“Walking the Road”
Luke 24: 13-35
I think most of you know I didn’t grow up in the church. When I was growing up I did typical “kid stuff”. I played with my friends, I played sports, I went to school… normal stuff. But there was an interesting trend when I moved into junior high. It seemed I started hanging out with a different crowd, my old friends were still my friends, but I didn’t see them as often. Usually because I was busy with sports 12 months of the year while they chose different activities. By the time I hit grade 10, I was hanging out with a whole different crowd for the most part. I was still friends with everyone, but already we had started down different paths in life. We had already begun to drift apart, despite the fact we were all best friends for so many years.
There were a number of personal challenges I dealt with in high school, that I won’t go into here, that could have led me down any number of roads in life. As I look back at those years, I see that if I had chosen to give in to even one of those temptations, my life might have turned out differently. Like many teenagers there was the constant pressure to succeed; the pressure to be responsible, but also the pressure to not be responsible and try harmful things. Somehow, like many, I managed to navigate the treacherous waters of high school and make it to university.
It was a dark time in my life. When I made it to university I used to go for long walks and just wonder what had happened to make high school so tough to navigate. Why did I feel like I was losing my mind? Where did I lose all my friends? Why was I all of a sudden feeling completely alone? And yes, I did shed some tears on those late night walks.
So I feel like I have a connection with Cleopas and his friend walking down the road leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus. They are wondering where it all went wrong. How is it this great man who had done so many marvellous things is dead? Now, they are feeling alone and abandoned. Even the tomb where they laid his body is empty, there is just no place to go. So they begin the long walk home.
On their way a stranger meets up with them and asks them what is happening. They are astonished there is someone who has not heard the news. Everyone has been talking about it. Everyone has been speaking about this Jesus who died a few days ago, but this morning the tomb was empty. There was some story from the women who said they saw a vision of angels who said he was still alive, but none of the men saw it. They just saw the empty tomb.
For the rest of the journey, this stranger took the time to explain the scriptures, the Old Testament, and how it all pointed to how these events had to happen. It explained how Jesus came as the Messiah. It explained why he had to die, and what the significance was of the empty tomb. He began with Moses and worked his way through all the prophets, pointing out how they prophesied about the life of Jesus.
When they arrived at their destination, they invited this stranger to come and stay with them because it was getting late in the day. As they sat down to eat together, the stranger broke and blessed the bread and served them. As they received the bread, they finally recognized this stranger. Jesus! Jesus had walked with them this entire way! With that discovery, Jesus disappeared.
Full of excitement, Cleopas and his friend ran the long road back to Jerusalem, which some scholars believe to be about 10km away so they could share what they have seen while walking home. About how Jesus came with them and shared so much, opening their hearts to the promises made in scriptures.
I should point out that Jesus did not scold the two on their walk. Jesus simply shared the stories of the scriptures, interpreting the words, the prophesies, to them so they could understand what happened. He made the truth of God accessible, helping them to see the promises God made through His prophets. Then they were able to see Jesus.
It was not until Cleopas and his friend understood the significance of the scriptures, and what they were pointing to, that they could fully see the risen Jesus standing before them. It was not until then could they realize Jesus had been with them all the way.
If you are comfortable, I invite you to close your eyes for a moment. I want you to think about your life. Think about a time when maybe everything seemed to be rough, like nothing wanted to go in your favour. Maybe something didn’t turn out the way you might have expected.
Who is there is with you? Do you see friends and family? Are you alone? Is there no one around to be with you? Is there something else with you? As you look back, maybe there’s someone else there with you. Some of you may feel God’s presence in this place. If you don’t, that’s ok. It’s not too late to invite God in there with you. It’s not too late to ask God to comfort you and surround you with His love. Will it make the situation go away? No it won’t, but it might make it easier to bear knowing that God knows your situation because of Jesus Christ who walked this earth experiencing emotion, relationships, joy and pain, just like we do every day. You may open your eyes.
Over the last 10 years I’ve known God was with me in those difficult years. I remember I used to lie in bed, feeling like I was being torn apart in all directions. Becoming desperate I did the only thing I could think to do. The only option I had left because nothing I was doing was making it any better. So I would pray. I had no idea how this would help. But it seemed like something I had to do. So I would just pray to God to take it all away.
It didn’t turn out that way. Things remained hard, in fact it even got harder. I probably wondered if the prayers did anything at all. Certainly nothing was changing in my favour. But as I look back today, I see I was being protected. I was being pointed in the right direction, I seemed to make good decisions. Not always the best decisions, but at least they were decisions which kept me from taking a wrong path.
My friends that I grew up with and drifted apart from. They all didn’t make the same decisions. Some of them ended up in a different crowd. Some began to smoke and drink, which for some, changed their lives dramatically. Yet somehow I avoided it. Some of them even protected me from it. I had one friend who began smoking at an early age, yet it was years before I knew. He hid it from me. In university I worked at McDonald’s and went to visit some friends after work. They were sitting around the table doing drugs, and one guy I hadn’t met before invited me to take a hit. My friend, who’s place we were at, told him to leave me alone, I didn’t need that stuff. I didn’t intend to try it, yet my friend still interceded before I even had a chance to respond.
As I look back, I see God’s hands, His protection, around me. I had friends who looked out for me even though some of them were making bad decisions themselves.
Some of you share stories like these in your own lives, I’m sure. Stories where you wonder how you made it through a significant happening in your life. Where it could have all fallen apart, yet somehow stayed together.
For me, it wasn’t until I understood more about the story of Jesus Christ and what his life, death and resurrection mean personally to me that I was able to look back and figure this out. To see in my past how I was being cared for. How in those dark moments God responded to my simple little prayers, even though I had no understanding. Even though I walked a lonely road feeling completely alone and like no one understood what I was going through… I see that I wasn’t.
If you are missing God’s presence in your life, I encourage you to get to know Jesus Christ more. I invite you to learn more about Jesus, his life, his death, and the resurrection of Easter morning. His life is a gift. His life opens up new understandings about the world around us, and he wants to walk with us as we make the journey. He wants us to know him, and we can see that through the example of Cleopas and his companion, we first need to know where Jesus came from before we can fully see him.
I’m reminded of the poem by Mary Stevenson, which some of you may be familiar with. It’s a well known poem that shows up in all sorts of places.
Footprints in the Sand
One night I had a dream–
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
“I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
“When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
May the Lord walk with each and every one of us, and in times of need, let us remember to let Him carry us for we cannot do it alone.