3 Easter (A)
When has Jesus been absent for you? When have you needed him and he didn’t show up? When have you said of Jesus, “We had hoped you would be the one to save us. . .” “We had hoped . . .”
Jesus, we had hoped you would be the one to:
–save our marriage;
–save me from this diagnosis;
–save my job;
–save me from the expense of this repair;
–save my kids from injury until I had health insurance.
Let’s face it – Jesus hardly ever works in the way we think Jesus ought to. There is hardship, pain, and distress – God doesn’t always get us out of it. We are disappointed. We had hoped . . .
So it’s easy to imagine how Cleopas and his companion are feeling as they travel the 7 miles to Emmaus. In v.21, we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
We had hoped he was the Messiah! But obviously not. Messiahs don’t die.
In the midst of their disappointment, grieving, struggles, and hopelessness, they simply didn’t see that Jesus was right there with them.
Jesus walks with them, asks them what’s the matter – what they’re talking about. They tell him the entire story. They know the whole thing, even the claims that he’s risen from the dead! They know everything except that he’s right there with them. They see everything except that the risen Lord with them at the very point of their disappointment; with them at the very moment when they are least likely to recognize him. They are caught in their disappoint—their unfulfilled hope—and cannot recognize the presence of God right there with them in the moment.
What they know doesn’t change anything; hearing the voice of Jesus doesn’t change anything; even inviting Jesus to stay with them doesn’t change anything. The only thing that changes anything (and it changes everything) is that Jesus is already with them.
We gather together in his presence – we know that, we talk about it here. But our knowledge doesn’t change us, or the world around us. Our understanding of this worship time doesn’t change us. Whether or not we are personally satisfied with what happens here today doesn’t change us. Not really. It is Christ who changes us. It is Christ who is with us, who forgives us, who gives us new life. It is Christ who is with us on the road, with us in our disappointment, with us in our struggles.
That’s often the way it works. The risen Jesus, whose presence not even death can hinder, meets us in our place of greatest disappointment, pain, grief, and struggle. He comes at the very times that we are living in unfulfilled hope. For him the most important thing is not whether or not we see him, but that his presence gives us new hope.
So how has God disappointed you? That’s where the risen Christ is. Where is your pain, despair, hopelessness? Where in your life are your deepest struggles? Where had you hoped? That’s where Jesus comes to you. That’s where he’s meeting you now.
He meets us here, he reveals himself in the breaking of the bread. He has come to us who are disappointed, who struggle, who had hoped, who are looking so hard at our difficulties that we can’t see beyond them. He has defeated the power of sin and death and brings victorious new life to us.
With all that whirls around us in our lives, it can still be difficult to recognize the risen Jesus in our midst. But Jesus comes. He opens. He forgives. He loves. He restores. He brings new life. He creates hope.
And when we look back of this day, we’ll say to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Don’t see him? That doesn’t mean he isn’t with you. Don’t recognize him at work in your life? That doesn’t mean he isn’t present with you. Can’t see past your life circumstances now? That doesn’t mean he isn’t bringing new life to you.
Today we can gather with one another, at the table, and trust his promise to be present. Today we can receive the forgiveness and life he offers. Today we can leave this table and recognize his presence at all the other places we go in our lives.