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I Know Who You Are

4A Easter

23 Apr 2023

Don’t you think it odd that a stranger would fall in with two people walking down the road and start asking questions? I would think the people would have been a bit taken aback, if not scared. I guess this was a busy route with lots of people on it. Maybe it was more like walking a trail through a city, where people actually do talk to one another, if only to say hello.

What is even more strange is what did not happen. This is Luke’s post resurrection appearance. This is Easter Sunday afternoon. God Incarnate became God murdered and now is God resurrected. Why show up on an obscure road to a town that, to this day, scholars cannot identify with any known city or town in the Levant, that is Palestine. It is a minor road, maybe just a path, leading to a backwater village. Cleopus and his unnamed companion, who could be a spouse, a friend, or perhaps they are meant to be you or me, are baffled about the whole resurrection thing. Then along comes Jesus, not showing himself to Peter or John or Mary, but to people otherwise unknown in scripture. They are, however, followers and clearly expected something entirely different than what happened. Their idea of what the Messiah would do was to restore the monarchy, to re-establish Israel as an earthly kingdom. Even though Jesus taught that the world he envisioned for them, the realm of God, was not the Davidic monarchy, they didn’t get it. It is easy for me to “Monday morning quarterback” the whole affair and shake my head at their thoughts. How could they, I wonder, have been so blind. But it seems that they all were blind, although another early Gospel, that of Mary Magdalene, hinted at a completely different Jesus and a completely different vision for the reign of God.

Back to our friends walking on the road to nowhere. They don’t see what is going on, even as Jesus walks and talks with them. How often have you and I expected some outcome and been crushed when it did not turn out as expected. Perhaps they did not recognize Jesus because he was not who or what was expected and desired. Maybe they were in a world of their own, a world filled with sorrow, anxiety, and great disappointment and disillusionment. No wonder they did not see Jesus. He is the outsider; Cleopus calls him a “resident foreigner”, not really a stranger. Jesus is now very different in ways that make him unfamiliar to people who knew him well. Why?? That is the question that keeps haunting me as I read this passage. This is worth a drum roll. Jesus knew that his whole mission was to inaugurate an entirely new way of being human, laying out a world that was freed from death and bondage, freeing humanity, all of it, so that we might entire a perpetual year of Jubilee. Justice and truth, mercy and love, all rolled into an earthly heaven. Jesus explains how all of this was written in the scriptures, but still they don’t get it. Truth be told, I suspect I would have done no better. Jesus calls them slow of heart, just as we to this very day are still very slow of heart. For Luke’s listeners, they understood that slow of heart meant they did not understand, for the heart was the seat of intellect and the gut was where emotions lived. Yet their hearts were burning, as though somehow there was a sense that something had happened, something so profound as to change the world.

But it was not words that opened their eyes and their hearts; it was the breaking of the bread.

The Spanish painter, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, created a painting entitled “Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus” some time in the early 1600’s. In the foreground is a serving girl, a woman actually, working in the kitchen. She is looking both down and behind her, where you see more the more distant figures of Jesus and one other person sitting at a table eating and drinking. This woman knows Jesus. She sees with the eye of her heart, she feels it in her gut. Maybe she saw him when he was teaching and healing and spreading the good news. She does not need to be sitting with the group; she knows. She sees the light.

Maybe that is the whole point. They had it all wrong; we have it all wrong. The one who serves, the one who is not at the table, she is the one who sees immediately. Denise Levertov, in her poem, says the woman had been seen by Jesus and he had spoken to her, a mulatto, a lowly serving girl. She knew before anyone else who it was. “But she in the kitchen, absently touching the wine jug she’s to take in, a young Black servant intently listening, swings around and sees the light around him and is sure.

And isn’t that really the point? Jesus came not for the powerful, but for the mulatto servant girl and for the unknown common folk walking the road to Emmaus. His “re-entry) was not a ticker tape parade, nor was it the entry of the emperor into Jerusalem, nor was it a mighty celestial steed accompanied by angels. It was simply a man, albeit the resurrected son of God, walking with simple folk in a simple village to a simple inn. It was to the downtrodden he appeared. Isn’t that enough reason for an an alleluia?

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