They want to leave it all behind; take the road out of it all. So, the two men depart from the hills of Jerusalem to get away from all the reminders of a heartrending crucifixion on the hill of Golgotha. Just as the road slopes down from Jerusalem, so their souls now slope down, reeling from dashed hopes of an empty tomb.
With the Sabbath now past, the two men somberly amble their way to the village of Emmaus, just a little more than seven miles away.
One would think that the crisp, clear sky, the warm afternoon sun, and the aroma of spring buds in the air would revive their souls. Not so.
In their attempt to leave behind the pain and disappointment, they find they yet carry the heartache with them: the lashings of punishment strike at their emotions; the nails of hatred pierce their hearts; the thorns of a mocking crown penetrate their thoughts.
Numb from it all, Cleopas and his friend stroll along the way discussing the dreadful events of the past few days and try to make sense of it all.
“Passover will never be the same. No Passover lamb can ever be eaten with the same savor; the herbs will be more bitter; and the bread, oh, the bread of brokenness.”
A stranger comes from behind to join them and interrupts their conversation. “You seem to be in a deep discussion with such mournful expressions. What concerns you so?”
They abruptly stop. A look of bewilderment blankets their faces.
“Are you a stranger in Jerusalem? Do you not know the things that happened there these last three days?” asks Cleopas.
“What things? What has happened?”
As they walk, the two men recall to the stranger all the anguish: the judgment, the whipping, and the crucifixion of an innocent man named Jesus.
Cleopas says, “We thought He was the glorious Messiah come to rescue Israel.”
The other man says, “Some women from our group of His followers were at His tomb early this morning and rushed to tell us that His body was gone; the tomb was empty! And they also saw angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and, indeed, Jesus’ body was gone, just as the women said.”
“Do you not understand?” the man asks them. “Are you so slow to believe what the prophets wrote in the Scriptures? Didn’t they predict that the Messiah would have to suffer these things before He entered His time of glory?”
The stranger attempts to rekindle their embered hopes by quoting them the prophets, starting with the book of Genesis and going through the Scriptures, explaining what they meant.
Listening so intently to what the stranger says, the men do not realize they have reached the outskirts of Emmaus. The man acts as if he is going on but they beg him to stay.
“Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.”
Agreeing to go with them, he joins them as they head toward their lodging place. As they sit down at the table for their meal, the man takes the bread, blesses it and breaks it, giving a portion to each one.
Suddenly, the veil of obscurity vanishes from their eyes and they recognize him! It is Jesus Himself! And at that moment, He disappears from their sight.
“It was Jesus! It was Jesus!” they both shout.
So exhilarated, they begin to remind each other of their Emmaus walk, “Didn’t our hearts burn as He talked with us along the way and opened up the Scriptures for us?” Grasping it all, their hearts blaze again with the Emmaus heartburn.
And so it is with us as we travel the road of life and leave behind the pain, not only of the past at the foot of the cross but also of the tomb emptied of hopes and dreams, for our hearts cannot stay at the site of death and resurrection.
We must take that daily, life-road walk, and, as we do, we find Jesus walking with us in fellowship every step of the way.
As we walk with Him, talk with Him, invite Him to be our guest, and spend time with Him, sharing the Bread of the Word, the true unveiling comes, and, we have a celebration of revelation.
May your heart be set ablaze with His presence, as an Emmaus heartburn.