Luke 24:13-35 tells the story of the road to Emmaus:
“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing Him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas,asked Him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” He asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him; but we had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find His body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if He were going farther. But they urged Him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.
When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when He broke the bread.” (NIV).
It’s quite easy to put yourself in the shoes of Cleopas and his friend. The Scriptures tell us they were downcast. The two men referred to Jesus not as the Messiah, but as a prophet, and they referred to Him in the past tense as they described Him to Jesus. They’d lost all hope, they’d lost all faith, they couldn’t see what God was doing and they stopped believing He was who He said He was.
How many times have we become downcast and lost all hope? How many times have we missed seeing Jesus and forgotten his promises because we have no faith left? How many times have we been frustrated and depressed because we believe a lie the enemy tells us that maybe if God didn’t work things out exactly the way we had hoped and anticipated, He isn’t working at all and maybe, just maybe that means He isn’t who He says He is. I’m guilty of believing these lies and falling into the darkness, blinded to Him.
In the case of Cleopas and his friend, God kept them from seeing Jesus as who He was. I find this so confirming and interesting. Many times during His ministry, Jesus healed the blind. It was their faith that made them well and opened their eyes. Spiritually we need that same faith to open the eyes of our hearts so we can see Him today and see how He is working in our lives even when it’s not the way we expect.
Jesus referred to Himself as the Light of the World many times during His ministry. Without Him, we walk in darkness where we cannot see. It is our faith and hope in the Living God that invites Him into our lives to illuminate the path we are walking, to see Him at work in our lives.
Cleopas and his friend received spiritual sight in an intimate setting with Jesus, where He broke bread which is now a sacred, symbolic act of thanksgiving and remembrance to our Lord - Holy Communion. Despite their downcast spirits, their hopeless hearts, and being in the thick of a dark period of grieving as they mourned the death of Jesus, they invited Him in.
Dear friends, I encourage you today to invite Him in. Even if you are having a hard time believing, even if your faith and hope are gone and you are stumbling in the dark, invite Him in. Worship anyway. Take communion during your quiet time with Him while you read the Bible to remind yourself who He is, what He’s done and that He is victorious above all sin, darkness, disease, death, and the enemy. Remind your soul who He is and allow Him to illuminate all of the dark places in your circumstances, or into the dark circumstances of the world. With a looming election, a pandemic, and many other national and global events that seem to put more at stake than ever before in our broken world, remind your spirit that He is still working. It may not be the way you hope, or the way you expect. Your faith may be weak and your hope may be broken, but remind your soul. David pleaded with his soul many times in the Psalms, commanding it to believe, to worship, and to have faith. We can do that too, and we must. There is no other way to navigate our way through this journey we are on in life (one the road to Emmaus symbolized), but by the Light of the World.
I have recently had conversations with a few different people and they’ve all expressed to me that the healing process is an impatient one. They’ve let me know that they wish they could fast-forward to the part where they are whole and the best version of themselves. I empathize so greatly with that feeling it moves me to tears. There have been many trials in my life where I’ve clung tightly to that very thought. Then Jesus reminds me that He used metaphors like Gardener and Potter for the Father for a reason.
Healing is a process. Physical healing is normally the easiest to be patient for, excluding some cases, because although you might be held back by broken bones, illness or pain, you can typically see the progress with your own eyes. It’s rare that you regress. But spiritual and emotional healing, that’s where the impatience can grow. That’s where our faith is forged in fire.
A few years ago, during a very, very low valley season in my life, I was struggling with a lot of intense anxiety about certain things going on at the time and had long forgotten what peace felt like. Without going into too much detail, every day felt like I was imprisoned by fear. One night I cried out to the Father, I remember just being able to say under my breath, “I just don’t want this anymore. Please take this burden from me, I can’t live like this anymore.”
Once I’d surrendered to Him, once I’d moved my focus from my fear to Him, the healing began, and it was slow. Some days felt better, others it felt like I’d been climbing a mountain and doing SO great, and then I’d slip on a loose rock and go back to where I’d started. Sometimes the idea of a life where I didn’t daily have to fight past my fears and doubts and could just wake up happy and at peace seemed utterly impossible, and I’d forget that my hope was in God, the Maker of heaven and earth and I’d mourn for a version of myself I thought I’d never be able to achieve. Some days it felt like maybe those good days were an anomaly and He hadn’t heard my prayer at all.
But little by little, I began to realize that I was changing. Days that I stumbled didn’t seem so severe because my hope began to grow, and it occurred to me that He was replacing my fear and worry and sadness with joy and my faith in Him and His ability to remain victorious over fear, something He’d long since defeated, was becoming unshakable. I was being shaped and molded. My heart, cracked and gnarled by the world, was being repaired. I was being made fit for a life and a purpose and a Kingdom that I’d been created for.
I remember one day not long after I realized that, during my prayer time, that I just thanked God. “Lord, it’s such a joy to be healed by you. It’s such a lovely journey to walk with you, this healing another gift from you that I’ve done nothing to deserve.” What a personal God we serve, what a good, good Father we have. Healing is unique to each of us and then furthermore, to each of our ailments and situations. It’s something He spends time on in His great love. It’s another benefit we reap from the cross. It’s an honor to be made into a vessel holy, useful, and ready for every good work (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (ESV). 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
In the trials, in the thick of the healing, it will be difficult to remember these things. It will be difficult on the toughest days to keep the faith, to hold on to the hope we have in Christ, but I encourage you to try anyway. Even if you don’t feel it, even if you don’t quite believe it, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re in the middle of being healed, hold tight to what is true.
In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”