The Road to Emmaus
Cleopas and Naomi: “On the Way”
Cleopas: Naomi, come along. We need to get going. Jerusalem’s not safe for Jesus’ followers anymore. Besides, there’s nothing left for us to do. Might as well go back home to Emmaus.
Naomi: Oh Cleopas, I’m so sad. Why did the Pharisees have to set Jesus up to be killed?
Cleopas: They were threatened. Jesus was becoming very powerful with the people. Remember the Pharisees are very tight with the Roman government. They did not want to lose their status. If they let a revolutionary prophet energize the people, Rome would blame them.
Naomi: But the scribes? Surely they should have stood by him?
Cleopas: Jesus was teaching about God in a new way – a way that made God relevant for our lives and more than a bunch of laws to follow. But neither the scribes nor the Pharisees could stand anything new. You know how they feel about “change.” Instead of the 613 commandments and thousands of regulations on how to keep those commandments, Jesus gave us two: Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Naomi: I sure wish Judas had paid a little more attention to those two commandments.
Cleopas disdainfully: You mean: “The Betrayer.” Do not say that scoundrel’s name in my presence again. The power of the Pharisees was threatened – and goodness knows the Scribes don’t like change. But the Betrayer? He was one of us, a follower. He was one of the Twelve, Jesus’ handpicked disciples. I should have known he was no good. I wish I had warned Jesus.
Naomi: I think Jesus knew. Jesus was so wise. I just wish Jesus was here.
Cleopas: “But We Had Hoped…”
“But we had hoped.” We had hoped many things. Naomi and I left our family in Emmaus right after we were married. My father wanted us to continue on the family farm. But I did not want to sow wheat and tares. I wanted to follow Jesus.
When Jesus’ spoke, everything made sense. All was right in the world. People were healed. God’s Word was taught with authority. Jesus spoke a word of blessing on five loaves and two fish and there was plenty for all – no… more than plenty…. there was an abundance of leftovers – 12 baskets full! All of the prophecies were being fulfilled. The lame walked. The blind could see. The hungry did not go away empty. We had such hopes! Such dreams!
We even dared to dream that Jesus would be the Messiah, the anointed, the one that the whole people of Israel had been waiting for, praying for, anticipating. Yet Jesus kept talking about suffering…rejection…death. It didn’t seem that way to me when he rode into Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey. But that didn’t last long.
The Betrayer – that scoundrel - betrayed him with the “Kiss of Peace.” What irony. A kiss of peace. There was no peace in his kiss – only deception.
He betrayed him. But… so did I. I thought I had more mettle. I thought I would stand by my Lord and defend him. But I did not. I ran. I ran for my life. Then the next day I had a second chance. But, as Pilate is questioning Jesus, did I come out and defend Jesus? Did I say – he’s innocent! Take me instead! Did I raise the sword in defiance? No. I hid behind Naomi – with head bent low so that no one would recognize me.
We had such hopes. Yet instead of me defending Jesus, he died for me.
“ Seeing Scripture through Resurrection Eyes”
Reflection: Pastor Pam
The words of the Old Testament prophets suddenly came alive as the stranger quoted passage after passage of Scripture, beginning with Moses. So what passages did the stranger Jesus quote? What did he teach? Cleopas didn’t write it down but there are lots of references that we can see now that we look with Resurrection eyes.
Maybe the stranger reminded them of how Moses raised a bronze snake in the wilderness and the people were saved (Numbers 21:8-9). In the Gospel of John, Jesus interprets that event for Nicodemus, saying, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Jesus very likely recounts the story of the first Passover. On that first Passover, God, through Moses, told the people to kill a lamb and put the blood of the lamb on the doorway so that the angel of death would “Pass Over” their houses. The Israelites had been celebrating Passover ever since as a reminder of God’s saving act.
Jesus and his disciples and all of his followers would have just celebrated Passover. The stranger helps Cleopas and his companion see that Jesus was the new Passover lamb who frees them from more than physical slavery. As John the Baptist prophesied, Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
This new understanding of Jesus as the Passover lamb gives new meaning and understanding to Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant.
In Isaiah we read:
He was despised and rejected;
He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases;
He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.
Cleopas and his companion hear the scriptures explained in a new way. Their hearts are burning but their eyes do not yet see Jesus.
“Some have Entertained Angels Unawares”
This stranger who met us on the road –who is he? Come to think of it, he didn’t tell us his name - he seems both strangely familiar and yet also a little mysterious. How did he gain such knowledge? He interprets the Bible in such a way that makes sense of the passages that rabbis have struggled with for years. He’s also very gracious. After all, he could have gotten to wherever he’s going much more quickly if he hadn’t stopped to walk with us. But instead of hurrying by, he taught us all the way from Jerusalem.
His throat must be parched from all that talking. Look at the sky – it’s almost evening. He must be starved! I’m glad we are almost home. We must insist that he stay with us. It’s the least we could do for all his trouble. After all, as they say, “some have entertained angels unawares.” You don’t think…could he be… Well. Best not to worry about that! But we must insist that he stays with us. Besides… the road’s not entirely safe once it gets dark.
Cleopas & Naomi: “With Eyes Wide Open and Hearts Filled with Joy”
Cleopas: Did you see…
Cleopas: Yes. It’s Jesus. How could I not have seen him before?
Naomi: Somehow he seemed so familiar and yet…
Cleopas: Our eyes were kept from seeing.
Naomi: Were not our hearts burning within us…
Cleopas: Yes as he was talking to us on the road
Naomi: And while he was opening the scriptures to us!?
Cleopas: I’m glad we invited him in…
Naomi: But this was far better than being visited by an angel.
Cleopas: What a blessing!
Naomi: We can’t keep this to ourselves.
Cleopas: We’ve got to go to Jerusalem.
Naomi: What are we waiting for? We’ve GOT to share this good news!
Reflection – Pastor Pam
Seeing Jesus. Cleopas and his companion couldn’t see Jesus for most of the time that they were with him. Even though they knew the story of the Resurrection and even though they had the best Bible Study teacher of all time explaining the scripture, they still couldn’t see Jesus.
It was only after Jesus blessed the bread and broke it that their eyes were opened – and Cleopas and his Companion saw Jesus.
Cleopas’ companion is not named in Luke’s Gospel. Nor is there any detail about him or her to guess the identity of the companion. I took the liberty of imagining that the companion could have been Cleopas’ wife. She could have been named Naomi – or not. Pastor Paul imagines the character differently as he paints in the details. The companion could have been Cleopas’ son, his brother, his father, a friend or even just a “companion for the journey”. Luke doesn’t tell us – and I think that could be intentional. Because that no-named “Companion” represents a follower – like YOU.
Jesus invites you to be like Cleopas and his companion. After all, You have now heard the story. You’ve seen it come to life on a canvas. And just as Jesus told his followers: “You are witnesses of these things,” so Jesus tells you, “You are witnesses of these things.”
After Cleopas and his companion saw Jesus, they raced back to Jerusalem to tell it to their friends and fellow followers of Jesus. But, when they got there – they had to listen first to someone else’s account – and then they were able to share their news. Sometimes we have to listen before we can share too. The ways that you are able to share the Good News will very likely be different from Cleopas and they may be different from the way a talented painter like Pastor Paul Oman shares the Good News. But you are witnesses. You have seen Jesus. How will you share this good news? Go and tell. Amen.