Encounters with Christ

Luke 24:13-35

If you had to title these days after Easter its all about recognizing encounters with Christ. Today takes us on the Emmaus road with two disciples who are only named in Luke. We only are given the name of one Cleopas and the other remains anonymous. This is to draw us into the story, where any one of us could be the disciple walking along this road. So why does the writer draw us there?

Everyone in their walk in life has encountered a time where, like these disciples, they have lost hope. It is the response they give to the stranger, "We had hoped he was the Messiah". This community had hoped for Israel, Jerusalem to be saved once again from an oppressive power, this time from Rome. It didn't work out this way and their hope is gone. Now that our hope is gone how do we live?

So the stranger starts telling how from Moses and through the prophets this was meant to be. I wonder what scriptures Jesus chose o highlight this. Does he take them to all the places where hope is lost: the Red Sea and Pharaohs army is breathing down the Hebrews neck, or their hunger and thirst in the wilderness, or maybe Jeremiah and all the forecasts of Israel's demise and captivity, or maybe Isaiah's servant songs, or even a Psalm in which the writer encounters all hope is gone, there is only the pit or the grave. It would be an interesting conversation to be able to listen to, we are led to put our own imaginings into this though.

I'm reading a book by Peter Rollins called Insurrection: To Believe is Human To Doubt, Divine. In it he speaks about how we as the church don't offer enough opportunities to encounter the Cross. This area where all hope is lost and all we see is nothing yawning in front of us. He claims we offer hope too soon, encounter Easter too soon. Sure we might talk about it but we don't allow people to struggle there. We too quickly offer words of assurance and bring people out of standing there. I don't know where this argument will end with him, it will be interesting to see.

The disciples are caught up in this loss of hope today. We all encounter times of lost hope. Its one of the things people talk about when they either come back to the church or go away from the church. I am facing whatever problem it is and I know I need prayer,  to come back to church. They are ultimately looking for commit support, just as the disciples go back to Jerusalem that same day, to go and share with the community. In cases where people leave they are not offered the words to enter the struggle they are facing. This is why I suggest we truly think about the scriptures this stranger shares. Too often our words of comfort at critical times are meant to sooth us and not enter into the journey the person who has lost hope is on. Here the stranger comes alongside and travels with these disciples. He meets them not in denial of their experience, but in support of their experience.

Jesus becomes known to them because this encounter has been a mutual exchange and not just a one sided offer of comfort. Jesus is known in the breaking of the bread because he acknowledges their brokenness in the light of all which has happened. In their disappointment, their loss, their fear, and their fractured hope. Jesus is known and it is all that matters. They run back all the seven miles to Jerusalem to announce their encounter with everyone else. The breaking of the bread acknowledges all those times our life is broken, when we've lost hope. It allows us the space to be present to the hard journey of life and not offer up simple solutions. We must acknowledge we have all been broken, but where is it we have seen Christ? Is it in feeling a comfort, in being companioned with, in our own heart, in the watchful beauty of peace, or just in the simple glory of nature.

There is a balm in Gilead, there is a place where we can encounter Christ. The thing about Easter is becoming attuned to where this may be. Where is your encounter and are you aware of it?