Luke 24:12-38: Road trippin’ with Jesus. April 6, 2008
How long is the road to Emmaus? Well, 7 miles I suppose. How long is the road to Emmaus? For some it may take an entire life-time.
I’ve noticed on week three in Easter the idea, the concept of resurrection and the difference it makes in my life is kind of hard to get a hold of. Resurrection--a fundamental aspect of Christian life—how does it inform the way I see life? How might we gain better understanding? Would it help to see the empty tomb?
I went on youtube and found several videos of not just one site thought to be the place of Jesus’ tomb but two different places. There’s the gaudy ornate Church of the Holy Supulcre AKA the Church of the Resurrection just inside the old city walls of Jerusalem. People have been making pilgrimage to this holy place since the 4th century to see the place where Jesus was buried….1 But there is another place that claims to be the spot, called the Garden Tomb just outside Jerusalem's Old City Walls; it is close a rocky slope (just behind the Arab bus station).2 A very green and quite place, and sure enough there is an entrance to a hollow tomb, We can imagine the stone that only Arnold Schwarzenegger could have moved when he was in Conan the Barbarian form, just off to the side. And there is enough room for two angels to sit inside. Does that help us to get a hold of resurrection better? Does this make it more real?
If not there’s one more option: the “Calvary Hill Playset;” selling for $23.99 onBibleBookShop.com.3 It comes complete with “a stone that rolls away (kind of slides) and three removable crosses.” This is found in the office supplies section of the website. I could order it for the office here; come by and we’ll play with it sometime; especially on those days when we’re really trying to figure out what Easter is all about and we want to see an empty tomb! Evidently, action figure Jesus and Angels are not included, but I suppose we could substitute my bobble head Jesus doll!4
These disciples walking on the road to Emmaus were trying to figure out what to do with an empty tomb…what the heck happened with Jesus? Cleopas and another unnamed disciple, (possibly a woman?), are walking along the road…down and out. Forlorn, is the word Dick Fallis uses to describe our dog brinca when she’s in the office…many of you have seen this look. These disciples were feeling dejected….
A stranger joins them on the hike; hard to avoid hitchhikers when you’re walking. “What are you talking about?”
“We’re talking about Jesus; haven’t you heard about him? He did incredible things: walked on water, calmed the storm; He blew our minds as he taught us: Prodigal Son, The one without sin cast the first stone, the good Samaritan!
He was our leader… but more than that our companero, who was handed over to the ruling powers and Crucified. Now DEAD! Strangely, three days after the crucifixion, the women found the tomb empty; said they saw a vision of angels who said he was alive. Other disciples went and saw the empty tomb. But, what good is just an empty tomb…? We had hoped he would be the one….”
Their hope was gone…that road to Emmaus was one of grief and despair…We know this road. We walk this road when our marriage fails; when relationships are broken. This road seems never ending as an illness gets worse and worse.
We stumble along this road as our job continues to become less and less satisfying. This road is steep, as pregnancy seems out of reach. It’s an impasse, filled with land mines, five years in Iraq. We may lose hope we fight for justice and nothing comes as a result.
White south African George Ellis speaks of life during the days of Apartheid:
“The situation all the time was teetering on the brink of disaster,” Ellis says. “And so hope was very difficult on many occasions. On one particular occasion I did really virtually lose hope. The government employed vigilantes in the townships to burn down the houses, the shanty houses of about 10,000 people.
These were the townships in which my wife was working as a doctor. And every day for two weeks, there was this smoke that I could see from my office, rising up from these burning houses. I went out with various people, tried to talk to the police, tried to contact people in the government, 'Can't you do anything about it?' But, of course, they were behind it. And so at that stage, I did, in fact, lose hope because I couldn't see any way that one could change it at all.5
It’s easy for the powers that would rule this world to tell us how to perceive reality; a world of brokenness easily shapes our capacities to see and discern.
We had hoped..they said to the stranger. We’ve heard the tomb was empty but we just don’t know. And it is at this moment that the stranger challenges their perspective. O how foolish you are, how slow of heart, you’ve been overcome by the stupor induced by this world…. What are you down and out for?…
is this not the way it was supposed to be? The messiah was to suffer and then enter into his glory. This stranger gives them a good kick in the butt. Do the dominating forces of reality have to determine how we should live life? Or can we imagine something different. Imagination…something that children seem to possess, but for some reason, our ability as adults to imagine the world differently has been subdued (exception of John Lennon) we know that God has the final word. Does God give us strength to endure the trials we must face? Does the Resurrection give us hope not only in the life to come, but in this life, in the here and now, every day…. ? So we can envision an alternative reality in which God way of justice and of love overwhelms our hearts and pushes us to move on and to live into this vision...even if it seems to be futile.
Some of you may have seen the recent article in the New York Times about the drug situation in Rio Arriba County. Rio Arriba County has the nation’s highest per capita rate of deaths from overdoses. The county ranked first in drug fatalities from 2001 to 2005, with a death rate of 42.5 per 100,000, six times the national average of 7.3. Hundreds of families are struggling to live with a plague of narcotics that hits generation after generation: “We start our addiction getting high with our uncles, then we turn on our own nephews,” said one man who’s been an addict for 26 years. In Cordova, Dolores is a non-user who lives with seven relatives, four of whom are addicts. Her face tightens as she admits to giving money for heroin to her addicted son, who is in his 20s. “I’d rather give him money than see him panhandle or steal,” “A lot of mothers here are in the same situation.”6
Many who read this article may hear of this situation and dismiss it as someone else’s problems. As a situation that can’t be resolved; one that is hopeless. But disciples, who see the world differently, who perceive a world with lenses of hope…see even the bleakest situations as something more. Twelve years ago Charles and Georgia Ortiz became members of the local crime committee when the group addressed the problem of crime related to heroin addiction. Amid death threats the committee emphasized a multi-focus approach: law enforcement, treatment, stiffer sentences…. Charles and Georgia chose to focus on prevention. They founded a Boys & Girls Club in Chimayo in 2000. Then four years ago, they founded a new club in Abiquiu. They have been heavily involved in these programs, both are going strong, both are making a difference in kids lives, opening up the possibility of breaking the cycle, and producing a more abundant life.
Disciples are to be drawn out of what might have been perceived as a hopeless future and see the world in a different way. The resurrection changes the way we see reality. The resurrection destroys our notion that death is the final boundary of human experience. Jesus’ resurrection challenges our notion that the powers of this world are the final arbiters of reality. Undermines our notion of a God who is at best, absent from this world or at worst hostile to humankind.
How long is the road to Emmaus? Seven miles…How long is the road to Emmaus? A life time?
I was thinking about how Christ may join us on that road: Maybe Christ is within us as we travel down that road and we have to look within ourselves to discover his chiding—oh you foolish one—and his peace: Was this not supposed to have happened? Maybe we recognize Jesus with us through others who show us love and mercy…who care for us in our times of grief? We are the body of Christ, Paul suggests, his hands and his feet, working in loving service. Maybe Christ is with us in the stranger that joins us on the road, or that we join on that road. Hospitality is extended through works of mercy and love: Clothing those who need clothes, Visiting those in prison and the sick. Inviting the stranger in.
In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me….
What is so fascinating about this story of the two disciples along the road is not only the fact that Jesus walks along with them during this time of deep deep despair, but also what happens at the end of the road….they invite him in to share a meal and to stay the night…he breaks bread with them and that is when they recognize him.
It would seem that in order to really get a better grasp of Easter, seeing an empty tomb is not enough, nor preaching sermons, nor reciting passages from the bible… these are important but.. The turning point in this story comes not in words alone, but in practices of hospitality, table fellowship with a stranger.
They invited him in to stay….and when he broke bread they recognized him.
And so today we come to the table to join in the feast, to break bread…so that our eyes might be opened. Can you see him? Can you see the empty tomb and the stone rolled away? Can you feel it, can you sense it in those most fearful moments, maybe those most difficult moments, can you sense that Jesus is there…on the road trip with you. Listening to you…chiding you for being slow of heart. Encouraging you to see the world differently…with Easter eyes that perceive that things are not as they should be, and yet, as long as there is life there is hope.…with an imagination that can envision a better future. With an imagination in which “we can love one another deeply from our hearts.” (1 Peter)
4 Kimberly L. Clayton, “The Easter Texts: Getting Hold (or not) of Easter,” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2007, p. 3.
5 "Science and Hope" with South African Quaker cosmologist George Ellis as heard on Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/scienceandhope/transcript.shtml