What was the motivation behind the Pharisees desire to have Jesus crucified? One would have thought his powerful words which moved the hearts of those who gathered around him to listen would have touched the hearts of the Pharisees also. One would think the miracles of healing; of raising the dead and feeding more than 5000 with a few loaves of bread would have caused them to at a minimum to want to know more rather than quickly judge him as doing those things by the power of Beelzebub. One would think with their knowledge of the scriptures they would have made some connection with the prophetic words about David’s line, Nazareth, Bethlehem, the suffering servant and the virgin birth.
Yet none of those things made an impact on the religious Pharisees because he challenged their strict obedience to the law, rituals and customs instead of grasping the concept of mercy, forgiveness and restoration. They were seeking God through their actions which were directed at doing rather than receiving. That kind of practice of our faith will always leave us wondering “did it make a difference” or like those disciples on the road to Emmaus disappointed because all we have is an unfufilled hope.
On the day of his arrest, flogging and journey to Calvary his disciples fled, his followers were confused, disillusioned and concerned about their own safety. The empty tomb confused them even more and left them bewildered. Since we know the rest of the story from hindsight we can marvel at their failure to believe. This gospel story of the unnamed disciples leaving Jerusalem and traveling to Emmaus tells us plainly how all their hopes, dreams and yes their faith has been destroyed. What do they do now that hope has gone from their faith?
What they need is already walking with them but they fail to recognize him because their hope was founded on their own version of what the Messiah would be for them. That day the Pharisees hope was raised for their belief in the Messiah reamined and this one was to be ignored; it was worship as normal.
In the disciples lost hope is a message for us today; how has his death and resurrection impacted us. If we learn nothing else about Jesus we need to stop looking for our concept of a messiah and allow him to reveal himself to us and become the Lord of our lives. He came to earth to do more than save us; he came to restore us and transform us into holy men and women of God. His death restored our righteousness giving us access to the Father love without the barrier of our sins. We must put aside our hope for whatever kind of savior Jesus should be for us or we will end up as disappointed as these disciples did on that journey to Emmaus.
Jesus that day opened the scriptures for them and their hearts burned within them. Jesus told us in that upper room on the night before he died that the Holy Spirit, whom he would send, would remind us of all he said to us (Jn. 14:26). The Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus and open our hearts and minds to understand exactly what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus did for us and our relationship with God.
I have become a firm believer that each one of us needs to have an Emmaus encounter where we come to the sudden realization that Jesus has been talking, walking and dining with us from the moment we were born. We need to have our eyes opened to the reality our faith is based not on hope that is blind but on hope that has already been awakened by the Spirit. How this can come about is easy and at the same time difficult.
We must set aside our attempts to make Jesus relevant for us and allow Jesus to make us relevant to the mission of evangelization. We must understand that just as these disciples were changed by this encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, we too will be changed. They abandon all caution to run back to Jerusalem to announce that they had seen the Lord. They travelled by night which no one did in those days for fear of robbers because their mission compelled them to tell everyone that Christ lives.
Those disciples were totally changed by the combination of encountering Jesus in the scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. They had that mystical moment when all became clear and they understood what and who Jesus was. We like them must become a people of the Word, reading the scriptures not to gain knowledge of cultures, or the politics of the times but to encounter God and the love, mercy and forgiveness he desires to lavish on us.
Let us not be without hope because we do not understand or like the Pharisees we cannot move beyond the law. We must set aside our biases, our preferences of how we are to worship, our fear of God’s wrath because of our failures and our lack of understanding of the depth of God’s love and mercy. Once we set aside our concept of what pleases God we are able to discover who we are, how we must live.