Walking with God
Jerusalem was crowded with people for Passover – as it still is to this day. Jews celebrate the feast by retelling the story of how God sent them off into the wilderness at a moment’s notice, how their ancestors had to eat with their coats on and sandals buckled – so quickly that they did not have time to make bread with yeast that needs slow rising. Some would have come many miles to Jerusalem; they would have walked with their friends from their own towns and villages. Company on the journey would make the walking seem light. Those that came from the small towns like Bethlehem and Emmaus would no doubt have known those that travelled the same road. The walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus is around seven miles – a little bit further than walking from here to Bicton Gardens!
So Cleopas and his companion set out to go home, having experienced the events of the weekend and shared them with the disciple. I have often imagined how it might be if the companion of Cleopas was his wife – because nothing is said about him or her at all. Many people would have been going home on that road but it appears that they were choosing not to travel in a group but by themselves. Then a stranger came along and spoke to them; he was good company and knowledgeable, and they appreciated his wisdom so much that they urged him to eat with them. Only in the breaking of bread did they recognise Jesus.
Many people write about human life as a journey. We have heard the story of the beginning of one such journey in our OT reading; how Moses led the freed Israelite slaves out of Egypt and God went before them, showing them the way with pillars of cloud and fire. In the book of Acts we find the story of Phillip and the Eunuch. The Eunuch broke his journey on the way to Ethiopia, where Phillip was told to go and find him. Like Jesus on the road to Emmaus so Phillip explained the scriptures to the Ethiopian and he found faith and was baptised. These journeying stories are also part and parcel of our own faith history, and something to think about for us, in this time and place.
God led the people through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Jesus taught a way that will one day lead us to the promised kingdom, but we need to be able to unlock freedom and equality and justice and peace and love in our time, and to become confident of knowing what we are talking about and where we are going. That way, as we walk we will be walking with God, and God will show us the way to support God’s mission, to be God’s people, to draw others into the Kingdom through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – God made man.
Revd Barbara Bennett