This post originally appeared in America Magazine, Easter Sunday 2011
I appreciate that you have listened to me for so many days, but I want you to walk beside me while I tell you something else. Please, please join me, walk beside me. I told you yesterday that Cleopas and I had decided, or at least were thinking about walking home today, Sunday, and that is what we are doing now, I know, but we did not leave before the women returned from the Tomb. We wanted to be certain they were safe, though I would not follow with them. They were braver than anyone, even to go to the Tomb, but then, it seemed, they had become crazier than anyone. When they returned to where we were staying, out of breath, blood drained from their face, amazed and frightened, they said that Jesus was not there in the Tomb. Immediately, I thought grave robbers! Right? It was not enough to kill this man by crucifixion, but his very body would be desecrated and stolen? That is immediately what I thought, but Mary Magdalene said they had met spoken to angels and that Jesus was not stolen, he was alive, raised up from the dead. That is what the women said to all of us. Peter and John, I think, went back to check on this story, and they said it was true, that Jesus was not there, but we decided not to wait. I don’t even know how to respond to any of it, let alone believe it – angels, resurrection. What do you say? I know that Jesus had talked about these things before, and I feel him so profoundly now, but sometimes you have to know how to give up. We kissed all of the disciples on the cheek and left, quietly walking back to Emmaus, where we find ourselves with you right now.
So, this is where I found this man, the one who is with us now, walking up ahead with Cleopas. He asked us, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” Cleopas said to him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” The man did not seem to know anything about Jesus because he asked, “What sort of things?” Can you believe it? It’s one thing not to be his disciple, but everyone heard about Jesus this past week. So, we explained to him everything. Cleopas and I shared the story about “the things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.” It was so strange for me to recount it all, because the more I told the story the more I believed it, the closer I felt to Jesus, and the more I felt that I was his disciple. It was all so past tense, but he seemed so present.
We told what happened this morning, too, how “some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” When we finished telling him about this, he turned on us. He was not angry, not at all, but he seemed some combination of frustrated and sad, and it surprised us. He just said, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” I did not know what to say, I had no idea what to say, but my mood was changing. It was the strangest thing. You see, when someone calls you a “fool,” you tend to get angry, true? But I was hanging on every word of this man, the one walking up ahead, and he began to say that Jesus was the Christ and he began to interpret the Law and the Prophets and explain how the Messiah had to suffer all these things and that he would be raised from the dead and that he was raised from the dead. I can tell you, my heart was burning and it still is. I have a sense of joy that seems impossible.
Look, this is our village, we have already arrived – a moment please – I need to call to Cleopas. “Cleopas, is the man walking on? Tell him to stay. Tell him to eat with us!” You, too, come and stay and eat with us. You will want to hear this man. If you can believe it, he will warm your heart, but I have no idea how. “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” Come and eat, you must be hungry, Sir. Well, I don’t have to describe Sir, what it means to break bread together, and thank you for accompanying us on the walk, but let me ask you something, how could you not know of Jesus and just now on the walk explain to us everything about Jesus the Messiah from the Law and the Prophets? How? Please talk to us while we eat; take this bread, sit down.
What just happened? Did you see him? Did you see him? Cleopas, where is he? The man who was with us, who walked with us. He just now broke the bread and I saw him, Jesus, the Messiah. Where is he now? Where is he? Yes, yes, “were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” It was truly him, he is risen, he is risen from the dead. Come with us, come back to Jerusalem, we need to see the Apostles and other disciples now. That was Jesus, who was crucified. He is risen from the dead. I have no idea how, but I know who it was, who it is. Join us, come to Jerusalem with us. Please join us now. He alone has conquered death. I want to return and talk to them all. Surely they must know, but we must make certain that everyone knows. He is risen from the dead!
John W. Martens
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