Three words in our Gospel reading today reflect so much of our society.
Three words that sound so sad they make you want to cry.
We had hoped.
Three words with so much anguish –
We had hoped.
2 disciples are on the road to a town called Emmaus.
They are saddened.
Now even though Easter Sunday was a couple weeks ago, this incident actually happened on that day.
The text says that this is the 3rd day since Jesus had died.
The same Jesus that they had hoped would be the answer to all their problems;
We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.
Maybe you have hoped more from Jesus at this time?
Maybe you have hoped that Jesus would have brought this pandemic before us to an end.
The disciples’ walk to Emmaus is an interesting walk.
It symbolises our daily walk as Christians.
What’s interesting in all this is that, like Mary at the empty tomb and like the disciples on the beach after Jesus’ resurrection, the presence of Jesus was hidden or as the gospel says, their eyes were kept from recognising him.
But in all 3 situations – Mary at the tomb, Peter and the disciple on the beach, and this walk to Emmaus, Jesus was physically present with them despite them not recognising him.
And that’s the teaching that comes out of our Gospel reading.
And what a comforting and reassuring teaching it is for us in our present situation.
In our daily walk we often go on our way not quite sure if God is with us or not.
Many times our eyes are kept from recognising him with us, like the Emmaus walk.
But being kept from recognising Jesus and Jesus not being present are 2 different matters.
On Easter Sunday we had as our 2nd reading Paul’s letter to the Colossians where he explained the life of the Christian after Jesus’ resurrection.
He said: for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
As Christians this is an important understanding – that we don’t always trust what our eyes see.
We trust what God has promised.
And that means trusting what our eyes don’t see.
That’s why Paul says – your life is hidden WITH Christ – WITH Christ.
But what he also promises is that Christ’s glory is going to be revealed to the world.
And when that happens, you and all the world will see the true life that has been hidden.
St John also said that in the Book of Revelation:
The book that reveals Christ.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
The comforting message that Christians have in all this is that we know that despite the current situation God has already won.
Despite what our eyes see or our lives experience – Christ’s victory is ours.
The grave is open, Christ cannot die again, is what we declare.
Despite what our eyes see or our lives experience we have that knowledge.
As the Emmaus disciples walk along, even though their eyes don’t recognise Jesus, he is there with them.
And when they invite him to stay, he does so.
He’s never too busy, he’s never too preoccupied.
And something interesting happens.
Jesus, the invited guest, becomes the host.
As he sits at the table with them he takes bread and breaks it and he gives it to them.
And from that encounter, TWO remarkable things happen.
After he breaks the bread and gives it to them their eyes were opened, and they recognized him;
That’s the first remarkable thing that happened.
But what happens next is even more extraordinary.
He vanished from their sight.
It doesn’t say that he gets up and walks away – no, he vanishes from their sight.
No sooner do they recognise him when he vanishes from their sight.
And doesn’t that happen to us?
There are times when we feel so close to God and yet times that he seems so far away, even absent.
And yet, God never moves away – he is always with us.
Just like St Paul talks about in Colossians – his presence is hidden.
Not gone – hidden.
Friends, this is so important for us to understand.
Not just at present as we live in the midst of this pandemic – but always.
Because once this pandemic is over and we can gather again especially around the altar to receive Holy Communion – we are still going to face the normal every day challenges of life.
Totally unrelated to the pandemic we will experience the everyday challenges of life.
Sickness, death, crime, accidents, natural disasters – because these are still part of the everyday life we see.
Life was not perfect before this pandemic hit us – and it won’t be after we’re through it.
But it’s what we don’t see that becomes all important.
The hidden presence of Christ with us.
Even when we gather again for worship – our eyes see bread and wine – but it’s what our eyes don’t see that is important – the body and blood of Christ.
Our eyes will see some splashes of water on an infant’s head – not much more.
But what our eyes won’t see is this child being rescued by God from the powers of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Light.
It’s not about what we see but about what God has promised.
It’s not about what we see but about what we believe.
It’s not about what we see but about what God has done.
And that’s exactly what the Book of Hebrews says regarding faith:
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see
Certain of what we do not see.
Did you hear that – Certain of what we DO NOT SEE.
Friends, please don’t worry or fear about what we see happening at present.
Please don’t worry or fear about what we cannot see.
Mary thought she was speaking with the gardener,
Jesus stood there on the beach among the fishermen disciples, although the disciples had no idea that it was Jesus.
And it says: None of the disciples dared to ask him who he was; they knew it was the Lord.
And today, the 2 Emmaus walk disciples didn’t recognise Jesus standing and talking with them even though their hearts were burning.
Often it is only in hindsight that we see and understand the presence of God with us.
Like the 2 Emmaus disciples.
After Jesus had vanished they realised his presence with them as they had walked – were not our hearts burning.
How often have you not looked back and seen how God has gotten you through a difficult time.
But at the time it seemed like he was not there.
Like that beautiful piece of writing we know as footsteps, in those times when we thought we were walking alone, we have discovered that Jesus was not just walking beside us by carrying us.
Let me remind you of that piece of writing as we close.
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said You would always walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
During your trials and testings when you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”
Friends, we never walk alone.
Jesus promised in our baptism, I am with you always till the end of the age.
And that promise is true and remains true.