Walking down the dusty road, Cleopas and his friend have little to say to each other. Their collective heartache and disappointment weigh down their normally busy tongues. For the past seven miles fewer than seven words had passed between them.
The mountain city of Jerusalem’s beauty fades in the distance behind them. They are halfway to their home in Emmaus.
Why does it always seem like the closer we get to home, the farther away it gets?
Five days ago they had traveled to Jerusalem with hearts full of hope, anticipation, and excitement. Now they travel with hearts full of disbelief, disillusionment, and discouragement.
With eyes focusing on the rocks in their path, neither of them notices the other people they meet and pass.
“How could we have been so wrong?” Cleopas finally asks. “Everything pointed to him being the Messiah. He was supposed to be our new King. I thought this was our time, the time for Israel to be a power to be reckoned with. Like in the days of our forefather King David.”
“I know, I know,” his friend replies. “I kept expecting him to call us to arms and deliver him from those Roman dogs. Did you see how they treated him? It was humiliating!”
Shaking his head, Cleopas rejoins, “Watching him drag that despised cross through the streets like a slave was an embarrassment to the whole Jewish nation!”
“And then,” his friend says, “when they nailed him to the cross – ” His voices catches and he is unable to finish his thought.
“We were foolish to believe any of it!” Cleopas adds with disgust.
Out of the corner of his eye Cleopas notices someone walking beside him and his friend. Expecting him to move forward past them, Cleopas offers an almost imperceptive nod of acknowledgment in the stranger’s direction.
The stranger is Jesus, but they do not recognize him.
“What are you two discussing so intently?” Jesus asks.
Cleopas responds, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”
“What has happened?” Jesus quizzes.
Cleopas and his friend swap looks of incredulity.
Cleopas decides to illuminate this stranger. “We are talking about all the things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. We were convinced he was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people.
“But our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. We had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel.
“It has been three days since it happened and now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”
Continuing on their walk toward Emmaus, Jesus takes a direct and challenging tone with Cleopas and his frind. “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?”
Jesus then starts at the beginning, quoting from the books of Moses and from the prophets, pointing out everything in the scriptures that referred to him.
Though they listen intently to his words, they are still blind to who Jesus was.
As they begin coming to the edge of Emmaus, Jesus bids them adieu to continue his journey. But Cleopas and his friend urge him to stay and have supper with them. “It’s nearly evening. Little daylight is left. Why don’t you stay with us this evening?”
Jesus agrees and enters their home.
At the evening meal Jesus takes the bread and brakes it and gives it to them. There is familiarity in this gesture and the manner in which Jesus does it.
Suddenly their eyes are opened and they recognize this is no stranger. This is Jesus – in the flesh!
Their discouragement dissolves. Their disbelief evaporates. Their disillusionment gives place to reality – He lives!
Back on the road they go. But this time they are heading toward Jerusalem to share with everyone the good news! Jesus is who he said he was. He is the Messiah!
Have you ever been in Cleopas’s shoes? Have you ever been so disappointed in others, or yourself, or God that you lost your way from Him? Have so many bad things happened in your life that you doubted if He was real? Have heartbreak and sadness come between you and God?
It happens. We are a wandering people.
If today finds you on the road to Emmaus, leaving God behind, do not lose heart. You can find your way home again. Follow the example of Cleopas and his friend.
Spend time walking with Jesus. Be open and honest with him about your hurt, disappointment, and doubt. Pour your heart out to him.
Allow your heart to be open to hearing him again. Sit quietly with him. Give God’s Spirit room to apply salve to your wounds.
And most importantly, don’t give up too soon. Cleopas and his friend came within a hair’s breath of missing out. If they hadn’t asked Jesus to stay and eat with them, if they’d let him continue on his way, they would never have learned the most important truth they could ever learn.
Don’t give up before the miracle!