When Jesus was alive he took the disciples to Jerusalem. Now that Jesus (so they thought) was dead the disciples are leaving Jerusalem.
This is the context of the infamous “Road to Emmaus” story. It’s still the third day in this story. The men(disciples) have heard the story from the women(disciples) that Jesus’ body wasn’t there. The men, as men are prone to do, don’t listen, as it still seems an idle tale to them.
So they aren’t so much going to Emmaus, they are leaving Jerusalem. Let that sink in for a moment – the disciples are leaving the place Jesus took them. How quick we are to follow Jesus when all is well and how even quicker we are to get the heck outta Dodge when things get troublesome.
It’s on this journey, away from Jerusalem, that two disciples encounter the Resurrected Man, Jesus (although they do not recognize him). They are recounting the events of the day when this stranger asks them what’s going on. In telling the stranger they very accurately proclaim the story of Jesus…half way.
They inform the stranger, who is Jesus, the story of Jesus. “He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. But our leaders arrested him and crucified him” they say. Then comes, what are perhaps, some of the saddest words in all of Scripture.
We had hoped.
That’s past tense. They had hoped. They do not hope any longer. They had hope. They had placed the weight of hope on the miracle worker, rabbi, teacher, named Jesus and he was now dead. How can a dead man redeem Israel? How can a dead man carry the weight of hope?
Since we are human too, as these disciples were, we should give them a break and not be too hard on them. Instead we should enter their story just as Jesus entered their story and will redeem their story by revealing himself and offer himself, the only one who can withstand the weight of hope.
These disciples were terrified by the cross so much that it overwhelmed the teachings they received from Jesus. Hasn’t that happened to you? Hasn’t an experience shaken you to the core that it shakes and rattles your faith?
It has for me and just like with the disciples, so with me, so with you – the resurrected man, who is hope himself, draws near to us and offers us hope in our doubt, in our questioning.
The two men had lost hope because the one who was their hope was dead (in their minds). Yes, the women had a story but it was too good to be true and they had yet to lay eyes on the man. But if their hope is gone because he is dead, what does it mean if he is alive?
Though the men think this is merely a stranger, their confession of being without hope will soon be rattled when hope himself reveals himself at the table.
Even in our doubt, even in our “no hope, poor pitiful me self”, Jesus draws near.
And when Jesus draws near, we realize we go from “we had hoped” to “a living hope” because he isn’t dead – he is alive.
Luke is Pastor of Discipleship to the community of saints, in Christ, at Nashville UMC.