Travel has a way of drawing out internal things. As the body is engaged in getting to a destination, the mind has time to ponder and explore, away from daily routine. On a seven mile journey by foot from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a few days after Jesus’ crucifixion, two of His disciples discussed the internal things closest to their hearts.
Shoulders slumped, feet scuffing the dusty road, faces sad and perplexed, their demeanor spoke their discouragement. They had put their hope in Jesus of Nazareth as the one who was going to redeem Israel, but he had been arrested, crucified and buried, and his body probably stolen, for his tomb was now empty. With the road stretching before them, their conversation was tinged with sorrow and confusion.
In the aftermath of a life-shattering event, we want to study it from all angles, dissect the details, try to figure out the why and how and now what? Somehow it gives us a sense of control to analyze the facts and search for some answers, preferably with someone who can commiserate with us.
Processing a traumatic event turns the focus inward. The two walking to Emmaus were so absorbed in their discussion, they probably did not notice a fellow traveler until he came alongside them. Wrapped in a robe, dusty and windblown, like themselves, they did not recognize Jesus. Even though it was Jesus they were discussing, seeing Him in person was the farthest thought from their minds. Although He had spoken of it often, His resurrection was outside their realm of possibility.
When we are caught up in our own problems, trying to cope with an imperfect reality, we can miss Jesus walking beside us. Life narrows our vision to focus on looming bills, a serious medical diagnosis, a fractured relationship. Even when we fail to recognize Him, He is beside us through all the difficulties because He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5)
Still disguised, Jesus gently chided the two on the road for being foolish and slow of heart. In modern terms, He admonished them to “look at the big picture”. Then painting the big picture in words, “He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27 NIV) And they still were not aware it was Him.
When all I can see are the problems right in front of me, the best thing I can do is adjust my spiritual lens, go wide angle and take in all of who Jesus is, what He has accomplished and what He has promised for the future. His story is woven throughout the Bible from the first word to the last. Reading it reminds me of the providence of God so clearly demonstrated in the life of His son Jesus, so I can trust Him for my life too.
The two travelers warmed to their wise companion as they walked. They strongly urged him to stay with them and have a meal. “He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31)
This part of the story touches my heart, because it was in the act of thanksgiving and sharing bread that Jesus revealed Himself. And He will continue to reveal Himself as we practice thanksgiving, focusing on the One who has given us all things. We are called to give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thess. 5:17). Thanksgiving points us to Jesus, our true north, who guides us into all truth.
Finally they put the two together. Jesus, the man who walked to Emmaus with them, once dead and now alive, was the Messiah. fulfilling all the prophecies in Scripture. Their hearts burned within them with this revolutionary knowledge.
The story of the two on the road to Emmaus is our story too. Often blind to the presence of Jesus right beside us, we listen to His story in Scripture, but until we thank Him for His body broken and His blood poured out for us, we cannot see who He really is. When we finally recognize our constant companion, our hearts will burn within us — with love, with gratitude and with worship.