We had travelled that road many times – too many to remember. I knew it so well that I could devote all of my attention and what little energy I had, to the conversation with my friend as we walked along. My feet knew the way to Emmaus. So fatigued and engrossed was I in trying to work out, through our chatter, what possible purpose the wasting of such a life just a few days ago could possibly have, I didn’t even notice the other person who gradually came up beside us, also heading the same way on the road. Normally I might have stopped, greeted him, and invited him to walk with us, but I was simply too overwhelmed, and focussed on my own grief and pain, that I didn’t have the energy or presence of mind to do so. It wasn’t long, though, before he took the initiative and asked us about our conversation? He seemed both oblivious to, yet also interested in, the devastating details of what had happened and what was lost as a result – everything we thought we were living for this last while! He continued to press us for more information and greater explanations behind our thoughts and feelings. Then all of a sudden he began to challenge us to see everything from a different perspective. He brought to mind scriptural truth we had long forgotten or cast aside. He began to assemble the events of the last week and explain them in a whole new way. By the time we reached Emmaus I was completely drawn in by this stranger. We had no idea who he was and yet he seemed to be able to speak wisdom, truth and particularly, hope, right into our souls. We were actually sorry that we had reached the village and it looked like our time together was about to end, but we managed to convince him to have dinner with us. When the food was put before us, he simply picked up the bread, said a blessing, broke the loaf and began passing it to us. And suddenly … he was gone. And just as suddenly … we knew who he was!
The road to Emmaus led the disciples to a destination, but not the one they expected.
The road to Emmaus, as told in Luke 24:13-32, led the disciples to a destination, but not the one they expected. Pathways, rivers and roads, by their very nature, present themselves as having the potential to deliver us to a destination. They seem to point the way to some other place where we might wish to go. But of course, they are simply passive, “rights-of-way” to many destinations. Pathways and roads exist because previous travellers laboured to construct and maintain them – in order to enable other travellers to reach the same destination they did. Rivers come about more naturally, but they don’t initiate a meaningful connection to particular locations. Again, it is previous travellers who have stopped to build overnight campsites, homesteads and eventually villages and towns along the river’s shores that give the river meaningful destinations for others to travel to.
Jesus Christ is the one human being who has pushed humanity’s path beyond death. He is the only One who forged a path through death to eternity that is suitable for every one of us.
It has always been people who create a “way” – a route – a means to reach a destination – by the way in which they employ their lives. So in one sense, when Jesus said, “I am the way …” on one level he was saying something analogous to anyone giving an invitation: “Follow me. I will take you to the place you wish to go.” But the huge difference in his case, is that he was able to gather all of the worthwhile human journeys together into his one Person and offer the “best path” for every single human being who has ever lived or will live. The one thing that all human paths ultimately have in common is death – eventually every path that each one of us takes will lead there. But Jesus Christ is the one human being who has pushed humanity’s path, or river, or road, beyond death. He is the only One who forged a path through death to eternity that is suitable for every one of us.
So it is not simply a philosophical truth when he claims, “I am the way …” The Risen Christ is indeed the One who makes all of our paths holy by his presence, who takes all of our wanderings and lost ways, and brings us back “out of the bush” and onto the right path.
The promise of Easter is the gift of a Companion who will lead us to the fullness of life in this world and then through death to the life with our God that never ends.
The promise of Easter is not a new philosophy, a new principle to live by, or a new secret to a more successful life. It is not yet another road to some elusive destination. It is the gift of a Companion who, regardless of what road we’re found to be on, will lead us to the fullness of life in this world and then through death to the life with our God that never ends.