Monday, April 5, 2010


As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. (Luke 24.28-39)

The Whole Town’s Talking

Though hardly a sacrifice, idle chatter was one of my Lent restrictions. This made keeping up with current events difficult, as today’s news is buried in bias, assumption, and speculation. It also strained many personal conversations. I’m sure I unintentionally offended some people by encouraging my mind to stray toward more edifying thoughts when the talk veered toward frivolous complaints and gossip. (God bless Walt, my stream-of-consciousness maestro; this season's been especially tough on him.) All I did, really, was tighten my filter to minimize distractions—remaining in touch with important events while screening out the trivia. For instance, I’m delighted healthcare reform passed. But I have no idea how crazy things got to get there. I assume they did go berserk, since I kept shying away from conversations about it.

It’s a lame comparison, yet what I’m feeling—what many of us are feeling, I’m sure—in some ways approximates what Jesus must feel as He reenters the human realm. Hours after confirming He’s alive again to Mary Magdalene and she reports the news to the disciples, He encounters two of them walking to Emmaus, a hamlet seven miles north-northwest of Jerusalem. For all they know, He’s just another provincial on His way home from the big city. Luke 24.16 says, “They were kept from recognizing him.” How or why this is we’re not sure, but it makes sense, having seen celebrities alter their looks to mingle with us “regular people.” After Jesus catches up to them, He asks what they’re talking about. The men halt in their tracks. Some translations add they give Jesus a “sad” or “downcast” look, which in light of their response sounds a whole lot like condescension: “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (v18) In other words, “The whole town’s talking. You only could have missed this by not having many friends.” The accidental truth in their reaction may cause Jesus to smile inwardly. (I would.) In any case, He decides to ferret out what they think happened. “What things?” He asks. (v19)

Not What They Wanted

Jesus puts Himself in the peculiar spot of listening to others tell His story. The two disciples begin well (or so it seems) by reviewing the headlines. They inform Him they’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people,” they say. “The chief priests and rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him.” (v19-20) If Jesus were an ordinary man blessed with extraordinary gifts that catapulted Him into extraordinary circumstances, He might mistake their broad-brush summary for a quick build-up to the Big Story—the headline to top all headlines: JESUS IS ALIVE AGAIN! But since He knows where this is going, it’s conceivable He’s already peeved to hear them speak of Him in the past tense. He says nothing when they end the story with His death and segue into news analysis. In so many words, they confide their disappointment with Christ’s death as not what they wanted: “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” (v21)

One almost sees Jesus offer a nod ("OK, and...") to nudge them back to the facts, a sort of non-verbal cue for them to declare His resurrection. But they’re too literal-minded for any such possibility. The same logic-bound mentality that squelched their understanding of the cross trusses their faith in His resurrection. They spin it as a hysterical rumor—and by “hysterical,” I mean in its original misogynist sense. They tell Jesus, “Some of our women went to the tomb this morning, found Jesus’s body was missing, and rushed back with tales about angels saying He was alive. So a few of the guys went to have a look. The tomb was empty alright, but there was no sign of Jesus.” Their curt dismissal of the women’s report outrages Jesus. “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” He scolds. “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (v25-30) He takes over, methodically going through Moses and the prophets to explain why His death isn’t a failure, why He is the Promised King, and why He’s alive again. Still unaware of Who He is, they marvel at how He opens their minds. When they get to their village and Jesus says He’s going on farther, they implore Him, “Stay with us!”

Eyes Wide Open

Most everyone’s favorite part comes next. Jesus replicates the Last Supper, giving thanks for the bread and breaking it. At last, they recognize Him and once they do, He disappears from sight. The two men are giddy with joy. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” they exclaim. (v32) They rush back to Jerusalem and vouch for the women’s witness. It’s a terrific way to button things up, but frankly I’m not impressed. Shouldn’t their faith have been so strong they were looking for the Risen Christ with eyes wide open when He joined them? Shouldn’t their journey to the cross have shaken scales of doubt and selfishness, politics and sexism from their eyes? Shouldn’t their hearts have burned in them the instant they heard of His resurrection? Shouldn’t they have begged Christ to stay with them because He was alive, not because they weren’t so sure of it?

Yesterday, Christians proclaimed, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Unless said with conviction, though, it smacks of a yo-yo effect: up-down, up-down, now you see Him, now you don’t. This is not what He intended. Jesus defeated death so He could remain with us. His last words in Matthew 28.20 are, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” If we’ve listened and watched closely on the road to Calvary, we know He walks with us always, along every road we travel. We keep our eyes wide open to recognize Him, no matter what shape He takes. We invite Him to stay with us because He came to stay. This Easter miracle isn’t “breaking news” that stirs up commotion for a few days and fades into history. It’s the beginning of a story that’s far from over and we’re more than confident He’ll be here to the end.

Our journey to Calvary with Christ has opened our eyes to see Him walking with us always, whether on the Emmaus Road (above) or any other road we travel.

(NOTE: With Lent’s conclusion, Straight-Friendly will return to its previous three-per-week format. I hope you’ll continue to drop by frequently and contribute to our conversations here. God bless you—and have a terrific week.)

Postscript: Lenten "Sounds of the Season" Playlist

Several people have mentioned they were following the Lenten music videos and building iPod playlists of their favorites. For anyone interested in catching up, here's the entire list of featured songs. I've checked the iTunes store for their availability. Asterisks indicate the same song recorded by a different artist. Recordings not available through iTunes are also noted, although they may possibly be found elsewhere on the Web. My, but we went through a lot music!

Available to You, Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson Community Singers

I Surrender All, The Isaacs

Thief, Third Day

Shine, Collective Soul

You Are My Hope, Skillet

My Help (Cometh from the Lord), Ron Winans Family & Friends*

Refiner’s Fire, Brian Doerksen*

Everything We Need, Steve Bell and Fresh I.E.

You Are God Alone, Phillips, Craig, and Dean

You Can’t Hurry God, Dorothy Love Coates

He Is Exalted, Twila Paris

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, The Don Marsh Chorus and Orchestra*

Imagine Me, Kirk Franklin

All I Ever Have to Be, Amy Grant

Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone, Chris Tomlin

If I Can Help Somebody, Witney Phipps*

Heart of Worship, Matt Redman

I’m Forgiven, The Imperials*

Mercy on Those, Phoebe Snow

Alone in the Presence, CeCe Winans

Instrument of Peace, Frances Key/Cyrille Verdoux (N/A)

Praise the Lord, Russ Taff

His Strength is Perfect, Steven Curtis Chapman

Sabbath Song, Neville Peter (N/A)

O How He Loves You and Me, The Don Marsh Chorus and Orchestra

God’s Children, The Kinks

I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (Handel)

Whiter Than Snow, Joslin Grove Choral Society

Servant Song, David Haas*

Trust and Obey, Hillsong (N/A)

Hallelujah! (Handel)

I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus, One Clear Voice*

The Old Rugged Cross, John Berry

You Are the Living Word, Fred Hammond & Radical for Christ

Who Am I? Casting Crowns

Requiem in D Minor: Domine Jesu and Hostias (Mozart)

Church Medley (O Glory Hallelujah), The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir


kkryno said...

Happy Easter, Tim.

Much love, Vikki.

Tim said...

Happy Easter to you too, Vikki! And much love too!


sharonxx said...

This passage about the road to Emmaus has always both thrilled and frustrated me for all the reasons you've outlined here. Every time I read it I'm almost speechless with excitement when the resurrected Christ appears but at the same time I want to shake Cleophas and Luke until their teeth rattle for their negativity and [apparent] complete disregard for the witness given by the women at the tomb. Aaarrrggghhh!!!!

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on what is one of my most favourite pieces of scripture. Each time I read it, it evokes different thoughts, perspectives and questions. A very provocative piece of Gospel indeed....

Thank you for sharing the thoughts and emotions that it instills in you. I find here the spiritual sharing that I can't find IRL. xx

every blessing

Sharon xx

Tim said...

Hi, Sharon. This moment is indeed thrilling and in many emblematic of Christ's methods after the resurrection--the sudden appearances and disappearances, the defiance of physical space and boundaries, the emphasis on reinforcing His life and message, etc.

What I particularly love about it is its being perhaps the most "modern" of the post-tomb accounts in terms of its tensions. Thomas's doubts touch me, but they're rather simplistic. Luke and Cleophas's are rooted in complex personal issues (I think). I see myself more clearly in them, not so much because I share their issues, but their presumptuousness often mirrors my own. Maybe that's why I'm tougher on them than Thomas...

I'm both tremendously pleased and honored that you find the posts here useful. I/we have been so privileged by a passionate readership that ever drives the conversation upward. Your joining the dialogue is a great blessing to us all!

Blessings always,

claire said...

Pour la petite histoire (for history's sake, history with a small H) -- Feminist herstory...

Of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, only one is named: Cleopas. It has been inferred that the other one was possibly his wife...:-))))

Truly, I am very grateful to those two disciples: their blindness is helping me to remain alert... Without them, I would surely have failed to notice my 'burning heart' over and over again.

Good to see you walking so alertly on the road of the Gospels :-)))

Tim said...

You're correct Claire, and I've heard both legends--that Cleopas's companion is Luke (a Greek) or his wife (which is most interesting on many levels). But either way, the insistence of a "mix" of disciples is rather unique and fascinating, don't you think?

Alertness, that's the thing--both to the Presence and the Meaning.

Blessings, my fellow traveler,

Philomena Ewing said...

Hi Tim,
Thank you for posting this wonderful reflection. I have been preoccupied throughout Lent with the concept of liminal space and have posted a few things on it on my blog.I agree with you that we should be fixed in our faith but I also know that in spite of my best efforts I am a "yo yo artist" perhaps due to temperament or circumstance who knows?
I think that we always will struggle with the "complete package" of faith in this life and the idea of getting close to fullness in Christ will always be fleeting because we can only reach it in this "liminal space "between earth and heaven. I guess that is why we are human and JC is divine!! Sorry if that sounds glib. I long for the completeness that my faith gives me to show itself in ALL I do but it can never be. Thanks for your sensitivity and passion to move us all closer towards Christ Look forward to more of your posts soon.

Tim said...

Phil, I'm in total agreement about the "struggle with the 'complete package.'" Part of it, I think, is we look for complexity where none exists, while underestimating it where it's most prevalent. This is because we are human, and not divine. In many ways, though, it's a great blessing--a constant reminder that no one knows the mind of God!

You are too kind in complimenting the posts. If anything, they reflect the sincerity and sensitivities of the readership--wonderful people like you and so many others who so graciously take the time to draw closer to Christ with me.

Blessings always,