Walk with me. I need to get away. Let’s go to Emmaus. Two friends go walking. Talking their grief, their expectations dashed, dreams shattered. Talking of Jesus, their friend and their hope for the future, now betrayed, executed and buried. They talk of deepening disorientation: the body missing, people supposedly seeing angels. Two friends go walking, raising questions, discussing distress, sharing sorrow and confusion.
Resurrection comes amid the deep loss that plunges us into darkness, when life hurts and makes no sense. When we are bent under the weight heavy hearts, when lips tremble and tears flow. When we call a friend and say: Let’s go to Emmaus. I need to get away. Walk with me.
As the two friends are walking, while talking and discussing, “Jesus himself came near and went with them.” They don’t recognize him. He adds to the confusion, seemingly far removed from their situation. He says: “What are you talking about? What just happened?” Then he takes the lead. “Let me tell you about the Messiah. Let’s go back and I’ll show how he fits into God’s big story, show you the why of what just happened.”
As a stranger, Jesus draws near, connects the dots, and kindles their hearts. Resurrection confuses us at first. Not with bright lights or heroic appearance but with confusing strangers. Not with quick fixes or easy answers. Instead, by offering welcome and companionship our souls’ faint embers are gently fanned into flame.
Jesus comes and walks with us where we are, walks amid challenges and grief, amid darkness and despair: with Mary as she visits the tomb, with a community gathered behind locked doors, with a group out fishing. And for these two friends, Jesus comes and walks with them. The simplicity surprises us, not as special as we expect. Resurrection comes amid our ordinary, everyday lives, amid difficult emotions, perplexing questions, as we walk, as we eat.
As Frederick Buechner put it: “Jesus is apt to come into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable moments. … He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.” (1)
Jesus comes to us as we are, walking with us amid questions about death and darkness, loss and limits, questions about pain and wounds, fear and imperfection, questions about what just happened and how will we continue, questions about childhood and parenting, health and disease, work and money, growing up and growing together. In these very real questions of life, Jesus comes near and walks with us.
Two friends go walking. A stranger draws near and then lead the conversation, teaches them. The friends convince the stranger to stay with them as their guest. At table together, as bread is broken, we see the great reversal revealed. The stranger is Jesus. The guest is actually the host.
In death’s shadow when God seems most distant, our deepest, perhaps unspoken desire is Jesus’ companionship. In the words of the traditional spiritual we will sing this morning: I want Jesus to walk with me. When we go on long walks and when we stand still looking sad, in our pilgrim journeys and when the shades of life are falling, our soul cries out: I want Jesus to walk with me. In our sorrows and when our hearts are aching, we plea: I want Jesus to walk with me.
Jesus answers us by reversing the question. Jesus says: Walk with me. I’m already here. Jesus is in strangers on the road, in new neighbors and colleagues, in people who show up in our lives, and in guests we invite to supper. Jesus is with us on the road. By welcoming strangers, we find our souls gently kindled into flame, our hearts burning again with life.
Resurrection comes with the question reversed. Jesus is here inviting: Walk with me.
- Frederick Buechner (1966) The Magnificent Defeat. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
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