‘As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.’
The story of Cleopas and his companion meeting the risen Christ on the road to their home in the small village of Emmaus is my favorite Easter story. It is late morning, perhaps, on the first Easter. Two disciples are walking home, grieving and dejected, crushed by the traumatic events of the past few days. And they are met on the road by the risen Christ; although they are kept from recognizing.
Through the course of their walk together, he relates to them the long history of their faith, and his place within it. When they finally reach home, it is growing dark and they invite him to spend the evening. In that foundational act of hospitality, of sharing bread together, they recognize their unknown fellow traveler as the Risen Christ.
Because it is an Easter story, it is story of resurrection, of new life springing up in surprising places.
Because this is an Easter story, it generally comes at a time when the promise of spring is very much in the air. Days grow longer. The weather is – hopefully – turning warmer. Buds begin to appear on trees.
It is also a great ‘road’ story; and like all ‘road’ stories, it invites us to see things a little differently, to shift our perspective a little and take fresh stock of old certainties; and it reminds us that our view of the world and our place in it is never the final word. That word belongs to something beyond us.
Like all good gospel stories, the Emmaus Road encounter gives us permission to see our lives and the life of our community in a different way. Like those disciples, our lives are often journeys burdened by questions, hopes, disappointment and grief over opportunities lost, over change we cannot seem to control. And like them, we have this remarkable promise of all those things overturned by the presence of a God who constantly seeks to reclaim life from death.
Easter comes at that pivotal point between the barren landscape of later winter and the emerging light of early spring. It reminds us that God never allows life to lay dormant forever; and rebirth and resurrection are not merely the eternal hope we share, but the present reality that God ensures in our lives and in the life of the world.
Acknowledging the Risen Christ in our midst is not merely the answer to our shared yearning for immortality; but our affirmation that the God of the Risen Christ is a God that breathes new life into every moment of our lives, that resurrects life from all the smaller deaths that afflict us … and that empowers an Easter faith that always assumes the possibility of life in all places.
May you know this Easter season the presence of the Risen Christ, who reveals to us all the resurrecting faith of our God.