One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:18-27 NASB)
What if the worst of all possible outcomes, actually wasn’t all that bad? What if what you thought was the end, wasn’t? Do you still hope? Can you? Should you? You could be disappointed again. Do you really want to come crashing down again? Hope is one of the more dangerous of emotional states. And yet, for followers of Jesus, absolutely necessary to follow Him.
This challenge to have courage enough to hope once more is what Jesus addresses on the road to Emmaus. It isn’t that they don’t get it, or weren’t told. It’s not a problem solved by explaining. They still didn’t get it after Jesus explained it. They didn’t lack information, they lacked hope. And without hope, there can be no faith.
Surely you’ve been there; that place where everything seems to have gone so wrong, here there is no possibility of restoration. Perhaps in a marriage, a friendship, in another sort of relationship. Maybe with your job, or church, or among fellow believers. You look at it, and it’s hopeless. There are no more good outcomes possible. Those options have passed, and nothing more remains but to mourn what could have been.
It’s into that dark place this account of Jesus shines. These guys had an opportunity to claim the hope back. They opted not to. It was too much, too expensive emotionally. It was too crazy to hope in the face of such utter defeat, such crushing disappointment and disillusionment. Ironically, it is their illusions that obscure the hope.
In your times of dark hopelessness, as you walk along in your life, a stranger walks up and asks, “What’s up?” Your vision is obscured by hopelessness, and you’re prevented from recognizing the stranger. And as you explain your hopeless situation, the stranger chuckles, and shakes his head. And then, with gentleness, as you walk along together, he begins to re-frame your hopeless situation with the framework of your Creator.
Hope, illusive and dangerous, ignites in your soul. You’re not sure, you’re not comfortable, and you hesitate to embrace it. As you walk, as he speaks more about the power of God at work all around you. As you nod, and things in your mind shift, memories rearrange, another picture emerges from the puzzle pieces. You begin to grasp that you had them in the wrong place and intended picture was lost.
And then you’re at your destination, and the stranger continues, but you must hear more. The picture still isn’t complete enough to calm your fears. And he stays! Hope flares more brightly! He comes in and eats with you, and you suddenly realize Who has walked with you is He in Whom you lost hope. The hope wakens fully to fill your soul with the warmth of light and life. He disappears from your sight, but remains burned into your mind. You must share, for others have lost hope as well. So, you rise up, and run home.
Have you been on the Road to Emmaus, thinking you were headed into an episode of the Twilight Zone? That sign post up ahead probably doesn’t say what you think it does. As you go your way, remember to talk to strangers. They often have something hopeful to share.
What’s your view through your knothole this morning?