These days I have chosen, what would have been considered in my younger years a rather sedate form of exercise, I walk… in the summer, I bike. Two weeks ago my brother did what he has done for many years—he hitched his two German Shepherds to the front of his bicycle and they began pulling him all over the nearby country roads near his home like Alaskan sled dogs. Unfortunately after doing this safely for many years, on this particular dreadful day—one of his shepherds unexpectedly ran back toward the bike—long story short—my brother hit his own dog head on and went airborne. Now two surgeries on a badly broken leg his outlook is somewhat uncertain. Please join me in prayer for his recovery. I admit that one of the attractions to walking has been its relative safety given all the injuries I have had in my competitive younger years. One of the top ten purchases of my life—no exaggeration—has been a wonderful devise called a Fitbit. With this device I now track my total steps, total calories burned, daily resting heart rate, and even the quality of my sleep. You may say the Fitbit has become a tool to help me take better care of myself.
During these days of increased social isolation my sanity has come in large measure in two ways—long walks and much reading—reading of all sorts and even some of philosophical nature—even from the pen of one existentialist otherwise known for his dark cynical view of life, Albert Camus, who wrote words of biblical proportion “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Most recently I have found myself longing for a summer of the soul and of the body—a summer that is free from Pandemic threat—free from the traces of winter—and free from disillusioning silences.
To the two Disciples on the dusty Road toward Emmaus there is profound discouragement and disillusionment. The worst possible thing has happened—the death of Jesus the Messiah on Good Friday. A fog has settled. For Cleopas, whose name we never see again in the New Testament, and his companion, whose name we never learn, the worst possible thing has happened—the loss of their faith and the end of their hopes. Now we find them on a journey walking to the village of Emmaus. I can imagine the kind of walk they had. In taking time to walk, maybe they had time to clear their heads—time to process what they had witnessed in the betrayal and brutal crucifixion of Jesus. They were longing for their own “invincible summer.”
When your mind is spinning, when too many things have happened and feelings are stirred up, putting one foot in front of another and walking can truly help. Sometimes it’s best to walk by yourself, to clear your mind, to delve into your heart, to let your soul speak its truth to God, or listen for God’s truth. They are prayer walks—conversation walks—with the Almighty—seeking peace and sense amidst the perplexing—sometimes simply enjoying the “invincible feeling of summer.” Sometimes it helps to walk with a companion, to share animated conversation, to sort out fact from feeling, understanding amidst confusion. It doesn’t matter where you’re headed, it just helps to walk. Some of my most valuable times with close friends have included walking and talking. I lead my best childhood friend to faith in Christ while on a three day backpacking trip of walking and talking—until that serendipitous moment when his heart burned—and the Gospel was embraced.
Two disciples have decided to go for a walk on that very first Easter afternoon. So much to internalize. Only a week before that they had cheered and celebrated, joining the crowd in waving palm branches and rolling out the carpet for Jesus, their king? Such a hopeful time! It seemed at last that the whole world would recognize that Jesus was the Messiah sent from God to save their people. The oppression of living under Roman rule would finally be over. Christ would become a King, but instead, they had watched as their Messiah, along with their hopes were nailed to a Roman cross. A symbol of utter humiliation and defeat, especially with the soldiers gathered around sneering and gambling to see which one of them would walk away with his clothes. What kind of a Messiah would let himself be treated like that? He’d been a wonderful preacher, an amazing healer, an insightful friend, but a Messiah? They’d heard rumors that there was more to the story. Some women had been to the tomb that morning and said it was empty, said they’d seen a vision of angels saying he was alive. Some even claimed to have seen Jesus, alive, but it was hearsay.
These were the kinds of things the two talked about as they walked along the road. It was the road of broken dreams. It was, in all likelihood, the road back home. The road everyone has walked at one time or another, a waiving of the white flag coupled with expressions of defeat and exasperation. It is the road you walk when your team has lost, your candidate is defeated, your loved one has died–the long road back to the empty house, to unopened mail, to life as usual, if life can ever be usual again. Most of us will know this sort of walk in our lifetimes—for the millions impacted by Corona directly and indirectly—it’s been a long walk full of questions and angst. Many Known Unknowns!
These two, who had so recently followed Jesus are now walking away from what had been sustaining their lives. They are disciples, but not in the inner circle. The inner circle stayed in Jerusalem hunkered down in an upper room. Caught in the wreckage of hope and raw disappointment they witnessed the crown of thorns, the jeering crowds the face of evil—their King, their Messiah hung between common thieves. With Jesus’ crucifixion is the crucifixion of their own hope.
THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD TRUST JESUS, but then came the cross. How fragile is human trust—difficult to earn—easy to lose. To be disappointed with God to not trust God, is a different level of despair. To feel that God cannot be counted on to make sense of life. Have you ever been there? On this disheartened journey a stranger began walking and talking with them. And this turns out to be the most detailed record of any of the post-resurrection appearances of Christ. And notice it does not involve Mary, Peter, or any of the well-known disciples. It involves two unknowns – two travelers never mentioned before. It’s just like Jesus to come to the meekest and the weakest. Paul says…”But God chooses the weak and obscure things to shame the strong.” As they are walking eventually the Stranger asks…”What are you discussing?” / “Why the things about Jesus! The Powerful prophet who was to redeem the nation…Haven’t you heard what happened…haven’t you heard of Calvary.”
Imagine the scene, the irony is ludicrous. “They were kept from recognizing.” But Jesus begins to confront them with the truth—that the Christ would need to suffer before His glory. That sacrifice would precede triumph. And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, “ he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Vs. 27
Jesus walks alongside these weary sojourners. What a great example to us on dealing with persons steeped in bewilderment and disbelief. There’s a timeless expression “You will never understand a man until you walk a mile in his shoes—and see the world through his eyes.” Jesus walked alongside. And at the right moment after hearing and understanding, after walking and listening he reveals the things of God to them.
It’s a model in our journey with the hurting. We walk alongside—and we listen—and then we speak. It’s only as we walk and listen that we are welcomed. And it’s at those moments we must be equipped in the truth of Biblical wisdom. Jesus did this so effectively that at the end of the day those battle worn travelers begged him to stay. Does my light shine so brightly that someone in my life would beg me to stay and keep speaking?
Jesus, beginning with Moses and the Prophets, expounded on the Scripture about himself. One of the most powerful evidences to the person and mission of Jesus Christ is revealed in the OT Scriptures. Jesus is saying to the weary traveler—You think God has disappointed you, but you are dead wrong – Search the scriptures – because what looks like defeat, an Old Rugged Cross, is God’s perfect plan. His plan for redemption, His plan to extend mercy toward a wayward creation.
Search the Scriptures, the stranger says and you would know that no grave could ever hold Messiah prisoner. And what Jesus says to those dusty travelers he says to us even in these Days. Search the Scriptures and you will know the nature and character of God – you will know how your soul can prosper – you will have everyday guidance – words of eternal consequence – of mercy and hope. Search the Scriptures for an accounting of God’s dealing with all humanity past, present, and future. Search the Scriptures! He told me to tell you!
Pastor Robert Zimmerman