We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. -Luke 24:21
So much is said in such a short sentence. Cleopas and his friend were absorbed in the pain of their loss as they walked home from Jerusalem after the crucifixion. "We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. We’d hoped for so much. But it didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped it would. We’d hoped for so much. That’s not what we got.
Life does not always deal out the hands we would choose to play, and for these disillusioned followers of Jesus, all they could see was a handful of bad cards. They didn't believe the 'idle talk' of the women who said they'd met an angel that told them that Jesus had been raised. They couldn't see how all these events could possibly be redeemed in any way. Their hopes dashed, and through their thick fog of disappointment and regret, they couldn't see anything but pain. They couldn't even recognize Jesus - even when he was walking and talking with them right there on the road.
We had hoped for so much. But it was not to be.
I am no stranger to deep disappointment like this these days. And even with the trust and faith I know I have, there are days when I can't see very far beyond the pain of loss. So for me, especially this year, the story of Cleopas and his friend is unusually comforting. Because it tells me that even in a place of deep grief, Jesus is with me in the simplest common everyday interactions - like a walk down the road, a conversation among acquaintances, the sharing of stories. It tells me that the risen Christ is present and with me - even when I can't recognize him. The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus assures me that Jesus is accompanying me always.
The eyes of Cleopas and his friend finally were opened in the breaking of bread. Meals together around a table are a special place of connection and nourishment in our lives. It's where we share the basic human realities of both hunger and the need to eat. Around the table receiving sustenance together we cannot deny that we are connected - and we are reminded that life is nourishing when we accompany one another.
May all the tables we gather around this Easter season, especially the altar table at St James, provide us with the kind of nourishment we most deeply need, and show us the presence of Christ in the breaking of the bread.