The Emmaus Road Walk
In the wonderful story of the Emmaus Road Walk I am reminded that resurrection is a mysterious business. Clearly resurrection is not the same as simple reversal. Jesus who died is alive again but differently. Words like restoration, process, and revelation help us understand resurrection more fully. (Luke 24:13-35)
Many of us have stumbled into the spirituality of walking, of that particular rhythm and zone that walking can lead us into when our minds quieten and our hearts open and equally our inner world and the outer world entwine and become one undivided whole. A zone in which we can bear our burdens and count our blessings without contradiction, and in which our glimpses of those things that tease us with irritation and insight seamlessly weave around our footsteps.
If we were not already of the habit and inclination of walking then many more of us have in recent weeks found walking as one of acceptable forms of physical and mental exercise that we can partake in during the virus restrictions. And even if we do not have the time or ability to literally engage in the spirituality of walking there is much about this gospel story to delight and intrigue our imaginations so that we too can walk beside the mysterious other one.
What strikes me about this story is that resurrection is a mysterious business. Clearly resurrection is not the same as simple reversal. Jesus who died is alive again but clearly not as he was before because his disciples and followers who knew him physically and socially very intimately cannot always recognize him. Jesus is real enough but not as he was. So resurrection is not simply getting up again and returning to life as before (we need to remember this after the virus). Which is why it might help to use other words to understand better what resurrection meant then but even more importantly what is might mean to us now. As part of resurrection we might talk about restoration, process, and revelation.
Resurrection has an aspect of restoration to it when we consider that Jesus is restored to his former glory through resurrection and then ascension, to who and what he was before incarnation and earthly life. And so it may be for us that resurrection will mean a restoring of our eternal selves.
Resurrection has a sense of one layer of revelation after another layer of revelation as slowly the full meaning dawns on disciples and followers. Surely this is our experience every Easter tide week after week, year after year, that we gain layers of insight.
And resurrection is the ultimate in recycling in the same sense as Jesus spoke to the Greeks telling them that unless a grain of wheat shall die it remain just one grain but that if it dies it becomes many grains. Resurrection has some of that great cycling through the physical and metaphysical stages of birth, growth, death and degeneration into new and greater life. The cross is the symbol in our lives of that pattern of metamorphous through the many small and not so small deaths we face and then the new life that comes the other side of such loss and disintegration.
So resurrection is a mysterious force at work in Jesus, our world and in ourselves.
Secondly I would reflect that resurrection is more process than single event. Yes the historical resurrection no doubt happened at a particular moment on a particular day but the Emmaus Road walk is a wonderful metaphor for the process of coming to experience resurrection. It takes time and miles for the disciples to come to know who they are walking with and what it means. And this process is partly intellectual – Jesus is unpacking the Scriptures and putting forward a comprehensive and convincing argument. Clearly the process is also about ritual and the revelation that comes in this other form of insight. And maybe most of all the process is about relationship and the walking side by side in conversation.
So we should be patient with ourselves and each other that it takes time and relationship to understand what resurrection means. Even more than intellectual proofs we need time for our hearts to burn within us with questions and moments of recognition. For many of us our relationship with the resurrected Jesus began long before we had (or have yet) a creedal certainty about the theological meaning of everything. Rather we experience relationship with the divine one as we stumble along and then over time and distance we begin to gain some understanding of what is happening.
So thirdly I would want to suggest that we don’t always know what is of God in the moment that it is occurring. And certainly that we often don’t know the full implications of something, especially those curious blessings that life loves giving us, until long afterward. It is over time and in relationship that the full meaning of resurrection is slowly revealed to us. The disciples start out sharing their loss and grief and confusion with a stranger and bringing the stranger up to speed and then they find the stranger helping them understand the events from a long term overarching historical perspective! The disciples think they are offering hospitality to an interesting stranger and they find that their Lord is presiding at their meal.
As is so often the case in life generally and the faith journey in particular we do not know what is really happening until we look back with the benefit of hindsight. And then we see that it was the risen one, our Beloved Lord who walked beside us, who spoke those exciting confusing words, and that broke bread with us. This story encourages me to trust in the gift of the everyday: the wisdom of supposed strangers; the heart opening gift of suffering, loss and confusion; the slow work of encounter; and the necessity of the mysterious words, food and drink that we are sustained by week by week.
I am encouraged to attend to the immediate – to my surroundings and to my neighbours – and to be open to the possibility of holiness and gift in everything that happens. And I am encouraged to trust that everything is gathered up in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ in such a way that the world and I are forever being remade, being brought into the reality of resurrection.
Even so, come Lord Jesus Christ, reveal yourself to us on the road. Amen.