Perhaps one of the most well known of the Resurrection appearances. Cleopas and the other disciple, fleeing from Jerusalem at the very first opportunity, suddenly meet a stranger who enters into conversation with them and opens out their shattered and depressed minds to new possibilities. Together, they reflect on the scriptures, they console and encourage each other and then, in the breaking of the bread, they encounter their Risen Lord and in the strength of that, they turn round and immediately head back the 7 miles to the very place from which they had been escaping.
Three things always strike me about this story. Firstly, once again we come up against one simple phrase which, to me, sums up the whole story. ‘He made as if to go on’. As they come close to Emmaus, the place of safety and rest, the two disciples of the, as they think, dead Jesus show that his message has begun to take root in them. They pressed him to stay, they had, at least in a small way, understood the table fellowship, the hospitality of their master. What would have happened if they had not. If they had said goodbye and gone down into the town and left the stranger to walk along the high road and out of their lives. Two things perhaps, they would never have known that the Lord had risen and secondly, they therefore would not have gone back and encouraged their brothers and sisters. For the sake of a nail, a kingdom was lost !!
Small, seemingly insignificant actions, words and thoughts can have profound effects, far more far reaching than would be imagined when looking at the actual word or action. Cleopas and the other disciple, and I always wonder why one is named and one is not but I have no wise explanation, are enabled to be the catalyst for a rebirth in faith of the other disciples. That would not have happened, if they had not invited the stranger to stay. It’s good to remind ourselves of the effects our actions can have, maybe not as powerful as this one but then who are we to judge. We can’t see the full picture.
Secondly, although they had begun to imbibe his practical teaching about table fellowship and welcome they still had no understanding of everything else they had been told by him. Even when the women returned with the news of Resurrection they could not and would not understand it. They were still running away. It does not matter how much someone is told, it doesn’t matter how many facts are thrown down, or shown or shared. For something to be accepted it has to be understood at a deep level. For our experience of God to be real it has to be our experience, other people telling me what I ought to believe or should believe does not make me any more likely to believe it. This seems a very important thought when we are seeking to find ways of sharing faith and enabling other people to come to know Christ. Cleopas was not helped by being just given facts, his heart burned within him because the facts were being explained and opened out in a way that he could grasp. Thirdly, ‘yes it is true, the Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon’. Go on, search the Gospels, try and find this appearance to Simon. It isn’t there. We have no record, in any of the Gospels, of an individual appearance to Simon. I love this little fact. It doesn’t make me doubt or question it makes me rejoice. If they did not record this one, what other ones did they not record? Just as John says that he does not record everything the Lord said and did because all the books in the world could not hold it…and I love that hyperbole….so we evidently do not have all the Resurrection appearances. God is not controlled by us, we cannot ‘contain’ Him. He chose to enter fully into our condition and became a human being but He is also far above and beyond our little grasp. That is the Mystery of God for me; not what I don’t know about Him, because I’ll get to know all of that in His good time, no, for me, the Mystery of God is why He bothers with us in the first place. He is so far above, so fully beyond and yet has chosen to come so close and to remain so. It is the personal nature of this unrecorded appearance which makes my heart glow. Why did He do this? What did He say at this time to His thrice failed friend? Whatever it was, Peter became the Apostle, leader and preacher that Jesus always knew he would be and we hear his first sermon today.