ignoring the plight of our neighbors and our environment, Jesus is winning. The blessed community is winning. That the faithful can, and will continue to say, that now and always love wins.