13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 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?”
19 “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. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 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. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 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.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
One of the first classes I took in seminary was called Hermeneutics. If you are like me, you may be wondering what that word means. In fact, when I sat down at my desk and listen to the professor begin talking about the syllabus, I turned to a fellow student and whispered quietly, “What is Hermeneutics?” Fortunately, he was gracious and his response lacked any disapproval at my ignorance. “Biblical interpretation.” He replied. And with that, the systematic deconstruction of my faith began.
When I came to learn, I believed that the Bible was God’s Word and I still do. But, what I learned was that God didn’t just whisper in someone’s ear for them to pen everything they heard. God used the people, the time, the place, situations and cultures to deliver His message. The Bible became so much more alive than it had ever been. To be sure, I am a bigger fan of the Bible now than I have ever been.
It reminds me of the Emmaus road experience two of the disciples had. They had an understanding and certain expectations based on that understanding. Wasn’t Jesus supposed to rule like a King? Wasn’t he the Messiah who would bring order to Israel? Much of their hope was placed in what they knew and how they knew it. Jesus came to them and helped them see things from a different perspective. He reinterprets the Scriptures for them so they can see how God has been at work from the time of Moses until now. They had the big parts of the picture but were drawing a different conclusion.
When my son was younger, I would occasionally watch him play with Legos. Despite the loathing that came from stepping on them and the constant battle to put them in their proper place, they remain, pound for pound and dollar for dollar, the best, most used things we have ever purchased for him. He would take a new set out of the box and carefully follow the instructions. With little help from me or my wife, he would quickly create a scene from Star Wars or build a ship that looked like it really could fly in space! Interestingly though, he would soon tear that ship or scene apart. He would take pieces from that set and add them to others he already owned. He would make his own ships, his own scenes and in some ways, his own Lego world. Characters would cross over and genres would be mixed but it would all make sense. Think Chewbacca storming a medieval castle while riding a dragon who is dodging lasers shot by stormtroopers.
What he created was definitely Legos. However, the scenes, buildings, and ships were deconstructed to create something new, something he could call his own.
I think this is part of what is happening on the road to Emmaus. The disciples had a set of beliefs about Jesus and what was supposed to happen. And while those things were true, they weren’t the complete story. They had to be looked at in and through the lens of what God was doing in Jesus. He reveals to them a different way of looking at the Scriptures and the story God was weaving through the history of Israel. What they were left with was faith to be sure, but faith deconstructed. The things that they held on to were gone. When Jesus died, any hopes he would be King were destroyed. Any dreams they had of Rome being overthrown were crushed with every swing of the hammer that drove the nails that fixed Jesus to his cross. God was doing those things but in a new and more powerful way. It’s kind of like Legos in my son’s hands. They are still Legos but they look different.
Many of us hold tightly to things about our faith that can easily be questioned. For instance, people believe Jesus was white, or that he spoke English. Many believe he was God, but not really human, or human but not really God. Still, others believe things about the Scriptures or their church or pastor which simply aren’t true. Once questioned, fall apart like so many Legos. Or how about when circumstances don’t line up with what we know and believe about God. When you hear terrible news about a friend or a family member. Maybe this happens when you get a call from the doctor you never want to hear. It is really scary to have your faith shaken. It feels like your whole world is coming apart at the seams.
About half-way through my hermeneutics class, I was worried if I was even a Christian! Maybe you have been there. Maybe you have had reason to question things you’ve held dear about your faith. Suffice to say, God will often pull things apart in order to rebuild them. They become more beautiful, strong and somehow more our own, like my son’s Lego re-creations.
Those disciples on the road went from pain, confusion, and despair to racing back to Jerusalem, firm witnesses of the Resurrected Christ. Their faith was deconstructed and rebuilt in a matter of hours, most of us experience this process over the course of years. If you are in the midst of this process, rest assured. God is at work. He hasn’t, nor will He, ever leave you. He isn’t afraid of your questions or concerns. The discomfort will not last forever and who knows, you may even get used to it.
What part of the Emmaus road story do you identify with?
How might you have felt if you had witnessed what they had?
In what areas is your faith most challenged? How do you respond?
Read the Nicene Creed. What do you see as essentials to our faith? What isn’t addressed in that document?
Is there an area of your faith you can hold more loosely?