Sunday, April 6, 2008
A Midrash based on Luke 24:13-35.
I’d like to introduce you to Anna.
In Luke’s story of the Emmaus Road he introduces two characters walking from Jerusalem. One he later names, Cleopas, yet the other remains unnamed. Usually unnamed characters in ancient texts, especially our Scriptures, are women, so I’ve taken the liberty of calling the second disciple “Anna.”
Though Anna’s voice and identity remain hidden in our Bible-story, I will try to reclaim her voice for us today.....
I am scared....all the disciples are. Jesus was arrested by the temple police, and in short time was crucified by the Roman governor. Jesus, one of the first people to look at me as if I were a real person. Jesus, the one who had healed my broken heart after my father’s early death. Jesus, the one we were sure was the Messiah. Jesus was dead. Dead and gone.
Not only was he dead, but the plot which brought him to the cross was masterminded by one his closest advisors, Judas. Who could be trusted?
On the day before the Passover, while Jesus was being tried and executed, Cleopas and I hid near one of the governor’s stables, afraid that we might be sighted and be given our own crosses.
The following day was the Passover itself and so we remained in hiding. To travel on such a holy day would have attracted too much attention.
But this was the third day. Thousands of pilgrims would be pouring out of Jerusalem. Blend in. Get out. That was all we could think about.
As we walked along we saw other disciples also headed out of Jerusalem. We weren’t the only two disciples fleeing the city. Golgotha, the place of crucifixion was on the main road and we passed it without being able to even look at it. But then the unexpected happened.
Mary and some of the other women were running towards us. Anna, Cleopas, they shouted, he’s alive, he’s alive, we were at his tomb, but it’s empty, he’s alive!! We have to tell Peter and the others. They’ve decided to meet in the upper room. We’ve got to go tell them!
Some of our group ran with them back to Jerusalem. Some headed off to the tomb to see for themselves. Cleopas and I made the quick decision to continue out of the city and to a safer place. After things had calmed down, then we’d listen to see what had really happened.
Later on the road, while taking a drink at a spring, some of our friends caught up to us. Dora, a young girl who had only recently been baptized, told us that they had gone to the place they thought was the tomb, but there was no one there except some Roman guards. Cleopas said it sounded like a trap.
We continued on the road though the afternoon sun. Feeling more confident about being out of the city, we started talking about what we were going to do now that Jesus was gone. A stranger walking near us asked what we were talking about. Cleopas was quick to answer. Where have you been? Under a rock? He was angry, we all were. Angry and afraid...and alone.
I took Cleopas’s hand and offered him a reassuring smile. He apologized to the stranger and explained who Jesus was, how had died, and even went so far as to share our sense of loss and disappointment. I think he needed to do that. To get it all off his chest.
The stranger listened and walked beside us, not interrupting Cleopas, but letting him get it out.
When the stranger did speak, however, it was not in a way that I expected.
“You Fools! Prophets are always killed in Jerusalem. The Scriptures themselves say so over and over. God’s servants never find safety within its walls. And if this person, Jesus, was the Messiah, did you expect his reception to be any better?” On and on the stranger went, quoting the Law and the Prophets, revealing to us how death is not necessarily the end.
I must say my heart was strangely warmed by the words. The stranger even quoted some of the Scriptures Jesus himself had used from time to time. Cleopas nodded his head with every point the stranger made.
As afternoon turned into evening, we came close to a little village where we knew we could stay for the night. The stranger didn’t turn off the road however. That was crazy. There were no other villages in walking distance before nightfall. There were probably bandits.
Cleopas and I insisted that the stranger stay with us for the night, our friend Naiomi would have room for one more.
Some bread and wine was quickly provided for our evening meal. We reclined around the table with Naiomi and her three children. Then the stranger surprised us again.
Not waiting to be served, the stranger took the bread, said the table blessing, broke the bread and gave a piece to each of us. All I could think was, that’s just the way Jesus used to do it.
That’s just the way Jesus used to do it!
Cleopas and I looked at each other in amazement, thinking exactly the same thing....That’s just the way Jesus used to do it!
We scrambled to our feet, but found that were alone with Naiomi’s children. No stranger.
No stranger, but knowing that Jesus was still here.
We’re not wasting any time. We’re running back to Jerusalem, to the upper room.
We have to tell them.
He is alive! He is alive!
He was with us the whole time and he is alive!
Cleopas argued with me that the stranger was an old woman who only looked like Jesus at the last moment. I was sure the stranger was a young dark-skinned man from the south.
The details don’t matter. The truth is Jesus is risen from death and is alive.
He is alive and even in the middle this miracle of revelation he has taught me a valuable lesson....
I will never look at a stranger the same way again.