Epilogue: The Road Home

Epilogue

The Road Home

‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’

Psalm 119:18

Read  Luke 24:13-35

There are roads sometimes that go nowhere, nowhere but away, nowhere but far from all we want to leave behind us, far from all we fear and cannot face. Wandering roads, retreating roads, roads that give the illusion of forward motion while all the while leading nowhere. Nowhere but away.

Because let’s face it, there are seasons of the soul when hope fails to find us and confusion rises around us like a mist.  Our minds can’t hold all the pieces together. Nothing makes sense.    When hope fades our feet begin to wander, searching subconsciously for forward direction, any direction, any road to anywhere but here. Here where all the pain is. Here where disappointment cuts like glass. Motion gives the illusion of meaning, but it can never take us where we need to go. Fragmented and lost we find ourselves at the end of the road, this road going nowhere but away.

That’s where they had found themselves, these followers of Jesus, this day long ago.

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Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.’ Luke 24:13

From Jerusalem. These disciples they were on this road from Jerusalem, leaving behind Jerusalem, leaving behind them the confusing, awful spectre of the cross, leaving behind them the bewilderment of the empty tomb that morning. But they could not leave behind them the cut of disappointment, the open wound of hope smashed and fears realised.

Nothing had happened as they had assumed it would, had known it should. This man, He was meant to change everything. So many prophecies had been fulfilled: the donkey, the miracles, His teaching. It all pointed to one thing; Jesus was the Messiah, Israel’s Messiah. He was the one who would bring salvation to all Israel, he was the one who should have restored them into a covenant nation, God’s nation. He was supposed to have freed them by defeating their oppressors. But he had failed. They couldn’t get the image out of their minds; This person in whom they’d laid all their hopes hanging dead on the symbol of all their oppression. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Not this way. His humiliating death on a cross, a pagan Roman cross. What was left to hold on to now but despair? The road yawned wide beneath their feet, each step taking them further from Jerusalem, but no closer to the answers they craved. All their hopes died with Him, the crucifixion of all their aspirations, their certainty, their vision of the future. And now this extra blow. His body taken. Stolen? Bewilderment hung like a mist in their minds. Confusion hung over their hearts like an ever rising fog. Their minds couldn’t hold all the pieces together. Nothing made sense. Fragmented and lost they were at the end of the road, this road going nowhere but away.  From Jerusalem

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And here on this road they meet Jesus.

They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.’ Luke 24: 14-16

Sometimes the very thing that is before us is the very thing we miss. Eyes are strange things, far more governed by our heads, hearts, minds and emotions than we realise. We see things not as they truly are but as we feel them to be. We feel to see and so often fail to see. Fail to see the crisp raw reality existing all around us, the truth dwelling right there just above our skin. Truth dwelling in human skin.

He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ Luke 24:17

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Jesus, He does the thing He usually does. He begins with a question. Questioning not because He doesn’t already know the answer but to help us find the answer for ourselves. To help the lost begin to name their lostness. “Where are you?” God had said in the Garden, “Where is your brother?” He had said to Cain, “Why are you crying?” Jesus had said to Mary, and now on this road He asks, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’.

Name it out loud. Name your confusion, your despair, your hopes dashed, your fears realised. Name your disillusionment with God. Name that God hasn’t fulfilled the assumptions you had of Him.

‘They stood still, their faces downcast’. Luke 24:17

It stops them in their tracks, this having to name and face. It brings us to our knees, this saying it out loud. Their faces faced the ground, eyes in the dirt, swimming in the mud of disillusionment with God. If they had looked up, would they have seen Him there? Or were their eyes so committed to their vision of reality that there was no room for God?

Truth lives when illusions die. Disillusionment is an essential part of knowing God. It is only when our illusions fade that God can illuminate our reality with the truth of who He is. Until then He can be standing right before us and we can miss Him. We can be blinded by our minds, prejudiced against His presence, His presence journeying with us all along through every disappointment, every dark disillusionment of our souls

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One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’’ Luke 24:18

Are you the only one who does not know? They say as they assume they do know. We never know what we don’t know or see what we fail to see, until revelation peels the scales from our eyes and lifts the veil from our hearts. We assume our sight is clear, our reality true. Them, us, every human being.

But Jesus doesn’t force His way in or cut the journey short. He joins them, wherever they are on their road.

‘‘What things?’ He asked.’ Luke 24:19

Go to those places you are currently running away from. The places where the aching is, the places where the confusion swirls. Go to the place you fear the most and speak it out into the air.  Name your disappointment like a pin on an airport map ‘You are here’, like the pain in your heart, ‘Where were you God?!‘. Locate yourself and say it out loud ‘I am here!’. Until then, you will never locate God no matter how close He is. Not because He isn’t close, but because your eyes are blinded by pretence. Pretending you are okay as you stumble alone in the dark. Naming the pain is the first step in being released from it.

”About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.  The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;  but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.’  Luke 24:19-21

‘But we had hoped’… and that’s the place where the gaping wound welts and the tears prick and sting. Hope dashed makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). Despair is a silent sickness of the soul.

Human hope is a fickle thing.  We pin it on our desires, painting realities into being, creating worlds of expectation and then we attempt to bend the world to meet them. We paint our ‘hopes’ onto God and read them between the lines in His word, or selectively read His word to fulfil the hopes we have of it. We pin our hopes on Him and attempt to pin Him down to the size of our human expectations.

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But God has always and only ever been bigger than all human hopes, all human assumptions, all human conceptions of who we think He should be. He will never fit in the boxes we construct for Him, the temples we build, the stories we write, the religions we construct. He is not who we have assumed Him to be. He is always more. 

They had had the crucifixion events whirl around them like a raging river, a runaway story leaving all their hope behind. But they do not realise that the limited hopes they had have been far exceeded by all that God has done. He is always more.

‘And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.  In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning  but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.  Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’ Luke 24:21-24

‘But they did not see Jesus’. The resurrection had happened just as Jesus and the prophets foretold. The women had seen angels. The disciples had seen the empty tomb. But they could not see what it meant. Their vision of who the Messiah was and what He should have done was all wrapped around their eyes and bound around their hearts. They were so committed to their story of the Messiah  that they could not see the empty tomb as a sign of who God’s true Messiah was. ‘But they did not see Jesus’. Crucifixion and resurrection was never a part of their plan.

But it was always going to be this way.

They had said to the risen Jesus “they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Luke 24:20-21

In their minds ‘They crucified Him’, and it ended all their hopes.

In truth ‘They crucified Him’, bringing hope to all the earth.

Their story was too small. The story projected onto the canvas of their days was too small to comprehend all that God had done. Their story blinded them to His resurrection and His very presence with them there, on that road, in that moment. ‘they did not see Jesus’.

It was always going to be this way.

He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ Luke 24:25-26

It was always going to be this way. Every step, every lash, every nail dashed into flesh. He had been on this long road since before all time began, before we breathed, before we fell, Jesus was on this road to Calvary.  From the moment He dreamt us into existence, His walk to the cross had begun.

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‘He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.’ (2 Timothy 1:9)

Before the beginning of time.

We are all part of an old story, older than time, deeper than deep-space, wider than a universe of light.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ Luke 24:27

Their story had been too small. Too small to contain the heart of God, too small to comprehend the lengths His love would go to, to redeem his wandering children. If only we could let it sink in beneath our skin, into our veins running straight to our heart. If only we could let our hearts hear the beating heart of love for us at the centre of this universe. Their story was too small.  Our stories are too small. Too small to comprehend the loving heart of God. 

‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’ Psalm 119:18

So Jesus retells them the story of His journey. He retells them the story of Himself…‘In the beginning God’… from Genesis (the books of Moses) to the Prophets, the stories of God’s presence with His people, the songs of His longing to walk with them, to walk with us, even now.

These disciples, they had thought He’d joined them on their journey that day, their journey going nowhere but away. But actually He had already been on this road, this long and weary road since before all time began. This long road, this long story; The long story of Jesus journey to find us.

Pembrokshire, Wales, United KingdomRoad through the Lake District, England

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.’ Luke 24:28-29

Not yet knowing who He is, they ask him to stay with them. And He says yes, as He always will, as he always does, ‘Yes’ to them and ‘yes’ to us now. Always when we reach for Him, create space for Him, He says yes, welcoming our welcome. And we are always welcome with Him.

‘So He went in to stay with them.’ He stays with them. Eats with them. God around the table of the space we make for Him. God eating with us, resting with us, living with us. 

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When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.‘ Luke 24:30

One meal echoing through time, echoing that first passover meal when God freed Israel from slavery, then echoing the last supper in the upper room when Jesus celebrated passover with His disciples before His death.

But this breaking of bread, this meal has echos reverberating yet further back through time. Here at the end of God’s long road to find us we find the story of this meal echoing the story of the first recorded meal in the Bible. The first recorded meal not breaking bread but breaking us, breaking our partnership with God, breaking our humanity, breaking God’s heart. 

she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked.’ Genesis 3:6-7

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him,’ Luke 24:30-31

Eyes opening, sight widening. In the first garden our eyes became open to the dark, but dim to the face of God. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked.’ Their eyes were opened and they realised they were not enough. They had agreed with a lie, the lie that in order to be okay they needed to reach for more, and in reaching for more they had discovered they were not enough. 

The first meal opened our eyes but blinded our hearts. But this meal, this day, after the long journey on the long road to this moment. This breaking of bread like the breaking of Him, this giving of Himself, this meal pries their eyes open and lifts the veil from their hearts. ‘Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him,’ Eyes wide open to the light. Eyes wide open to Him. The first meal opening human eyes to the darkness, this meal now opening human eyes to Jesus face; Opening our eyes to God’s face just as in the day we were first created, waking up to consciousness. Waking up to Him.

Jesus journey to and through the cross has been completed. What was lost in the garden has been found once more in Him. The new exodus is accomplished, the new Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Forever is now.

Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight.’ Luke 24:31

He is gone from their sight, but not from their hearts. Hearts alight with the truth of His presence with them.

They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ Luke 24:32

And we’ve known it all along, not in our heads but in our depths, in the deep-space spaces within us that have thirsted for His presence, for His peace, like light and fire and exploding stars in our hearts. The journey of life on the road with God, the presence of God walking with us.

Our hearts burn with the light of His presence as He burns into our souls the story of His love for us, the story of this long road. The road He has travelled down to find us. Their story was too small.  Our stories are too small. Too small to comprehend the heart of God. The story of all our struggles, successes, failures and failings only make sense in the light of His big story. The story of who He is. 

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A heart that has met Jesus on His road is a heart burning and bursting to make Him known. They race like a rushing river, a white water rapid back to the place where all the pain was, to the place of their disillusionment and despair, their hopelessness and fear.  Hearts wide open to light and eyes that finally see, become feet that know the road back home, led by light, every step in company with Him.

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Luke 24:33-34

They have returned to the place of all their fears and despair only to see it clearly for the first time. There is a larger understanding, a fuller story burning in their hearts now, an old story, older than time itself.

Then the two told what had happened on the way…’ Luke 24:35

What had happened on the way, the way they had been heading, the way to nowhere. Jesus had met them on the way, leading them His way, leading them back to themselves, bringing them home to Him, to the long story of who He is.

Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.’ Luke 24:35

He was known to them in the breaking of bread. He had been with them all along along this long confusing road, but they could not see Him, could not recognise His face. But He became known to them in the breaking of bread, as in the breaking of Himself.

And this is still how we know Him, this God. Not just in the might of the whirling stars, not in the thunder of the raging storm, but in this moment, the moment in time He broke Himself for us. In this act we know the face of God, we recognise Him for the first time. This God has become known to us by the breaking of Himself for us.

And in this act, because of this act, we are now invited to join Him on this road. This road (not going nowhere) but leading us home, home to God and home to our real selves. Now our journey through life can be in company with Christ, relearning how to know ourselves through His eyes, to know our story in the context of His. His long story from before time began. This old story, older than time, deeper than deep-space, wider than a universe of light.

‘He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.’ (2 Timothy 1:9)

 

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Hello! Thanks for taking the time to read this chapter all the way to the end. If you want to hear  the rest of this story as it develops subscribe either below or in the top right corner and I’ll send you a chapter once a week for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it also, so drop me a line in the comments section below or through facebook if you have feedback or questions. Blessings on your journey, Liz

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