The lectionary reading for April 26, 2020, was Luke 24:13-35. It is a very familiar story for Christians, a story about two persons traveling to their hometown, Emmaus, from Jerusalem, when they encounter a stranger who joins them. I guess because the story is about traveling, it made me think about journeys, which led to thinking about how the entire Bible is one great journey of faith, from the election of a people called Israel to the anointed one, or Messiah, who came to represent Israel, redeeming them all the nations, and us too through his death and resurrection. And how Christian folk gathered as the church continues that journey.
As we know from reading the Bible, the journey of faith does not always go well, mostly due to the failure of Israel to be faithful to their God and lack of trust in God’s will. So the journey is often through difficult times, like the wandering of Israel led by Moses through the wilderness for forty years. (By the way, did you know that the root word of quarantine means “forty”?) And we know that from the story life has not gone well for Cleopas and his companion. Their hope of a savior for Israel had just died a cruel death on the Roman cross. And now his body has gone missing from the grave.
This led me to think of our own current journey as people of faith. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and greatly inconvenienced our lives. For many, of course, it has been more than an inconvenience. Many have become very sick, and many died horrible deaths. A cloud of unknowingness, despair, and hopelessness has settled upon us.
All of the above lead back to the arrival of the stranger in the midst. Luke tells us the stranger is Jesus. His identity is hidden from the two confused and frightened travelers. They catch Jesus up on the events of the past few days, then Jesus rebukes them. And gives them a Bible study about the Messiah. It is only when Jesus breaks bread at the supper table that they recognize Jesus as the Risen Messiah. So of course, they must rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others.
Back to our times, in the midst of our current woes and troubles around COVID-19, can’t this story of Jesus being with us still be true for us? After isn’t he the Risen Christ? Think for a moment over the past six or eight weeks of how you might have your heart warmed by opening your Bible or have a family member or friend, or even a stranger shine light into a dark moment of your life. If so, I invite you now to pray that God opens your eyes to Jesus’ presence in the Spirit in your life.