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Visions from The Catacombs, Week before May 4, 2014


Luke 24:13-49

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said 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?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

What I am Learning:

“We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

These were the words of Jesus’ disciples, words that expressed their sadness, words that expressed their despair.

But what was their despair about?

What was it about Israel that they were hoping Jesus would redeem?

In popular Christian theology, the word “redeem” has been reduced to “getting forgiven by Jesus so that you can go to heaven.”

That is not what it meant for first century Jewish people. This Greek word originally meant to give a ransom to release a hostage. But over time it generally became used to mean getting someone out of a difficult situation. These disciples had hoped that Jesus would get the People of Israel out of Roman occupation and into the fullness of the God’s way of mutuality – what the New Testament writers called the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ whole movement was an attempt to accomplish this redeeming, this move from Roman Occupation to God’s reign, through non-violent engagement with the Romans. He proposed that we feed the hungry, pray that our daily needs be met, love our enemies and reach beyond racial and national barriers. He proposed that his people did not have to be violent or passive in the face of the abuse of their people by the Romans.

But then Jesus was killed in the way the Romans killed all revolutionaries – on a cross.

And he died.

But these disciples, on their way to Emmaus meet a stranger and share their story, their hope and their despair about all the unfinished work of Jesus.

Later they would realize that this stranger was none other than Jesus himself.

There is a lot of life that is unfinished. Despite our best efforts and our good intentions, so much of life is incomplete, a beginning, an essay that is never quite finished.

Jesus’ ministry was no different. He began the work of renewing his people. He began the work of saving them from the despair they felt at Roman occupation. He began to show them a different way to live.

And he never did finish redeeming his people.

He charged his disciples with continuing his work of leading the human race out of domination and submission culture to God’s way of mutuality.

Our sense of the Jesus’ ministry needs to be expanded. For too many Christians it is just about “me and Jesus.” Jesus’ ministry was all about justice and shalom and how they could be lived out in every day life, in every aspect of human interaction.

But our sense of Jesus’ ministry also needs to be deepened.

Our lives are incomplete, too. Our lives have unfinished business. Our lives are essays that don’t quite get there.

Jesus not only cares about justice and peace in our larger economic and social lives  - but he joined us in this incomplete, unfinished life so that we can begin to realize that we are surrounded and embedded in God’s grace.

So as we continue to take part with Jesus in God’s coming way of mutuality, remember that you are loved as you are.

These disciples turned back to Jerusalem that night. They had hoped that Jesus would have redeemed Israel from the Romans. As they went to Jerusalem, they must have known that they had a part to play in that redemption, and that they themselves were already redeemed, set free, loved.