After the resurrection, Jesus knew his Disciples would face hard times. The Bible recounts several post-resurrection appearances where Jesus returns to encourage them to live fully and continue moving forward. One of my favorites is a beautiful story in the Book of Luke; the road to Emmaus.
The story tells of two disciples who were returning home from Jerusalem after the crucifixion. (They weren’t part of the original twelve, but in reality there were much more than 12 people who gathered around Jesus.) The disciples all believed Jesus would overthrow the Romans, establish the Kingdom of Israel, and bring God’s reign here on earth, that was the vision. They were all brokenhearted when Friday came and Jesus was crucified. Saturday was the Sabbath and you were not allowed to travel on this day of rest, so finally, on Sunday they began their journey home on the Road to Emmaus. The Bible tells us that they were walking down the road, deep in conversation about all that had happened, when suddenly, Jesus was walking next to them, asking, “What are you talking about?” They stood there without moving, full of grief, looking at him in disbelief.
At some point in our lives, we are all on the Road to Emmaus. There are times when a loved one dies, someone gets sick, your dream fails, you struggle financially, you struggle in relationships; when things happen that you didn’t plan for, you can find yourself on the road of life standing still, looking sad. We’ve all been there. It’s a part of life. But, we believe in the Resurrected Christ and we know that He comes to give us a vision for the future that may be different from what we’d planned. He encourages us to think big. How did Jesus do that with His Disciples in this story? What did He teach them? That’s what I want us to think about, three ideas.
#1 LOOK BACK AND REMEMBER
First of all, the disciples had misunderstood the crucifixion to be the end of Jesus and the end of a dream. I believe Jesus came to teach them how to see the event from a different perspective and to do that, he first asked them to “Remember.” He wanted them to look back throughout history, to remember how God had worked in the past all the way up to that very moment to see that God was at work in their lives. There are times in our lives when we experience grief and confusion, God encourages us to remember the ways He has worked in our lives in the past, so that we might see Him at work in the present moment.
#2 YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
Second, I like the way Luke tells the story because he tells us, Jesus came so the disciples weren’t alone. As they walked down the road after Jesus appeared to them, but they did not recognize that it was Him. They told him, “We had hoped Jesus was the one.” It’s a statement that captures their disappointment so well; they thought Jesus was the one, but obviously he wasn’t. The dreams were crashed; their hopes were crushed. They were standing in the road, sad without hope. They didn’t ask for Jesus to come, they didn’t believe He could come, but God came. In the moment of their greatest need, God came so that they were not alone. I like the image of Jesus coming to put his arm around the disciples as they were headed home to Emmaus. It’s why you and I come to be a part of a family of faith, because there will be good times and hard times and you may find yourself, standing still in sadness, but you’re not alone!
#3 THE SAINTS ON WHOSE SHOULDERS WE STAND
Third, this was a critical moment in the life of the church. Jesus had gathered His disciples, taught them, inspired them and now He’d been crucified. They didn’t understand what was happening. It could have gone so many ways. They could have all given up and returned home. This critical moment in the life of the church, Jesus comes to encourage them to turn around and go back to Jerusalem. He encouraged them to not give up on the dream.
I think it’s important to remember all of the people who came before us and helped to build the church. They are the saints on whose shoulders we stand, the ones who lived their faith, worked and sacrificed. I am so inspired by people who don’t quit and keep moving forward. We are celebrating the 130th Anniversary at St. Luke’s this Sunday, May 5. We have known good times and we have known hard times, but for 130 years we’ve been committed to sharing God’s love and bringing hope in the world
One day you may find yourself on the Road to Emmaus standing still looking sad, feeling without hope, but you can be encouraged by the promise that Christ comes to give you a new perspective. Individually and collectively, God wants us to dream big, to imagine a future in the Risen Christ. Don’t ever give up.