The hoopla has died down and we are back to our old ways and our old routines. That’s what we usually do when the excitement fades. The kids are back in school and we are back into our routines following the celebration of Easter.
Certainly that’s what Cleopas and his companion decided to do. Oh, sure they had heard (as we have heard) some garbled reports about angels and an empty tomb, but they could hardly make sense about such nonsense. The smart thing to do is to get out of town, lay low for a little while, until the Romans forget about Jesus and hopefully, about Jesus’ followers.
So they walk along the road, their feet kicking up little clouds of dust in the road, and they pass the time by talking about what had happened, and what might have been. And as they walk along, a man begins to walk with them. A nice enough guy, but what planet is he from? He apparently doesn’t know a thing about Jesus and all the extra-ordinary events of the past week. A little patronizingly, anxious to tell the country bumpkin a thing or two, Cleopas sums up all that has happened, how they had hoped that Jesus was the promised liberator, and how their hopes had died with him on the cross.
One of the endlessly intriguing things about this post Easter story is why Cleopas and the other follower do not recognize Jesus. Presumably they knew him fairly well; per- haps not as intimately as Peter, John, and the other Twelve, but certainly well enough to recognize him on sight. Yet they don’t. Luke simply says that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Or as the New English Bible puts it, “Something kept them from seeing who it was.” But what was that something?
One hardly expects to encounter the risen Lord walking along a dusty road to an obscure little town, hot and tired and dirty, just like everyone else. Bands of angels and spe- cial effects - those we find impressive. But a savior who looks like anybody else - him we keep overlooking.
When we think of God, we think, well - BIG! Stupendous, colossal, spectacular. God is, after all, God. Creator of the universe. The scriptures, by and large, are not the story of God’s mighty acts in nature, but of God’s unrelenting love in the lives of people. Jesus seemed like a regular guy from Nazareth who liked to have a good time with his friends.
So perhaps, after all, it is not so surprising that Cleopas and his companion fail to recognize the risen Christ in the tired stranger walking along beside them. Then Jesus begins to teach them yet again about the nature of God. The Messiah, he points out, was bound to suffer. Glory wasn’t to come easily or cheaply. Patiently, Jesus takes them through the whole of the scripture; he explains to them how God acts. Intrigued by this knowledgeable stranger, the two men ask him to stay with them. His are the first words to give them any comfort in their grief and disillusionment. So he stays with them, sitting down to table with them. And as he takes the bread, blesses and breaks it, they finally recognize him.
How amazing! In something as simple and ordinary and down to earth as breaking bread, the two finally recognize the Risen Christ who sits at table with them. Jesus is the One who sits with us at table every week, who is made known to us, to you and to me, in the breaking of the bread.
Great miracles, we can plead with some honesty, are out of our league. But
God isn’t asking us to move mountains. Just to be kind to one another - to love one another - to for- give one another. We can’t summon up a band of angels, but we can love. We can’t miraculously heal the sick, but we can visit and care for them. We can’t raise the dead, but we can comfort those who mourn. We can’t feed the whole world, but we can generously share our abundance. We can’t end injustice, but we can be advocates for justice in our communities and workplaces.
And as Christ was made known in the breaking of the bread, in the simple goodness of our lives, broken for him, he will be made known again.