Third Sunday of Easter
Even though many of us may never have been to the Holy Land, most of us have been on that road to Emmaus, and have experienced the road in some shape or form. Some people are all too familiar with the road. It represents the road of disappointment, failure, sorrow, grief, shattered dreams. Life for us all is a journey, and some parts of that journey we would prefer not to walk. Faith doesn't save us from the dark, lonely, sorrowful, stretches of the road. But Faith allows us to see that we do not walk that road alone.
It was not until it was all over, that the disciples understood fully what had happened. Only later did they come to realise how near to them was the one they thought was dead and gone. In fact he was walking with them along the road, sharing their supper with them, sharing bread with them. This is surely how it is also in our lives. When we are going through a difficult experience, we have little real perspective, little understanding, and cope only from day to day, hour to hour. It is only afterwards, perhaps long afterwards, that our eyes are opened and we begin to understand our experiences. Eventually and hopefully, we learn to make something positive out of the difficult experiences we have had and been through. We can develop and grow from all our experiences, even the most painful ones.
When we walk along our road to Emmaus, filled with doubts and disappointments, suffering or in pain, and maybe lacking faith, then we should remind ourselves that we believe in a God who knows what it is to suffer, who knows how we feel, and who is walking that road with us.
The road to Emmaus story in this Sunday’s Gospel is one of the great passages of the New Testament. Following the Crucifixion, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus, dejected and despondent about the events that had taken place. Then Jesus suddenly appears and “walked by their side”. However they didn’t recognise him. How often has does that happen to us? Jesus walks by our side but we just don’t recognise that he is there.
Those two disciples thought they had been wrong. How could Jesus have been the Messiah, he had been humiliated and crucified as a common criminal? It was unthinkable and unimaginable. Their expectations had been dashed. They felt let down and alone. But Jesus turns on them, 'You foolish men!' They had surely read what the prophets said about the Messiah but they had failed to understand them. Jesus took them through the relevant passages of scripture and interpreted them. He explained that the prophets had indeed foretold that the Messiah would suffer and die, that it would be precisely this way that he would enter into his glory; won as only glory can be through sacrifice and suffering. In this way, Jesus turned their image of the Messiah upside down, and shed the image of a conquering hero and donned instead the robe of the suffering servant. Having had all this explained to them, the disciples were ready to have their eyes opened at supper, when in the breaking of bread, they realised the Messiah was sitting with them, the Messiah who had his body broken on the cross, who had suffered and died for them.