It’s good to be here this evening. In the light of what happened in these last few days, my travelling companion Cleopas and I felt it imperative that we come and tell you about our incredible experiences. Cleopas has gone to Elstead, so I’ve come to Farnham tonight to speak to you.
Cleopas and I were travelling towards Emmaus a couple of Sundays ago, and had to travel through Jerusalem. We’d heard of all that had happened in Jerusalem a few days before: Jesus of Nazareth had been arrested, tried, crucified by the Romans with all the other rebels, and was dead and buried. While we were in Jerusalem we heard rumours that some people there had seen him after he’d been buried, but Cleopas and I didn’t think there could be any truth in that.
While we were in Jerusalem we talked to people and heard their stories of these events, and we couldn’t help but feel that hope had died on the cross with Jesus. We’d expected the messiah to be a powerful military force who could once-and-for-all end the oppression of the Romans. Where was the God who had wiped out entire enemies? What was to become of his people? The situation had seemed so promising as we’d listened to Jesus preach and teach, and seen him heal and perform miracles, so full of hope, and now it all seemed hopeless. Just hopeless.
So, once the heat of the sun was cooling off, we set out from Jerusalem, feeling pretty miserable, making our way towards Emmaus. As we walked, Cleopas and I couldn’t help but comment on how rutted and bumpy the road seemed – much like your roads around here, only dustier. Perhaps our sense of hopelessness made it seem more treacherous than it actually was, but each stone we stepped on seemed like a needle going through the bottom of our sandals. A few miles outside Jerusalem, we entered a section of road where sheer rock on both sides formed a narrow passageway. As we came out the other side of this narrow section, we noticed a stranger walking directly behind us. We hadn’t seen him before, and we couldn’t work out how on earth he could have got down the side of the passage: even a mountain goat wouldn’t have climbed those rocks!
And as we walked along, the stranger struck up a conversation, and asked us what we were talking about. We were rather surprised he hadn’t heard – everyone in Jerusalem knew! We asked him, somewhat incredulously, if he hadn’t heard of everything that had gone on in Jerusalem? I wondered what cave he’d been living in, not to have heard of all these incredible and disturbing events. As we walked on this stranger began to speak about the scriptures, and he told us what the prophets had predicted, and of the wisdom writings.
We finally reached the fork in the road where part of it headed north towards Emmaus. Where the road forked stood an inn, which offered food and lodging to weary travellers. We were tired, and wanted to rest and eat. As a gesture of hospitality, we asked the stranger to join us, and have something to eat. The three of us entered the dimly lit inn, and sat at a secluded table in the corner. After we’d placed our order, the serving woman brought us a loaf of freshly baked bread. It was still warm from the oven, and the wonderful aroma began to perk us up. Then the most incredible thing happened. The stranger picked up the loaf of bread, blessed it, and then broke it in half. It was then that we recognised who this stranger was: it was Jesus of Nazareth sitting with us, sitting at our table!
I sat there, simply stunned. Stunned. Jesus had died and was buried, and here he was at our table, breaking bread with us. I recalled Jesus using the same motions and words when he instructed his disciples to feed the crowds with the loaves and fishes. There was no doubt that this stranger was Jesus, truly alive. I watched as Jesus ate now, consuming his meal as normally as Cleopas and I were doing. Yet as we ate we saw that Jesus’s body was changing. It was disappearing as if into thin air. We sat and looked at each other without uttering a word. It was then that we knew that we’d witnessed exactly what the others in Jerusalem had been talking about: Jesus really had risen from the dead!
We paid our bill and left without finishing our meal. We rushed back to Jerusalem, to tell the others what we’d just seen. Jesus was alive! After that, Cleopas and I decided to tell as many people as we could, and that’s why I’ve come to you tonight.