Let’s join in a little “holy imagination” on this Resurrection Sunday.
Cleopas pounded the dust off his sandal, and looked out the window at another Sunday morning in Jerusalem. “If we have to walk home today, at least the weather’s decent,” he thought, as his wife Mary tied the last bundle to their donkey.
It had not been the Passover they expected.
The mood was somber, to say the least. They and The Twelve had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with Jesus of Nazareth, the rabbi they’d been following for a while now, who they were certain would usher in the Kingdom of God and free the Jews from the hands of the Romans. And yet, there he was at noon Friday, hanging on a Roman cross. Cleopas and Mary were too heartbroken to stay and watch the crucifixion to the bitter end. They heard from the others that Jesus died there later that afternoon.
This was indeed an unexpected turn of events. Stranger still, they received word this morning that Jesus’ body was missing from the grave that was donated to him. And then, the women who reported this disturbing news also claimed that they saw angels, who said Jesus was actually alive! Can you imagine?
At this point, Cleopas and Mary didn’t know what to believe. “I would never have even dreamed this could happen,” Cleopas said, shaking his head. Mary nodded. “We had such hopes.” And so, resigned to return to life as it had always been, Cleopas and Mary said goodbye to their hosts, and started down the street toward the Gennath Gate for their five-hour walk home.
As they moved through the city, the air was full of conversation about the events of the last three days. “While on the cross, he quoted King David!” exclaimed an indignant Pharisee. Cleopas heard another man, a merchant in the square, say matter-of-factly, “Did you see those guards gambling for his clothes? What was that all about?”
But Mary was drawn to a different conversation at the shop, the one between a young mother and her little boy. The mother bent over to kiss her son’s forehead. “You were so brave during the darkness, and the earthquake,” she said quietly. “I was very proud of my little man.”
Cleopas and Mary had walked for just a short time after leaving the city, still trying to sort out what had happened, and why. Cleopas found a roadside rock, sat down, and took a drink from his wineskin. “If he was truly the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, how were they able to kill him?” Mary sighed. “Perhaps the salvation he brought is different than we thought it would be.”
Cleopas painfully stood to his feet, took Mary’s hand, and they resumed their trek to Emmaus, just six or seven miles, but a long, hot, dusty walk nonetheless. Just then, they saw a lone figure ahead. “Mary, just keep on walking and don’t look at him,” Cleopas whispered, hoping the stranger was waiting for someone else. But as they passed, the stranger started walking with them, step for step.
“Greetings, friends! So, what’s the topic of conversation on this fine morning?” The stranger’s cheerfulness caught Cleopas and Mary off guard. By this time, Cleopas’ sadness and frustration was getting the better or him, and he spoke to the stranger in a less-than-patient manner. ￼
That’s how I imagined the day started for the two travelers who walked the road to Emmaus with Jesus on Resurrection Sunday. Please read Luke 24:18-35 to see how this story ends.
Please also read the accompanying post for more thoughts on what may have been discussed on the road to Emmaus.