Summary: Jesus meets us where we are so He can send us where He wants us.
Rev. Brian Bill
April 20-21, 2019
We’re all on a journey, aren’t we? Easter can be a time when unfulfilled expectations rise to the surface. My guess is some of you have experienced doubt, disappointment, depression, disillusionment, defeat, despair, and perhaps the death of someone close to you.
I can relate. My name is Cleopas. I made an appearance in the last chapter of the Gospel of Luke if you’d like to follow along. Here’s the main thing I learned: Jesus meets us where we are so He can send us where He wants us.
My friend and I had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and got caught up in the crowd when Jesus entered the capital riding on a donkey. We had been waiting a long time for a king to free us from Roman oppression and set up His righteous reign.
Things didn’t work out as we had hoped. A week later our expectations were dashed on the day you know as Easter. We were headed home to Emmaus, located about seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. That distance is like walking from here to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport.
As we walked, we talked back and forth about everything that happened. We recounted the excitement of palm branches waving at the beginning of the week only to be followed by soldiers whipping Jesus at the end of the week. We were trying to figure out how Jesus could go from the victor to the victim so quickly.
And then, while we were talking, we heard footsteps behind us and a man suddenly started walking with us. We didn’t recognize Him but it might have been because our heads and hearts were filled with hopelessness.
Then He turned and asked a question that made us stop in our tracks: “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” I’m sure He could tell we were bummed out by the gloomy looks on our faces. As our feet faltered, our faces fell. We were sad and cynical, unsettled and unsatisfied.
I finally blurted out with exasperation, “Are you the only Visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” We assumed He was a Passover pilgrim like us, just visiting for a short while. But I couldn’t believe He didn’t know all that had happened. Everyone was talking about the betrayal by Judas, the arrest, the scourging, the trial and the crucifixion of the One called Christ. Later, the Apostle Paul put it like this in Acts 26:26: “For this has not been done in a corner.”
I guess this traveler was trying to get us to talk because he asked another question, “What things?” I decided to lay it out for him: “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before all the people.” I knew where Jesus was from and who He was…or I thought I did. I told him Jesus was a prophet because it was all in the past tense. He was gone now. But when He was alive, He was mighty in His walk and in His talk.
Then my voice dropped as I explained how the religious leaders condemned and crucified Him. We thought He was the Promised One who would release us from bondage but our hopes were hammered to the cross. Our dreams died when He died. And since this was now the third day since all this happened, we decided just to head home.
I told him, “but we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” Because our hope had evaporated, our hearts were shattered. As we trudged home as if leaving a funeral, we were living proof of Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” Honestly, we felt like God had let us down. Some of you can relate.
Then I remembered hearing about some events that happened earlier that day so I told the Visitor: “Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.” I found their account amazing but I discounted it, thinking they were just making it up.
Shortly after the women went to the cemetery, Peter and John ran to the tomb and also found it empty. That may sound like more evidence He was alive but the fact is, “Him they did not see.” I made this point emphatically to the Visitor. The rumors of the resurrection were not credible as far as we were concerned…and that’s why we were headed home.