Summary: Christ walks with us in every step of our lives, even when we are most down, even when we are not aware of his presence. Christ wants to know all that we have been through and show us that because of all that he has been through, we can have new life!
In the Talmud, a sacred Jewish book that offers rabbinical interpretations of passages from what we call the Old Testament, there is a beautiful story, which I want to share with you this morning. “Rabbi Joshua ben Levi came upon Elijah the prophet while standing at the entrance to a cave…He asked Elijah, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ Elijah replied, ‘Go and ask him yourself.’”
Obviously, the Rabbi needed to know where he would find the Messiah if he were to ask him anything. When he inquired, Elijah told Rabbi Joshua that he would find the Messiah “[s]itting at the gates of the city.” But lots of people sit at the gates of the city, so the Rabbi asked Elijah how he would know which one was the Messiah. Elijah said, “He is sitting among the poor covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and then bind them up again. But [the Messiah] unbinds one at a time and binds it up again, saying to himself, ‘Perhaps I shall be needed: if so I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.’”
Our Easter encounters with Jesus continue this morning as we join Cleopas and his companion on the road home to Emmaus. By Luke’s account, it is still the day of the Resurrection, though by now it is probably mid-afternoon at least. The Passover celebration has ended in Jerusalem, though it had not ended well for the followers of Jesus. And so Cleopas and his friend have packed their bags in disappointment. They had bet their lives on the wrong Messiah. They thought Jesus of Nazareth was the man, but in the end, he was just a common criminal. There is nothing for them in Jerusalem now; the Passover is finished, their savior has died, they are wounded, and in great despair they begin the journey back home; certainly wondering as they go what will happen next. After many months of following this man, they are still looking for the Messiah. But in their wounded state, they are joined by a third companion; just the right person it turns out, who showed up at just the right time, ready to listen. And we all know how wonderful it is to have a sympathetic ear in such times.
Have you ever needed to vent? You all know what I mean, right? Something has happened, and you’re so angry, hopping mad that steam may as well be blowing out your ears…kind of like Donald Duck in just about every old Mickey cartoon. So, you take just enough time to get calmed down so that you can form a coherent sentence, then you pick up the phone and call the friend that is always willing to listen, and you just start blowing off steam. You say anything and everything that comes to mind as you recount the sequence of events that led you to such anger, and as you explain, you ask “Can you believe it?!?” about a gazillion times. If you’re anything like me in such a state, you might say the same thing several times in the course of the conversation because you are so angry about it. And if your friend on the other end is worth their salt, they will listen intently to every word and share your outrage, even as they try and talk you back to a state of composure.
I know we’ve all been here from time to time. I also know that it helps me a lot when I can call someone up who will listen when I’m really sad, too. A few months ago, I was dealing with something that had me pretty upset, and I called up the person I consider to be my pastor. We met the next day and the conversation began when he said, “Tell me what’s going on.” So I started to talk. I’d finish one thought, and he’d say, “Go on.” And I’d move on to the next thing. When I finished that thought, he’d say, “Go on,” and I would start up again. I “unloaded” for two whole hours, and my colleague listened intently to every single word. The conversation didn’t accomplish anything. It didn’t change what had happened that upset me so, nor did it develop any plan to help me avoid such disappointment in the future. But at the time, that conversation was just exactly what I needed, the opportunity to unload, the chance to talk about everything that had happened. And you know what? Because I had the opportunity to talk about everything that had happened, I was able to let go of some of the sadness and worry, and to see that things aren’t really so bad as they seemed in that moment.