Where do you go when life overwhelms you and you just have to get away? Do you frequent a local coffee shop or corner bar? Do you escape to the bush, turn the beach or the river? Do you get lost in the latest video game, phone, internet, novel, or movie? Two travelers on the road are getting away on a trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. But this trip had turned into far more than they had bargained for and they needed an escape. Although these two were not among Jesus’ twelve disciples, they had been a part of his larger group of followers for some time. Just a week before, they had joined the crowds laying branches at his feet and crying, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” But things had deteriorated quickly and the religious leaders, tired of being threatened by Jesus’ radical teachings and his large following, conspired with the civil authorities to have Jesus arrested.
The disciples, who fled when things turned violent, had spent the weekend locked in the upper room for fear that the authorities would come for them next. On Sunday morning, according to Luke’s Gospel, the women slipped away to anoint Jesus’ body for burial; but they found the stone rolled away and the body gone. They rushed back and reported that two angels had appeared to them, proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead; but everyone dismissed their reports as the tales of grieving women.
Everyone was dazed and confused, immobilized by grief and disappointment. This was certainly not what they had expected from their Messiah. Walking back home, the two weary and disheartened travelers were discussing what had happened, trying desperately to make some sense of it all. Not too far down the road, a stranger joined them and asked them what they were discussing. Although they could hardly believe that anybody in Jerusalem had not heard about all that happened, they quickly filled the stranger in. Then, surprisingly, he in turn interpreted for them all that the Hebrew prophets had said about Jesus. Arriving at their home, the travelers offered the stranger the hospitality of a warm meal and a good night’s rest.
As they gathered around the table, their guest took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Suddenly they realised that they had been entertaining Jesus, unaware; but by then he had already vanished from among them. Their grief and fatigue forgotten, the two individuals jumped up and nearly ran back to Jerusalem to report to the disciples what they had seen. “The Lord has risen indeed!” they exclaimed. Before they had even finished telling their story, Jesus again stood among them. The disciples were terrified, but Jesus’ very first words were, “Peace be with you.” After assuring them that he had returned in the flesh and after eating a meal with them to finally dispel their doubts, he opened their minds so they could understand, at last, all that the scriptures said about him.
When he was done he told them all, “You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” One of the companions pondered things and could have said, “We should have gotten it at dinner when Jesus, who was our guest, became the host. We were both stunned when we finally realised who he was, but by then he was gone!” As I’ve thought about this, I’ve realised some things. A week ago they were leaving the city in defeat, retreating back home. Jesus met them right where they were—in the middle of their escape. I’ve learned that the Lord can come to us in unfamiliar ways and often when we least expect him. That’s true, we can’t put Jesus in a box. He’s not predictable—elusive sometimes, just at the edge of our awareness and our perception, but certainly not predictable.
I agree with that, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t here when we don’t see him. I know our journey won’t be an easy one, but we can truly believe that Jesus is alive and always with us. From now on, I’ll always see him whenever we gather around the table, at worship, at the soup kitchen, at home, or on the road. Although Jesus may never appear directly to us we’ll see him everywhere compassion, loving care and good works are done in his name. I pray that we can help others believe, so that they can see him too, and say for themselves, ‘Christ is risen, indeed!’”