“We were hoping that he was the one who would set Israel free.”
Cleopas and his companion were “would be” revolutionaries. Living under the oppression of the Roman empire, they, like many others, hungered in their hearts for the day when Israel’s sovereignty would be restored. They had followed many leaders who promised to bring liberation. Again and again their hopes were dashed as their victors were crushed by the iron fist of Rome. Being hospitable, they had sheltered many bandits, the Robin Hoods of their day, who stole from the rich and gave back to the poor what was rightfully theirs. Did in fact Barabbas sit at their table?
It was Jesus the Nazarene, however, who brought them the most hope. There was a ground swell of popular support. His speeches about the coming kingdom had captured everyone’s imagination. Surely his miraculous powers, strong enough to calm a raging storm, would be utilized to harness and bring down the mightiest army. But now even he was gone.
Cleopas and his companion were making their way back home from their disillusionment. In the midst of recounting the events which had brought to an end their movement for the liberation of Palestine they were joined by their fallen leader, whom they did not recognize. They did not recognize him because they had never before seen him for who he was, only for who they wanted him to be. They were in need of a new understanding of what it meant to be a revolutionary, a liberator, and so Jesus, beginning with Moses and then all the prophets, sought to re-educate them to the true nature of kingdom politics. Still they did not understand.
Jesus, being a master teacher, switched methods from verbal to visual aid and demonstration. He broke bread and began to distribute it to them. Then they saw him for the first time. Then they understood what the kingdom was all about. Then they understood what it meant to be revolutionaries. To be revolutionaries would require that they be broken in suffering service. To bring about the kingdom would mean that they peacefully work for justice and equality in the distribution of the world’s resources. It is when these things are done that Jesus can be seen.
Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 2: 14, 22 – 28; I Pt. 1: 17-21; Lk. 24: 13-35
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.