As we just saw, 2 Disciples had left Jerusalem after hearing the news that Jesus was not in the tomb. They were on their way to Emmaus. We don’t know why. The angel at the tomb had told the women who told the Disciples to go to Galilee. From this story, we know that the Disciples were still in Jerusalem. They had not immediately gone to Galilee when they received the message from the women. Further, these 2 Disciples are going to Emmaus which is west of Jerusalem while Galilee is north. And, Jesus shows up there on the road leading west of Jerusalem.
Jesus meets these 2 Disciples with heavy hearts. Their hearts are broken and their hopes unfulfilled as they make the trek to Emmaus. With Jesus, so too died their hopes for Jesus to restore the kingdom of Israel. What the Disciples tell Jesus is quite sad.
One of the Disciples tells the unrecognized Jesus that He, the one many had believed would fulfill their Messianic vision to restore Israel, was crucified. The Disciple tells Jesus, “We had hoped.” Those are words expressed of a heart broken grieving the hope that God would be glorified in Israel. That Jesus showed up where hearts have been broken and hope has died tells us that Jesus meets us in our brokenness.
On Easter I spoke about death and resurrection. We’ve all experienced death and resurrection in some way. Something within us or around us dies and we bury it in a tomb in our hearts. We bury many things. A lost love, failed marriage, lost pregnancy or child, lost spouse or parent, lost job, house fire, lost fertility, cancer, addiction, chronic illness, an accident. I said that we have all experienced resurrection from those experiences.
I focused on resurrection on Easter. Today, I want to focus on our brokenness. That’s what this story is about. It is not about resurrection. It is about the brokenness of the 2 Disciples traveling the road to Emmaus. That Jesus showed up on the road to Emmaus where hearts have been broken and hope has died tells us that Jesus meets us in our brokenness.
I think of a couple friends when I think of heartbreak and dashed hopes. First, I think of a couple. They really wanted to be parents but couldn’t have children. They went through the lengthy and expensive proceedings to adopt a child. After almost a year, they were finally to receive a baby girl. The day of her birth they went to the hospital to bring their daughter home. They had prepared a nursery for her and bought all the things new parents need. Their friends and family had brought gifts and waited for the couple to return home with their newest family member.
The couple arrived home with their baby girl. They grew to love her and bonded with her. Family gathered around them. Then, they got a call from the adoption agency. The mother had exercised her right to terminate the adoption. A parent has a three-day window in which they can terminate the adoption and take their child back. The birth mother of my friends’ new daughter wanted her back.
They were devastated. They had to give up their daughter whom they had grown to love and made a home for. Their dreams of becoming parents was both fulfilled and destroyed within a week.
In time, they entered the adoption process again. This time, they quickly were matched with a daughter whom they named Addison. She is 6 now. My friends love her and are giving her a good life. Addison is loved my all their family and friends no differently than had she been their own biological daughter. Addison is the answer to their prayers to become parents.
But, she doesn’t replace the baby girl they had to give up. When a child is conceived or first born, parents hope for their future and dream of the potential for their child’s life. If a child is lost, no other child can replace the child lost. No other child can fulfill those dreams. New dreams are made with a new child, but don’t fulfill the hopes of any other child.
In the case of this couple, resurrection was not the dreams of one child fulfilled. Resurrection was an opportunity for new dreams and a new life. The dreams of their first baby girl will never be fulfilled. Those dreams were buried and cannot be resurrected. Resurrection was another opportunity to be parents. Their dreams of being parents were resurrected, not the dreams of their baby girl.
I think too of failed relationships. When two people are in love and thinking of a future together or a married couple plans their future together, dreams of what life may hold are made. When that relationship or marriage fails, those dreams are drowned by many tears and buried under pieces of broken hearts.
When hearts heal and one finds a second chance at love, new plans are made and new dreams dreamed. The future you had planned with one partner are not fulfilled with a new partner. You are different and your new partner is different. A new future is planned based on the way you and your new partner connect and the things you have in common and the things you now want from the future. The way your new partner supports your personal goals and aspirations is different than your previous partner.
Your new dreams are the opportunity for new life. Your resurrection is new possibilities and a new future.
I also think of my friend Brooke. I don’t know if I’ve talked about her before. I talk about her a lot with friends, because she was very influential in my life. I met her in seminary. She had an aneurysm erupt the year before I started seminary and she returned the year I started.
She told me that when she had her first aneurysm that she died. She vividly remembers going to Heaven and speaking with Jesus. She asked if she could go back, because she still had stuff she wanted to do. She came back and went back to school. Brooke said the one thing she wanted out of life more than anything was to be ordained as a Christian minister.
She was finally ordained 3 years after her aneurysm. I remember sitting and talking with her about her plans for ministry. She had limitations, because of her health. Brooke didn’t feel like she could fulfill her calling as a youth minister, because it was too physically difficult to be a youth minister keeping up with all that youth do.
Not long after she was ordained, Brooke had another aneurysm that took her life. I remember thinking how sad it was that she never got to fulfill her calling as a minister. Though reflecting more on her life, she did achieve her one goal in life which was to be ordained. I have no doubt that she rests in peace knowing her life was complete.
Resurrection isn’t always what we expect. Our hopes aren’t always fulfilled or fulfilled in the way we expect. Sometimes resurrection is a new reality. Sometimes things that are buried stay buried and we have to dream new dreams. Our hopes for the future are transformed as we are transformed by the experience of death.
The Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 says we will be given new spiritual bodies in the resurrection. When we experience death and resurrection in this life, a part of us dies and we come out on the other side a new and different person. We are new spiritual beings after resurrection. That is what allows us to place our hopes in the future of a new reality. Resurrection is the beginning of a new you.
The Disciples on the road to Emmaus carried hopes of the Messiah in their broken hearts. Their encounter with Christ was the beginning of new expectations. Their Messianic hopes were buried with Jesus. Resurrection for the Disciples and the followers of Jesus were new expectations for life, new dreams for the future of Israel, and new visions of redemption. Resurrection isn’t always what we expect.
Resurrection isn’t resuscitation. Resurrection is a new reality that often requires us to do some soul searching and grow personally. Resurrection also allows us to dream new and bigger dreams in that new reality.
In the story of the road to Emmaus, we are reminded that life is a journey. Sometimes we walk it with broken hearts. Somewhere along the road Jesus meets us. In that encounter, we are transformed and we have the opportunity to envision a new future greater than the one we lost. Resurrection isn’t always what we expect, but we can always expect resurrection.