The Easter eggs have all been found. The Easter baskets filled with goodies have been emptied. The leftovers from the Easter ham are in the refrigerator waiting for Monday’s dinner. It’s now time to relax and wonder, what this whole Easter thing is about.
It’s a similar place to where Cleopas must have been when he and his friend were on their way to Emmaus on that first Easter evening. Cleopas wondered, this is not the way the story was supposed to unfold. The story had started so promising. It was just one week ago when Jesus rode into Jerusalem for his coronation as King. The people shouted Hosanna and announced his arrival with the “red carpet” treatment. We had hoped, Cleopas said, that Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. We had hoped the world would be made right. But the Jesus Story didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. Jesus was to be announced as King, not crucified as a criminal. He was to be proclaimed as Messiah, not ridiculed in humiliation. We had hoped he would make the world right, instead we are left with empty promises and questions. Sure, there are some who are proclaiming the tomb is empty, but can we even believe the news anymore. We’re leaving Jerusalem, we’re walking away, because there’s no longer a reason to believe.
We know that feeling because we’ve struggled with it as well, what do you do when the Jesus story you’ve staked your life on doesn’t turn out the way it was supposed to end. How does the young woman respond who has longed for a baby, but has miscarriage after miscarriage? How does the young man respond who continues to lose his job: once because of the economic downturn, once because a company went bankrupt, once because his company got bought out and they cleared out everyone in management? What do we do when we pray, we plead, we beg for God to act, knowing that Jesus was a prophet mighty in deed and power, and yet Jesus seems to sit on the sidelines and stay silent? What do we do when we had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel, and the hope turns up with empty promises. Perhaps, like Cleopas, we walk away.
We may not physically walk away, because even in a changing society, going to church is still an honored trait. We may physically still show up, but we won’t believe, we won’t trust; there’s no faith there anymore. Thus we find ourselves on Easter evening, after all of the festivities are done, walking toward Emmaus, because our hope is gone.
It’s in these moments when we realize we need more. We need more than just knowledge, we need experience. Truth is, we know the scriptures. We know the prophecies. We know the tomb was empty. What we’re trying to figure out is what difference does it make when the Jesus story still seems to come up empty in our lives. We can know the facts, we can know the stories, we can even get an “A” in Bible Bowl, but that doesn’t mean we know Jesus. Cleopas knew the scriptures, Jesus explained them on the road to Emmaus, but the scriptures didn’t give him hope. Hope returned when Jesus met them at table, and broke the bread, “this is my body broken for you, take and eat.” It was the experience of communion that gave Cleopas hope again. It was the experience of the broken bread that caused Cleopas to return to Jerusalem and proclaim, I have seen the risen Christ. Hope has returned.
So perhaps, what we need more than anything on Easter, is a chance to eat the broken body and experience Jesus. Because often, Jesus doesn’t act the way he is expected. Many times, Jesus doesn’t respond the way we had hoped. We want to give up and walk away. We may continue to go through the motions, but our hearts have turned, we’ve left Jerusalem. But then Easter comes around, and while we have the chance to celebrate the resurrection every Sunday, perhaps what we need more than anything else is to hear Jesus say one more time at Easter, this is my body broken for you, take and eat.
Come, experience Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Come, hear the good news that the tomb is empty.
Come, and find new life in the experience of the body broken for you.
Dare to hope again. The Jesus story may not always end the way we had hoped, but it will always end with the King on the throne.