Walking to Emmaus

Third Sunday of Easter  |  Luke 24:13-35

Nobody seems to know who Cleopas is. He is just another man walking down the road, and as for his friend, well, we don’t know his name. We don’t even know that the second person was a man—perhaps it was a woman, perhaps Cleopas’ wife?

Sun Through Trees 4x6 015All of the famous (and at least named) disciples are huddled together, trying to make sense of reports that Jesus is alive, and these two people leave and start walking away. Oddly, Jesus takes the afternoon to walk down the road with them. They talk about prophecy and scripture, the sort of religious things that they were likely taught from the time they were children, and the unexpected life and death of the man they had believed was the Messiah. And we are told that they were kept from recognizing Jesus until the very end of their time with him.

We don’t know them. We don’t even have the name of one of them, but they were important to God.

We might remember someone else who did not warrant having his name recorded in scripture—the Pharaoh of the exodus story. He was ruler of all of Egypt, and we don’t even get his name. We are told that his heart was hardened so that he wouldn’t understand and yield to what God was doing. In the end, he is a symbol for every despot and tyrant in history, every person and thing that would try to enslave us.

Cleopas and his unnamed companion are also symbols, this time representing us. We, like they, walk along unseeing, thinking that we understand more than other people. These two even chide Jesus, saying, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place?”

When they finally realize what they did not know, they turn around and go back to where they started, perhaps to begin again. When Cleopas and his companion return to Jerusalem, they find that Jesus has also appeared to the other followers gathered there, just as he appeared to them.

All our lives we are travelers. It is impossible to remain in one place, even if we sit perfectly still. Time moves the horizon, and our landscape and our traveling companions change around us. We may think we are on the road to a destination of our choosing, but sometimes we need to go back to share what we found or to find what we left. Sometimes we find ourselves lost, as in a forest, our only light filtered through the leaves of the trees above us.

In the end, our names will not matter. We ourselves may forget them, given enough time. What matters is whether we open our eyes to see who is beside us. Just because we do not recognize God does not mean that God is not here.