When Hope Blinds
Perhaps like me, you find it easy to let God know what He ought to be up to in your life. We easily develop these rather pre-determined plans that dictate how He engages our lives, the lives of those around us, and in many cases, the whole world.
In that sense, we’re no different than most first-century Jewish people. As N.T. Wright suggests in Simply Christian, “the last thing they imagined was that this kingdom bringer, this Jesus they were coming to believe might be God’s Messiah, would actually die at the hands of the pagan occupying forces.” (Page 39) But in fact he did. And Cleopas and his friend, journeying to Emmaus, are in the depths of the kind of depression that breaks into life when we realize God has His own plan, and it isn’t ours. (Luke 24:13-35)
We shouldn’t be surprised that they are forlorn as step by slower step they make their way out of Jerusalem. After all, some thirty or so years later, Paul will remind the Corinthians “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins . . . we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19) In the same way they had no idea of God’s Messiah dying, the idea of resurrection was not within their range of expectations from God.
Misdirected hopes inevitably find themselves crashing up against the signs of evil that surround us. Cleopas and his friend hoped – but in a misdirected way – that Jesus was Messiah, only to witness his death on what surely is the world’s greatest symbol of evil – Roman crucifixion. They are astounded that this traveler from Jerusalem hasn’t heard the awful news.
But Jesus is all about redirecting hope. For Him, hope was not in a kind of righteousness born out of law, nor in the annual sacrifice of an unblemished lamb. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world has now been sacrificed and hope is born anew in the coming of the kingdom of God.
Finally in Emmaus, they insist that this stranger dine with them. In the breaking of bread, the blindness of misdirected hope becomes the burning desire of their hearts. Epiphany! They have – all along, but unknowingly – walked that dreary journey in the presence of the risen Lord. Unbeknownst to them, the issue isn’t that Jesus didn’t know the story out of Jerusalem, He was the story!
Unable to contain their joy, epiphany compels them back to Jerusalem where they will meet up with the eleven, who tell them “The Lord has appeared to Simon!” I can only imagine that they might have introduced their story with “Wait until you hear . . .” They told their story – and pointedly say that “Jesus was known to them in the breaking of bread.” Little wonder that in the early church, believers devoted themselves to “the breaking of bread” among other things. Epiphany. Scales fall away from our eyes. Hope, no longer misdirected, blinds us no more and sets our hearts on fire.
What was once “the world’s greatest symbol of evil” is transformed into testimony about God’s love. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) For these two weary sojourners to Emmaus, that testimony became real in the breaking of bread.
Today is Easter Sunday. We celebrate resurrection. May our Lord become real to each of us in the breaking of bread.
-Wye Huxford, Vice President of Spiritual Formation
O Lord, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus our Savior, may He set our hearts on fire as we share that story with the world around us. Let us break bread together in His name. Amen.