April 25, 2023

Our Easter Journey Continues

In August 2018, my family went to Spain to experience the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage walk, known in English as the Way of Saint James. It’s a network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in north-west Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of James are buried.

My husband, Thomas, finished the entire 800 km route the year before, but this time, we, as a family, decided to walk the first 100 kilometers together. The first day’s walk was difficult but doable because it wasn’t that long, about 3 hours. The challenge was the second day’s path. We had to cross over the Pyrenees Mountains.

We started off early in the morning with excitement. I knew it was not going to be easy but I believed that I would be able to finish the day’s journey okay. I didn’t know at the time, but after I came back from the trip, I saw someone post about crossing over the Pyrenees. It said, “It is savage, harsh and at times, death would seem a better option.”

It was the unpredictable and rapid-changing weather conditions that made our journey more difficult. At one point, it was sunny, and cloudy, then windy, foggy, rainy, and sunny again. I had to put my windbreaker on and off several times. When it was foggy, I literally couldn’t see a meter ahead.

What about our life journey? Or our spiritual journey? Has your journey been a straight highway for you? I don’t think so. Our life or spiritual journey has not always been smooth. When I first accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior; when I came to Canada with big dreams; when I married my husband; when I first began in ministry, each time, I thought that as long as I am faithful to God, everything is going to be okay.

But, surprise, surprise! I’ve faced numerous disappointments when my grand visions and well-prepared plans came to a fruitless and unsuccessful end. I had to endure feelings of failure, doubt, shame, fear, betrayal, just like how the two weary travellers on the road to Emmaus may have felt.

Today is the third Sunday of Easter. You may wonder why we’re still talking about Easter. Hasn't Easter passed weeks ago? Easter isn't a one-day event. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are here. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul says, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” And, on the Easter Sunday 2000 years ago, a lot of things happened.

Today’s text, the Journey to Emmaus is found only in the Gospel of Luke. It is a story that reveals to us not only something about who we are, but how Jesus opens our eyes to see Him for who He is and about how we can come to know Him.

Cleopas and his companion who were trudging to Emmaus, which was about 11 km from Jerusalem, on the third day after Jesus’ death on the cross, undoubtedly felt that everything they had hoped for was crushed. They had been hoping that Jesus was the promised Messiah who would redeem Israel. They were still in shock and didn’t understand why God had let them down.
On the one hand, they were disheartened and saddened by the loss of their teacher. On the other hand, they might have felt confused, regretful and even embarrassed that their leader, to whom they had put all their expectations and dreams, was shockingly and scandalously crucified. And they mourned the death of their dreams.

As they were walking slowly on the dusty road, talking about the death of Jesus, a stranger approached them from nowhere. The stranger quietly and gently moved in on them at the lowest moments in their lives, and asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stopped walking, stood still, and their faces were downcast. Cleopas, one of the two, asked him, “Seriously? You don’t know what has happened in Jerusalem these days? Were you just visiting there?” “What things? What happened?” the stranger asked. And the two disciples started pouring out everything that happened, and all their disappointments and despair to the stranger. He let them voice their thoughts, express their feelings, and empty their pressed pains.

“About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet… The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” “In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body.”

They were speaking about it in the past tense. It was all the past. They had hoped, but not anymore. Their hopes, dreams were shattered, and they thought that God let them down. They were lost and they were blinded.

The stranger said, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” What is ‘all that the prophets have spoken’? That is the Old Testament. To help the disciples see, he reviewed the history of Israel from Genesis to His own resurrection, highlighting God’s plan for the Messiah.

He walked them through the entirety of the revelation to show how it gave witness to who He was, why He had come, and why what had happened was necessary. He wanted them to see that if they would only believe what the Scriptures say about Him, they would understand why He came and why He had to suffer and why He had to die. And they would have known who He was.
As they came near Emmaus, their destination, the Stranger continued on as if he were going farther. But, they urged him strongly to stay the night with them. And he accepted their invitation.

At the table, the stranger took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. It was a holy Communion meal of the kingdom. It was a sacred experience of Koinonia. As they were receiving the bread, their eyes were opened. And finally, they recognized their Risen Lord. And as they were still in shock, Jesus disappeared. Gone with the wind.

They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ And the eye-opened disciples, full of jubilant, went back to Jerusalem, bearing the Good News of the resurrected Jesus. That very hour, late as it was, they left for Jerusalem. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Do you think they were trudging back to Jerusalem? “I guess Jesus is indeed risen…” (slowly).
OR Do you think that they ran like lightning, laughing and dancing? I’m sure that they ran back to Jerusalem as fast as they could and told their friends that they had seen the Risen Lord, that He had walked with them, talked with them, explained the Scriptures to them, and broke bread with them at their table.

Scripture gives testimony of who Jesus is. When you know the Scriptures, they build your faith, and only through faith can you come to Jesus. The truth of Scripture about Jesus leads to personal faith in Jesus. He used it 2000 years ago to open the hearts of the despaired and disappointed disciples. He uses it today to open the eyes of those who do not know Him; who are discouraged, who are doubtful, who are lost.

Our Bible should give us heartburn - spiritual heartburn. What causes heartburn? Their hearts burned when they stopped talking and started listening to his voice - the same scriptures they had heard all their lives. But when they heard Jesus explaining the Scriptures, their hearts burned.

When was the last time your heart burned when you read the Scripture? Does the Scripture make you cry? Does it make you laugh? Does it make you kneel down and pray? Does it make you stand in awe? Does it make you confess your sins, beating on your chest? Does the Bible make you praise God for His goodness and mercy?

Sometimes, our busy life or our comfortable and satisfying life or grief, disappointment, failure or sickness can blind us. Anything and basically everything can make us blinded from seeing the Lord or understanding the Word of God.

Brothers and sisters, where is your ‘road to Emmaus’ - the place where Jesus met you and surprised you recently?

What kind of journey are you taking now? Is it tough? Are you lonely? Are you going through a foggy road where you cannot see even a meter ahead? The good news is that Jesus walks alongside us when our journey takes us through hills, valleys, and abrupt turns, under unexpected weather conditions.

As Jesus on the cross was not the conclusion of the Gospel, loneliness, fear, sickness, shattered dreams and failed relationships are not the conclusion of our journey. The Resurrected Jesus meets us in the midst of our weary pilgrimages and reminds us of the Promises of God. And our journey continues with renewed HOPE and PURPOSE. Friends, let us continue our pilgrim’s journey with the Risen Lord bearing the Good News of Hope.