That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem . . . Jesus himself drew near and went with them (Luke 24:13-15).
No one knows for sure where Emmaus is.
You could catch a plane this afternoon and fly to Tel-Aviv, rent a car and make the short drive to Jerusalem, but that’s about as close as you’d get to Emmaus. Luke tells us that this village was about seven miles from Jerusalem, but he didn’t see fit to provide us with anything we could search for on a GPS. Scholars have offered some possibilities in their studied attempts to identify Emmaus. But guesses are the best we can do.
We don’t know where Emmaus is, and yet we’ve been there. Emmaus is the direction our lives take when we live our days disappointed and let down. Emmaus is where we go when hope is fragile or abandoned altogether.
The Emmaus road is marked by footprints pressed deep in the dirt. It is the way of the heavy step.
A Familiar and Forlorn Way
You may be walking the Emmaus road today. Obviously, that’s not meant as a geographical statement. The roads you’ll be on today may be the same roads that you’re on every day – getting to work or to the grocery store or to the carpool line. You’ve know those roads well.
But today you traverse those roads with a heavy step. You’re carrying with you the weight of disappointment. Hopes and expectations that just days ago were on the threshold of becoming reality have vanished, for whatever reason. In their place are confusion, questions, despondency. And so you travel familiar roads that now seem strange.
That’s what Luke describes for us when he tells about Cleopas and another unnamed follower of Jesus making their way back to Emmaus soon after the crucifixion of Jesus. They had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the story of God’s deliverance. They had gone their anticipating that a new deliverance was in the works and that Jesus would be the one to accomplish it.
None of that happened. The celebrations went south. Jesus was executed. “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21). Those hopes were now trashed. Time to go back to Emmaus. They walked a well-known road, this time with a heavy step and forlorn faces.
And then Jesus drew near and walked with them.
What Might Have Been
Our disappointments have a way of clouding our vision. The more frequent they are, thickening like a cataract on the soul, the harder it is for us to see that Jesus is walking with us.
This seems especially so when our hopes are closely connected to what we believe about God and God’s ways with us. Maybe there’s something you’ve prayed about for a long time. Maybe there’s someone you’ve prayed for year after year. And maybe, for some reason, you’re hope is gone. Your prayers now seem wasted, even foolish.
In Mark 5 a man named Jairus begged Jesus to come and heal his little girl. Jesus agreed to go with him – but on the way there two servants intercepted them and broke the news to Jairus. Your daughter is dead. And then they added this line: “Why bother the teacher any further?” (Mk. 5:35)
But Jesus invited Jairus to finish the walk. To stay with him. No doubt, Jairus walked with a heavy step – but at the end of that walk he saw a miracle. On the Emmaus road two disciples walked with heavy steps, not knowing who walked with them. At the end of that walk their eyes were opened.
And you - when your way is weighed-down, heavy with regrets or hurts over what might have been, you do not walk alone. Jesus draws near and walks with you.
Don’t let your disappointments define your journey today.
Prayer:Give your grace, O God, to all who walk in a fog of despondency today. Sustain them in the heaviness of their walk. And give them eyes to see again the reality of resurrection, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.