by J. Thomas
Growing up, my youth pastor liked giving sermons about the resurrection leading up to Christmas, and Christmas sermons on Easter Sunday. He was funny that way. Admittedly, I did appreciate hearing a message on the reason Jesus came to earth leading up to the day that celebrates his birth. As I prepare my heart for Christmas, the Advent season is the journey leading up to the blessed day. This reminds me of the many great experiences that biblical figures have on their journeys or “on the road” to somewhere. Today, I reflect on two of Jesus’ followers shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24.
Imagine two of Jesus’ closest followers, but not part of the twelve, traveling away from Jerusalem talking and having an in-depth discussion on the week’s events: the triumphant entry of Jesus on a donkey, the last supper, a secret arrest followed by a sham trial, the public execution, and now mysterious reports of an empty tomb and Jesus sightings. It is a married couple. Think about the lively, perhaps bickering, conversation and debate unfolding when Jesus himself comes alongside them and walks with them. They have no idea it is him, and the pair update this uninformed stranger about the crazy week and aftermath. I can just picture how in the retelling of the events, the married couple disagrees on the details, speaks over each other to offer commentary, and express emotions of confusion, hope, and sadness all mixed up. No wonder why Jesus responds with a “how foolish you are” annoyance at their chattering. Then for the rest of the journey, it is Jesus’ time to give the Bible study of a lifetime – starting with Moses and all of the Prophets, Jesus expounds on what is “said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?
Amazing things happen on the road. So, as we travel with our family and friends during this year’s Advent journey, let us expect glorious things to occur. I want us to talk, laugh, and debate about the world’s events. We are experiencing strange and disorienting times when it is hard to see what is up and what is down. It is dizzying. But I admire the journey. Like the travelers on the road to Emmaus, I am on my own journey after a confusing and dizzying few months. I feel like I have been persecuted but also triumphant in starting a public ministry and connecting to a new church. And like Jesus was able to tell a single narrative that spans the entire Bible, I feel Jesus is revealing to me a story that spans my entire life.
At three-and-half years old, I am separated from my primary caregiver, my grandmother, as she returns to Korea after living with us from birth. Both my parents are still there to feed me and shelter me, but as my earliest childhood memory, I am left with a deep loss and a fear of abandonment that follows me to adulthood. I am pained by how my parents did not prepare me for the separation and provide an explanation of what was going to happen. I’m incensed when a second aunt, whom I saw only twice before, tries to comfort me. She implores, “Don’t be sad! I’m still here. I’ll take care of you.” I look at her. Her lack of understanding cuts deep. I push her away, and yell, “I don’t want you! I want my grandma!” I am on my knees and bawl as I watch my grandmother walk away down the airport terminal.
What I did not recognize back then, I realize now. Just as the two followers did not recognize it was Jesus speaking with them on their journey, I did not realize that it was my Lord and Savior that spoke to me through that second aunt. What possessed that woman to say those words to me? Why are they still burned in my memory as I recount the story? What was the salt in my grief as a toddler, is now a message of hope and joy. My God never left me. He was always there. I did not recognize it, but it was he that tried to comfort me. And though I pushed him away because I did not recognize my Savior, he continued to pursue me until I reached out for his hand.
Whether we are walking away from something or walking toward a destination, on the road is an opportunity to have a Jesus encounter. With untrained eyes, light is blinding. We may shun it at first. It hurts. We may close our eyes and reject the light. But when the moment comes when we can see the story of our lives from God’s point of view, our eyes open and we see Jesus was there all along. Leading up to Christmas, expect great things to happen. There are revelations all around us that Jesus is eager to unlock for us. Please lean into the light and press in closer to Jesus. And that burning you feel in your heart, that is the light within. Tell your story to another, and let it shine
Welcome to the Godspace Team, J. Thomas! Check out his member page.