“Enough,” he says, “I’ve waited long enough. I’m heading home.”
Rising, he turns to his companion. “Are you coming with me?” he asks.
She shrugs her shoulders and gets up. What else is there to do? They’ve waited long enough. Three days, an empty tomb, rumors of angels claiming that the one they love lives, but still no sight of him. The tomb is empty. He should be here by now. And yet He’s not. They’ve waited long enough. It’s time to go.
And so they leave that locked-up, stuffy upper room and head down the road to Emmaus—two despairing hearts welled up with grief and fear and pent up pain.
They had hoped—oh how they had hoped—that He would be the one, the one to change the lop-sided world in which they lived; that He would be the one to throw off all those chains that bound them to a life of burdens they often couldn’t bear.
But now—but now He’s gone. Leaving them with only their hopes, a promise and an empty tomb—hardly enough to penetrate their gloom, hardly enough to keep them waiting in that upper room.
So down the road they walk. As they walk they remember what He said, what He did, what He promised, and maybe most of all how He treated them with dignity and with love. They remember how he lived that Reign of God he talked about so much. Sometimes it almost felt as if they were living it too.
Lost in their memories and in their conversation, they don’t see the stranger coming their way. They don’t see Him until he’s right there in their midst. And even then they don’t really see him at all. Their eyes are blinded by their dashed hopes and unfulfilled expectations. So focused on what they expect, they miss the risen Christ in front of their eyes.
I think Cleopas and his companion are not alone in that. Expectations too clearly drawn and too tightly held can keep you and me from seeing the risen Christ standing right before us. But the risen Christ isn’t that easy to shake. Like the stranger on that road to Emmaus, the risen Christ comes to us in different ways, in different shapes, at different times in our lives. Sometimes as a neighbor, sometimes as a friend, sometimes as a stranger, and sometimes a pesky co-worker or an annoying cousin.
Sometimes we meet him in a story told—a story that shifts our understanding of our world and our place in it; a story that helps us see our way out of a dilemma we thought we were stuck in; or maybe one that expands our horizons just a little.
Sometimes we meet him in a question asked. “Are you sure? Are you sure that’s how you want to play it?” someone says to us in one of those moments when we’re about to cut a cord of connectedness. In the question we meet the risen Christ Eastering us into a different way of living, into a different way of being in the moment.
Sometimes we meet him in an invitation offered. “Won’t you join me?” or “You’d be great at…” or “I hear they need some help…” Invitations to join the risen Christ in the work of Eastering the world in which we live.
Cleopas and his companion meet the risen Christ in their despondency and despair. Walking with them, He begins to Easter them into new life.
Eastering. As Cleopas and his companion can attest, it’s not a one-shot-only kind of thing. Eastering. For some of us it happens slowly over time. A brush with newness here. A glimpse of hope there. First stirrings of new life.
We get a whiff of Him and a sense of something changing in our lives.
And then the wine is poured, the bread is broken, a glass is raised, a loaf is shared. Gathered around the table we meet Him in the breaking of the bread.
In our best moments we, like Cleopas and his companion, rush off—off to join the Resurrection. Off to be the Resurrection bringing light and life and word of the living Christ to the dark corners of our world. Off to do the work of Eastering.
Eastering. It’s not something to put off until the just the right moment appears. Eastering. It’s not something we wait for. Eastering. It happens when we work for justice. It happens when we live with love. It happens when the passion for God’s reign burns white-hot in our hearts. Shall we be off to our work of Eastering?