Gotta love Mondays. Most people hate ’em, but for me its my day off: the day where I get to indulge myself in mindless activities without a shred of guilt… camping out at Starbucks early morning for some recreational reading, going out to breakfast, going running, writing a blog like this one, hiking, watching movies, having a late night campfire and a celebratory cigar. Its a day of rest, of checking out from productivity and progress and simply enjoying life.
This morning I was reminded of an incredible moment in the New Testament. William Barclay calls this “one of the immortal short stories of the world.” Its the story of the two men at the end of the Gospel of Luke in the Bible who were walking away from Jerusalem disappointed because Jesus had just been crucified and they “had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” They are bewildered… disillusioned… giving up…walking away from Jerusalem after Jesus died, back towards their home in Emmaus, a town outside of the city. All of a sudden, a stranger walks up beside them on the road and asks them what they are talking about.
At first the presence of the stranger seems an annoying interruption to the welcomed isolation of their disappointment and gloom, but as he begins talking to them, they are encouraged and their hearts are lifted.
Something about what the stranger says moves them. Something within them quickens, and as the sun is setting they invite him in to talk more of the matter. Interestingly enough, its during the breaking of bread that their eyes are opened, and they realize that the stranger is the resurrected and risen Jesus himself who has been walking alongside them the whole time. Mysteriously, the stranger “vanishes” from their sight. I love their response: they immediately get up and head back to Jerusalem to tell of what has happened.
I have to wonder about this story: why did Jesus wait until the end to reveal himself? Why did he let them walk along that sunset road to Emmaus in their sorrow and disappointment? Why didn’t he show them it was he right at the beginning? I think that’s what I find so beautiful in this story is the age-old truth that God’s greatest appointments with us are in the disappointments of our lives. To coddle our journey through those times with the unbridled gift of his presence would be to rob us of the potential faith it will produce … the very sunset of his absence makes possible the sunrise of a knowledge of his presence even when we don’t feel it.
Truth be told, a lot of times I find myself walking along a sunset road … filled with sorrow, disillusionment, a sadness. Sometimes life happens in ways that leaves me frustrated, hurt, and resigned, and I find myself walking away from community, from my beliefs, from hope, towards the sunset. Sometimes its merely my disposition to over-analyze life and assume the worst of people’s intentions feeling as if the whole world is against me. This morning my eyes are opened to the reality that as a follower of Jesus I don’t walk towards a sunset… I walk towards a sunrise… a new beginning, a new hope, a new start, and a new life.
Not sure if any of this resonates with you, but its my hope that if you find yourself walking along the sunset road of bewilderment and shattered expectations you’ll be alert and aware because you might look back on it one day as a time of radical transformation and a time where Jesus was indeed walking with you and you didn’t know it. The sunrise awaits.