Imagine that you had been one of Jesus' disciples. You have spent the best part of the last three years following him around the Judean countryside. Being with Jesus and listening to him has been amazing, he taught with authority in a way that was unlike anything that has gone before or since. Then of course there were the miracles that he performed, being a witness to them had led you to conclude that Jesus was more than a rabbi or a prophet. Surely he was the promised Messiah, come to save his people! Hope was rising in your heart and in the hearts of your fellow disciples.
Suddenly events and circumstances had turned. Just ten days ago the crowds were cheering Jesus, acclaiming him as their King. Within a week their support had turned and they became a hysterical mob baying for Jesus' death. From a safe distance you had witnessed Jesus being crucified. Shortly after, a few people from your group had secretly taken Jesus' body to be buried. To make matters worse you had heard reports that the body was now missing and some were saying that Jesus is alive again.
Along with your companion Cleopas, you decided to make the 7 mile journey home to Emmaus. Perhaps you would be able to settle back into a normal life and put behind you the pain and distress of the last few weeks. As you walked, your conversation naturally revolved around these events. Grief and disappointment mingled and your words were full of disbelief and regret. How would life be without your dearest friend? Was it our fault for not rising up and defending him? Were we credulous or delusional to imagine that Jesus was the Messiah? Are the claims of his resurrection simply a cruel hoax?
You notice that someone else has started journeying with you. They seem to be going the same way as you but you don't recognise them. He starts asking you questions about your conversation and, although you don't know him it seems that he really cares about you and the distress that you are in. He listens to your concerns and takes time to understand how you are feeling. Then to your amazement he begins to help you understand and make sense of the trauma you have just been through.
As you journey together towards Emmaus you find your spirit lifting, a peace comes over you and hope returns. After a few hours you reach your home and the stranger heads off to continue their journey. However it is already late, and the culture of hospitality means that you insist on him coming in for some food and to stay the night. Out of courtesy you invite the stranger to give thanks for the food. He takes some bread and gives thanks for it and suddenly he has gone! Rubbing your eyes you turn from the broken bread to Cleopas and realisation dawns - we have seen Jesus, he is alive! "That is why your hearts were strangely warmed as we journeyed together on the road!"
In this resurrection appearance of Christ we see Jesus modelling 'Journeying Together' (Coming Alongside Others) which is the focus of the Paraclesis material that we will be looking at on Sundays and in our Connect Groups for 6 weeks after Easter. You can read more about this programme further on in this April edition of Lifelines. I would invite you to get a copy of the Paraclesis: Journeying Together daily guide and participate as fully as you are able in this exciting initiative as we seek to become an even more caring church.