April 26, 2020: Familiar Stranger

outdoor benches facing cross

Third Sunday of Easter

It is soon to be evening, on what we call Easter. Cleopas and another disciple are walking to Emmaus. On the way they are in deep discussion about the events, or the lack of events, of that day. The details are mulled over. The women report that the tomb is empty and angels have been seen. Several disciples also go to the tomb and find it empty. The tomb is empty, and Jesus is nowhere to be found. Dreams are dashed. Hopes are crushed. The disciples are engulfed in grief and disbelief.

A stranger (aka Jesus) joins them and innocently (or not so innocently) asks, “Hey, what are you guys talking about?” They stop, look at the not-so-strange stranger and basically say, “Duh. Are you the only person who doesn’t know what is going on in Jerusalem?” Jesus continues the charade and says, “What?” The disciples tell the story of the prophet Jesus who was crucified and how he was supposed to return, but it’s almost the end of the third day, and guess what, no Jesus. They “had hoped” he would be the one to deliver Israel.

The stranger then takes his turn telling the disciples, through their own Scriptures, the story of Jesus and why he was sent. The trio reaches Emmaus, and the two disciples beg Jesus to stay. He does. and he offers the blessing while he breaks the bread. At that moment Jesus is revealed and disappears, and their hearts are burning within, as if their spirits have known all along.

We too are blessed when we meet Jesus at the Table, hear the same words he said to the disciples, and are fed by the bread, the cup, and community. What the disciples “had hoped” for came to fruition.

Jane R. Gehler, director of spiritual care,
Marquardt Management Services, Watertown, Wisconsin