Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
"What just happened?" In today’s gospel two disciples find themselves in the middle of a story and are trying to make sense of it. Both have spent the last several months following “Jesus the Nazarene” as he and his hordes advanced upon Jerusalem. The Master had planned and orchestrated the campaign carefully, sending 36 teams of two disciples each to every town and village he planned to visit. Jerusalem had heard about this grassroots movement and wildly greeted him upon his arrival. They had waved branches from trees and spread their cloaks on the road as he entered the gated city.
Then suddenly the mood changed and he was crucified. And then, just as suddenly, on the third day the city was abuzz with rumors that he had been raised from the dead. Cleopas and his friend are trying to make sense of it all as they head out of town.
But they haven’t a clue. This incident will never make sense; the story will remain frustrating and inconclusive until something else occurs. Or perhaps it will blow over; something else will happen and the trauma of that Passover will be forgotten. What just happened?
God lives in eternity, we're told. He sees the past and the future as if they were present, because there is no past or present in God. I'm not sure I buy that but I am sure that we human beings are not privileged with such a perspective. Creatures of the present moment, our knowledge of the past is limited to personal and shared memories, all of it colored by particular ideas and opinions. There are things we'd rather not remember, which may be important. There are other things we treasure as hugely important, and hope they are.
Fortunately, with our marvelous facility for language, we tell stories. We could not be human without them. And then we argue about our stories. Is this one important? Or that one? What do they mean?
...beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.
On the road to Emmaus Jesus told his story as it should be understood. He didn't speak only of the last weekend, or even of the past few years. He didn't need to point out how his healings had generated rancor among his enemies. He didn't need to remind them of the uneasy balance of powers between disgruntled Jews and sword-happy Romans. Rather, they needed a historical perspective beginning with "Moses and all the prophets."
His account would make sense not only to the puzzled pedestrians but to the whole world, and for all the future. Eventually, the walkers would realize the helpful stranger was Himself! No one else could do it because he is both messenger and message.
The import of "what just happened" was still staggering but now it made sense, and they knew precisely what they had to do. Taking their part in history, Cleopas and his friend sped back to the City because the Gospel must begin at Jerusalem.