Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
They are walking away from the community of disciples in Jerusalem. Are they walking away? Have they abandoned hope that Christ was the one? Are they leaving the fellowship, quitting church, so to speak?
Our assumption is that the followers of Jesus would be devastated by the outcome of events in Jerusalem. But in a world run by elites, where villagers from Nazareth and fishermen from Galilee have no power and little control, they would more likely respond with resignation. We hoped – but the world is as it is. We hoped – but the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We hoped – but the power of the mighty is too mighty.
Oh, there is grief for a friend. And there may be bitterness towards “the man.” But what did you really expect? It was nice to dream… Now it’s time to go home, to go back to work. People who are used to powerlessness know how to survive powerlessness.
But then there was this strange report by the women who went to the tomb.
Nevertheless, they are going home. In the addendum to John’s Gospel, chapter 21, Peter says, “I am going fishing.” It’s the same thing as turning towards Emmaus. It’s not therapy. It’s not recreation. It’s resignation. We hoped, but hope came to naught. Time to go home. Time to go back to the daily grind.
There are many who listen to the stories of Jesus and walk away saying, “It’s not the real world.” I had this argument with my stepfather when I was 16. Yes I was idealistic. Yes he was cynical, angry and probably frightened by the unrest that spawned the SDS, Black Panthers, and urban riots. But our argument was nevertheless about the “real world”.
Is the “real world” the “dog eat dog” world or the “love your neighbor” world? Is the “real world” the survival of the fittest or “the first shall be last and the last first”? Is the “real world” run by money or the Spirit of God? Are we prisoners of sin and death or Sons and Daughters of God?
Cleopas – short for Cleopatris, the masculine form of Cleopatra – bears a name we associate with the world of sex, money and power. He followed Jesus for a time, but the powers-that-be crushed Jesus with hardly a thought – and Cleopas doesn’t need anyone to explain to him the “real world.” He’s going home. It was a fool’s errand.
But then the real “real world” meets him. Then the risen Jesus comes. Then the word of God is opened. Then the bread is broken. Then Christ reveals himself, the truly real.
And then Cleopas is on his feet running back to Jerusalem, running to join the community that lives by the Spirit of this Jesus, running to join the community of joy, running to tell all they have seen and heard.