15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
I understand the rich and profound meaning that the resurrection of Jesus expresses. I understand that in the world of Jesus, death was not a single stopping of the heart, but a yearlong process – a dying followed by a mortification of the flesh. As the body lay decomposing, the sinful flesh was wasting away and at the end of the year the bones would be gathered and stored to be used again by God in the day of resurrection as the scaffolding for the recreation of the person – now free from sin and death, able to live in God’s new creation, a world perfected, healed, transformed, redeemed.
Jesus needed no purging of his sins, no mortification of his flesh. He was the righteous son, the faithful son, the truly human one, the new Adam. He stepped immediately from this life into the life to come. The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone, the pattern of all resurrection to come, the firstborn of the dead.
But I do not live in the world of the first century. I live in the world where dead is dead. There is the carcass of a dead squirrel at the end of the alley. It will not arise and scamper away. I have been with too many grieving families, stood at too many bedsides, wanting with every fiber of my being for the dead to rise – yet knowing full well that if they had it would have frightened me beyond speech.
I like the ending of Mark’s Gospel where the women run away in fear and say nothing to anyone. I understand that story. And I can appreciate the wonderful message of the other stories – of God’s vindication of Jesus, of the dawning of the age to come, of the harrowing of hell, of the end of the law’s power to accuse and sin’s power to hold us in slavery, cut off from the life of God.
I don’t know what to do with this story of Jesus walking to Emmaus. I know that the risen Christ comes to me in the word read and proclaimed. I know that the risen Christ meets me in the breaking of the bread. I have had experiences that verge on visions and auditions. I have no doubt that Christ is risen. I just can’t get my mind around what happened. I can’t explain it in a way that doesn’t sound like I am explaining it away.
So I love this story of Jesus walking with his disciples on the road – teaching them, his words afire within them. I love this story of Jesus revealed in the breaking of bread. It is my experience. It is the pattern for every Sunday gathering of God’s people. There, Christ walks with us. There, he speaks. There, he shows himself in the breaking of the bread. There, heaven is opened and hell releases its prisoners. There, new life is given. There, the Spirit is poured out. There I enter into that promised world where the lion lies down with the lamb. For a moment. And then Jesus is gone. Gone but not gone. Out of sight but not out of mind. I walk back through ordinary streets to my ordinary apartment and all my ordinary problems. But things are not the same. The vision lingers. And hope lives.