A few years ago, in France, an interesting idea contest drew people’s attention. This contest asked people just one question: What is the most effective way to go fast through heavy traffic? Many nonsensical ideas were shared. “Call a helicopter.” “Leave your car and just run.” “Wear your Ironman suit.” “Stay home until the traffic jam disappears.” But the idea that won the first prize in this contest was this. “Go with someone you love.”
What do you think about this idea? I thought it’s quite French, it’s no surprise that the answer is so romantic, isn’t it? Anyway, the idea does make sense. When you are on your way to a destination with someone you love, you don’t recognize how fast time goes by. You feel like even the distance gets magically shortened. Stress and worries disappear when you enjoy small moments of chitchatting, sharing lives, and even singing.
And you know what? This simple idea works so well not just when we go through heavy traffic, but also when we go through turbulent times in our lives. With someone we love…and if I may add one more qualification…with someone we trust, we can carry on and get over our hardships better. Going with someone we love, following someone we trust…no doubt, this must be the best way to go through the wildernesses in our lives.
In today’s Gospel story, we find two disciples of Jesus walking down the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem. It’s not heavy traffic that they experience on the road, but it’s their heavy hearts. The seven-mile road to Emmaus seems so long because three days ago, they lost Jesus—their friend and teacher they so dearly loved. His disgraceful death as a criminal was too shocking to them. Although they heard in the morning from Mary Magdalene that Jesus was resurrected, they couldn’t get it. And still they can’t believe it. It’s so confusing, and they need some time away from everything. So they decide to go out and walk away from Jerusalem, from the place of tragedy.
On the road to Emmaus, however, the two disciples encounter once again the sad reality that they have to admit from now on: the absence of Jesus. For the last three years, they traveled with Jesus. But now they are walking the road without Jesus. And this is their new normal. Their journey with Jesus was never easy, but the journey was joyful and fruitful because they followed him. On the journey, they found the meaning and purpose of life and their gifts; they witnessed miracles and wonders of God’s kingdom; they were in full of hope for new life. But now, Jesus is no longer with them. The farther they walk on the road, the deeper they feel the absence of Jesus in their lives. They might weep bitter tears. Their heads might be down. They might shuffle and kick some dusts and stones.
But at that moment, a strange person approaches the two disciples and begins to walk with them. The disciples feel that their footsteps get lighter and their travel gets easier as they listen to this wise person explaining why Jesus had to die and now lives again. So when they get to Emmaus, they grab him to stay with them a little longer. At the dinner table, this person takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the disciples. Then their eyes are opened and recognize the person who is actually Jesus. But Jesus suddenly vanishes from their sight. The disciples say to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”(Luke 24:32)
It’s a moment of grace in their turbulent time, in the first Eastertide. The resurrected Jesus personally comes to the disciples and gives them the confidence that even death cannot take away the faithful company of Jesus from them. Now, they are deeply aware of the enduring presence of Jesus in their lives until the end of their journey. Now, they are deeply aware that they can still follow Jesus from there. And now, the road to Emmaus, this road of brokenness turns into a road of healing and nourishment. The road of bewilderment turns into a road of revelation and understanding. On the road to Emmaus, the disciples once mumbled in hopeless voice, “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” But now they return to Jerusalem, find other disciples, and shout with joy, “The Lord has risen indeed” (Luke 24:21;34).
In our lives, what kind of roads have you gone through? A road with heavy traffic and accidents? A stony and rocky wilderness road? Or an easy breezy and nicely paved road? Then, what kind of road are you walking now? I know, some of us feel desperate walking on a desert road. And some of us feel unsafe walking on a treacherous cliff-side road. And how about our future? We don’t know what kind of untrodden road, what kind of new normal will unfold in our lives. We cannot predict anything.
However, in today’s Gospel story, I hope you find one everlasting truth. The one who walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus is walking with us today. The resurrected Jesus is closely walking beside us today, so whatever road we take, we can keep following him. On any way of our lives, he will be there with us and remind us that he defeated the power of death and despair. He will be there with us and make our hearts burning with his Spirit and with his light of resurrection. He will be there with us and assure us of the promise of new life and turn our despair into hope, our new normal into new wonder. Truly, this Risen Lord is the one we can trust and we must follow! He is the most intimate travel companion on our ways of life. And this is what we believe.
Faithful friends in Christ, do you love Jesus? Look into your heart. With confidence, take a look around and find Jesus inside and beside you. The one, who died on the cross and has risen, is surely with you today. The one, who walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, is walking with you today. I am so sure that he is more than happy to travel with you, suffer with you, encourage you, and share burdens and joys with you on the road. What is the best way to go through heavy traffic and any wilderness in our lives? We may go with someone we love, and follow someone we trust. In this Eastertide, let us not just go for a walk with Jesus but go on a journey of lifetime with him. Let us keep on trusting in Jesus and following him through whatever road we take. May the Risen Christ closely walk with you and graciously reveal his enduring presence to you. May Christ be always the light on your path and make your heart strangely warm and burning with his life-giving love and care. Amen.
Pastor Earl Kim