We were walking long before we got into cars to drive anywhere. Walking was Jesus’ and the disciples chief form of transportation. Walking is healthy and can burn a lot of calories. No wonder we have many stories of Jesus sitting down to eat, he needed to replenish his energy from all of that walking.
We walk when we are happy. We walk when we are sad and grieving. We walk when we are angry and cannot decide where to go. I am sure that at least a few of us have gotten into an argument with their spouse and said I am going out to get some fresh air and went for a walk. Walking seems to calm our minds and settle our anger. Walking can also help us think and work through problems. Steve Jobs, one of the greatest minds in technology, liked to go on walks to talk with those he disagreed with and try to come to an understanding. Inspirations came to him on his walks.
What do you think the two disciples walking to Emmaus had in mind when they slipped on their sandals and headed out the door? Did they need some fresh air? Did they need to walk off their lunch? Were they simply just trying to cope with Jesus’ death?
Whatever their reasons, the conversation turned towards the happenings of the last few days and they shared their grief with one another. There was possibly even some anger that had built up, because everything they had hoped for died with Jesus on the cross. Or so they had thought. How often do we put our hopes and dreams into something, only to find out later down the road that things just did not pan out? This is how the disciples are feeling. According to Jewish thought, they were hoping for a Messiah that would save them from everything and make the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth. Instead they got a teacher that suffered death on a cross and left them feeling empty. It is true that the women had found the tomb empty earlier in the day, but they still have not seen a sign from Jesus.
Remember, this lesson comes from the gospel of Luke. Jesus does not appear to the disciples in the upper room first as he did in our lesson from John last week.
Some walks are longer than others. The two disciples in our story start out on a seven mile walk to Emmaus. A walk that is very doable. A distance that some of us may perhaps go every day. I know we put in those miles almost every day while on vacation last week. These are literal miles. Figuratively, we can walk for many miles to encounter a faith that is even just the size of a mustard seed. And, you know what, some of us put in many more miles than others. And at times, it may feel as though we are going backwards.
While the disciples are gripped with doubt, fear, and grief, they still desire to continue on in the journey that Jesus started; not sure where it may lead them. What are we doing in our own lives while we are on that walk? Like the disciples, we walk many miles with blinders on, where we do not even recognize the presence of Jesus in our midst.
It is not realistic for us to place our expectations of what it looks like to be Christian or Lutheran upon anyone else because everyone’s walk is different. The expectation for others to pick things up as quickly as we may, is unfounded. All we can do is continue to proclaim our faith in the Risen Christ and share our story.
In the disciples walk, we witness a healing of sort. One that many of us are hoping to encounter in our own walks. First, their doubt, fear, and grief is revealed as Jesus shows up to walk with them. Have you not heard what happened in Jerusalem? They are dumbfounded that this stranger has not heard the news and possibly a little irate. They share that their hope for the redemption of Israel died on the cross. Jesus’ response is to quote scripture and point towards the Hebrew Bible where it prophesizes the death that he died, so that salvation is made possible.
Their anger and hurt runs deep and it is hard to judge whether or not they have truly listened. It is not until they sit down to break bread together that their eyes are opened and they truly see Christ for the first time.
Our entire service every Sunday could be considered a walk along the road to Emmaus. We walk together as we come to worship. We welcome the strangers within our midst. We hear the word proclaimed. We share a meal together. A meal in which we recognize the Risen Christ. With this Good News, we go to proclaim it to others.
Our walk reveals the opportunity for open and honest conversation. It is in our walk that we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable and bear all. We too experience doubt, fear, and grief. Some of us more than others. In our walk, just like the walk of the discples, JESUS CHRIST SHOWS UP!
How will we recognize him when he does? We will move from doubt, fear, and grief to a space of faith, hope, and love? Remember though, this walk is longer for some than for others. Even families are on different parts of the journey.
What can we do along the way? We can provide a space for open and honest conversation. Are we listening to others before we quickly interject our own stories? Are we allowing room for the Holy Spirit to breath within our relationships?
In the Good News of Easter Morning and the empty tomb, may we be a place open to doubts, fear and grief. Yet as we reveal our vulnerabilities, may Christ reveal to us a faith, hope, and love that can change hearts and minds, and foster community.