Looking for Jesus…or not
Take a listen to this song from Kate Campbell. It’s one of her best.
If you check out chapter 24 of Luke (which you can do in about five minutes in this handy video from the Bible Project), you’ll see that it starts with people who are looking for Jesus, then some that have given up on looking for Jesus and then are totally surprised when Jesus shows up.
I don’t think the people on the road to Emmaus were looking for Jesus at all. They knew what happened to Jesus, and they had heard these stories that he might be back, but they were obviously doubtful. So doubtful, that they are not really looking for Jesus. The idea that they might find him was so far out of the realm of possibility that, when he was walking with them, they didn’t even notice it.
But it is in the context of walking that they first encounter Jesus—even if they don’t yet know it.
Walking has a way of bringing clarity, doesn’t it? When we’re angry and we need to calm down, we take a walk. When we are anxious or worried about something, we often take a walk. When I get stuck on something–be it a sermon or an article or some problem, I go and walk it out. If I had my own seal with a Latin motto it would read Salvitor Ambulando—it will be solved in the walking.
Trudging down the road, two utterly confused followers are joined by a third man. Their world has been turned upside down by the events of the past week: celebration, conflict, violence, and death, and now the possibility that their martyred spiritual leader has come back to life. Resurrection is just as unsettling as crucifixion. It doesn’t fit into any rational world view.
But, they walk the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, first sharing their common grief, and then entering into a strange conversation with their unexpected companion, who unfolds the story of salvation through resurrection to them.
Though the men have made a new friend on their journey, they still don’t know who their companion is—but they like him. There was just something about him, so they invited him to supper.
Their hospitality leads to a theophany (which is just a big word for an encounter with the Risen Jesus). Good things happen when Jesus joins us at the table. The original hosts who offered comfort, food and hospitality were the ones who ended up receiving the blessing. And isn’t that often the case?
Travel and table, movement and meal lead to revelation for those who journeyed to Emmaus.
After breaking the bread, Jesus vanished from their sight. He may have needed to be on the move as well. God is not static. God is alive and on the move, doing new things and sharing new insights with other pilgrims on the journey.
So whether you are actively looking for Jesus or have given up on Him making an appearance in your life, never underestimate the power of going for a walk. (Even those of us under the strictest of shut-down can still do that!) Jesus shows up when we’re not expecting him in places we might not have thought to look.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.