In Christianity, a lot of time and energy (for good reasons) is directed at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. It is the central story of the faith. Whether it is hymns or prayers, the focus of Christianity is that Jesus the Christ came to the world, taught the world about the Kingdom of God, was killed, and then was resurrected. For many people, the story stops there. After the resurrection, the triumph of death, what more is there? Isn’t that the entire point of the Gospels?
In the Gospel of Luke, we read an interesting story about the time after the resurrection. Two disciples are on their way to a town called Emmaus. They had just heard about how the body was Jesus was not in the tomb anymore. Jesus joins them on the road but the disciples are not able to recognize him. The disciples are discussing all that had happen and are flabbergasted that this new person joining them on the way did not know what had taken place in Jerusalem; it was a big deal to see Jesus who had made a name for himself be crucified and die.
Along the way, Jesus is giving them instructions and final teachings but it is only in the breaking of bread, a subtle reminder of the importance of holy communion, that the eyes of the disciples are open. They see that it is Jesus and they were overcome with joy. But just as quickly as they realized who was with them, Jesus disappeared.
Other gospels tell different stories about what the disciples and Jesus did after the resurrection. The Gospel of John has the disciples hiding for their lives. The disciples in the Gospel of Mark do not meet the risen Christ. In all the gospels, the stories of after the resurrection after a similar message: hope is still with us, even when the future looks bleak.
Theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote that “the worst isn’t the last thing about the world.” After the death of Jesus, the disciples and the followers of Christ must have felt as if they were punched in the gut. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah; they wanted the Davidic line to re-established. The people of Israel wanted their land back from the Roman occupiers. They didn’t want the Roman Empire to the superpower of the world, they wanted it for themselves. This is not the kind of kingdom that Jesus was trying to usher in. Many times in the Bible we are told that the disciples did not understand fully what was taking place while Jesus was with them. They would argue about who would the greatest in this new Kingdom. When Jesus spoke about having to die Peter scolded him.
The “Road to Emmaus” story is a story of hope for us. During a time when the disciples thought all was lost, that all they had been apart of was over, Jesus showed them that God is able to do the unexpected. For many of us, COVID19 is one of the worst things we could think of. Our lives have been altered and changed; we have moved from being interrupted to being disrupted. But the movement of God in our lives shows us that the worst things are not the last things. God is still in control; God is still present with us. God is walking beside us even when we do not see God.
Where are those places where we are missing God? How will God open our eyes to see the glory of God and the power of the Spirit? Let us not focus on things that remind us pain and sorrow; rather let us remember that God is God and we are not. Let us remember that even though things may rough, even though things may not be how we wished they were, God is still walking with us, present with us.
This is what we must hold on to as we continue to journey through the Easter season, even during a pandemic.