A stone went flying into the distance, kicked absently by one of two travelers making their way toward Emmaus. The sun had passed the zenith a few hours earlier and was beginning its own journey to the horizon, but the heat of the day had just reached its peak. Neither of the two men took much notice of the weather as they walked along the road. They were too involved in both their conversation and their own despondent emotions.
“I thought sure, Cleopas,” said one, shaking his head for what seemed like the seventieth time. “He was the way out of this whole mess with Rome. The whole nation would have followed him!”
“Rome?” asked Cleopas. “I can’t even figure out how you’re looking at Rome. What about the signs he performed? He healed hundreds of people, Gideon. Somebody said he healed a man who was blind at birth. He was touched by the Lord!” He sighed. “But then,” he faltered. “Then why did the Almighty abandon him?”
“I don’t know,” said Gideon. “Maybe he sinned somewhere. Maybe everyone chasing after him finally got to his pride, and the Lord left him.”
Cleopas gimaced. “I don’t believe it. That doesn’t make sense. That’s not who he was. Did you know I was there when he multiplied the bread and fish by Galilee? There had to be four or five thousand of us there, and when he somehow managed to feed all of us, we were ready to storm the palace and make him king of Israel. Next thing we know, he’s nowhere to be found - just slipped away without any of us even seeing. He didn’t want to be king, Gideon. He wasn’t a proud man.”
“If he didn’t want to be king, then what was the big upset with the Sanhedrin? Half the city is throwing a festival because he’s come into Jerusalem, and a week later, the Sanhedrin’s meeting in darkness with Caesar’s soldiers and binding him up like a sacrifice for Pilate. And Pilate goes along with it. Somebody sure thought he wanted to be king.”
“None of it makes any sense,” muttered Cleopas.
“Pardon me,” said a voice from behind. They turned to see another traveler just a short way behind. “I couldn’t help but hear. You said nothing made any sense?”
“We’re talking about all that’s happened in the past week in Jerusalem,” said Gideon.
They looked at the newcomer with surprise. “You’re coming from the city, right?” The man nodded. “You’re probably the only man in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what was going on. How did you not hear?”
“What haven’t I heard about?” he asked.
“Jesus of Nazareth,” said Cleopas. “He was a prophet of the Lord. He performed miracles like Elisha, and he taught like he was sent by the Almighty directly to us, to help us understand the scriptures and truly make us understand what the Law requires. Half of Judea followed him.”
“Right up until this week,” interrupted Gideon. “The chief priests grabbed him and set him up on trumped up charges. They handed him over to the city governor and said he should be killed for opposing Caesar. Next thing we know, they’ve crucified him like a street thug just before the Sabbath. He could have been king of Israel. The whole city wanted it. I thought sure he was the one the prophets were pointing to, that he’d save us from Rome and all the trouble they’ve brought down on us.”
Cleopas jumped back in. “This all happened three days ago, but this morning, things got really strange. Some of the women who were part of his following said they went to his tomb this morning, but he wasn’t there. They said angels appeared and told them he was alive. Some of the men ran off to see for themselves, and they came back saying the women were right. The tomb was empty, and there was no body to be found anywhere. Jesus was gone. We don’t know what to make of any of this.”
“You talk about the prophets, but it sounds like you don’t believe everything they said,” said the man. “But come on, we can keep talking as we walk.”
The three resumed their journey with Cleopas and Gideon listening intently. “If this man was the Messiah, then wasn’t it necessary for him to suffer before fully coming in his glory?”
“What do you mean?” asked Gideon.
“Moses gave us the very first prophecy of the anointed one at the fall in the garden. The seed of the serpent would fight against the seed of Eve, but that battle would have losses for both. Yes, the evil one would be crushed, but the serpent would strike his heel, the very first indication that the anointed one will not escape unscathed,” explained the man.
He continued on, working through the Law and the Prophets as they walked, pointing to all the prophecies about the Messiah. The two men were almost silent, rarely bringing in questions as the man wove together a masterful explanation of the scriptures and how everything in the last week fit in exactly as the prophets had said. They marveled at how it made such perfect sense as he explained it and wondered how they hadn’t seen it before. The clarity was striking.
After an hour or so, the road forked with the smaller way leading toward Emmaus. Gideon and Cleopas turned toward the city, but they suddenly realized that their new companion was continuing on.
“Sir,” said Cleopas, “it’s getting late. You’re not still continuing on, are you?”
The man had hardly gotten a word out before Gideon leapt in. “You must stay with us this evening,” he urged. “We’ll be happy to give you dinner and a place to stay the night. You can continue on in the morning, but please, we’d like to keep talking tonight, if you’d be willing.”
“All right,” the man nodded and turned to join them.
Relieved, Gideon pressed him to continue the discussion. “You spoke of the suffering servant in Isaiah, but isn’t the servant different from the Messiah?”
“Must they be?” asked the man. They made their way into the town, buildings rising beside them as they walked. Cleopas led them instinctively through the streets, hardly looking since he was so fixated on the conversation, until they arrived at his home. His wife, Junia, was there, preparing for the market in the morning when they arrived. They greeted her and washed off the dirt from the roadway, quickly sitting down at the table while she made a meal ready for them. A pair of small, curious eyes peered out from behind a doorpost to the next room, and the guest smiled as he continued talking to the men, waving at the child.
It wasn’t long before loaves of bread and bowls of mashed vegetables were set on the table, and the men thanked Junia for her work. Cleopas was reaching for some bread when the man gestured to wait. “Allow me,” he said. He took a loaf in his hands, and they bowed their heads in prayer. The man blessed the bread, praying in a strikingly intimate way to the Lord, and suddenly the hair on Gideon’s neck rose in shock and excitement. His head jerked up and he opened his eyes to look directly into the face of Jesus, who was offering a hunk of bread to him. “Rabbi!” he shouted joyfully.
Cleopas jumped up with excitement and realization, bumping the table and sending a few bowls rocking and spinning away. “Jesus!”
Then, without any warning, the two men found themselves alone in the room. They looked at each other in stunned silence for a moment. Neither knew what to say. Finally, Cleopas ventured, “How did we not see it?”
“He was right there,” said Gideon, staring at the empty space where their rabbi had been a moment before. “He was teaching us the way he always did, and we were hanging on every word. It was like my heart was burning, saying, ‘Yes, yes! This all makes sense!’”
“Junia!” shouted Cleopas. His wife appeared in the doorway with a curious look on her face. “Junia, we have to go back to Jerusalem tonight.”
“Tonight? It’s dark! Why don’t you wait until morning when it’s safe?” she asked.
“It can’t wait. We need to get back to tell the disciples as soon as it’s morning.” He had already leapt to his feet and had snagged his cloak and staff. Gideon was likewise collecting up his things.
Junia suddenly realized that there were only two of them. “What happened to our guest? And what’s so important that you have to go back right now? You’re likely to be robbed or killed out there.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Gideon with a gleeful gleam in his eyes. “We have to tell the disciples immediately.”
“Tell them what?” she asked.
“Jesus is alive!”
Luke 24: 13-35