Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Gift

It was the ebb-tide of our faith and hope. The inner landscape of our hearts was formless and void, and darkness lay over it all, though the spring sunshine burned brightly. We thought that we had seen the shape of mercy and redemption, and that the time of the fulfilment of God’s mighty promises was at hand. We had seen, we had marvelled, we had loved; but now the one we had seen and loved lay in the tomb, and all our expectations were buried with him. And from the tomb there is no returning.

Our shared grief should have brought us closer, but somehow sorrow is the most isolating of emotions. We were each locked in our own darkness as we walked along that road, making limp conversation to try and express the throbbing misery that locked us each apart. Then the Stranger joined and asked what we were discussing. He must have been the only person anywhere near Jerusalem who was unaware of the one story everyone was discussing – the crucifixion of Jesus. We told him the story, and it was then that the words burst from me finally expressing the grinding pain within: “We thought He would be the one to redeem Israel!”

For a fleeting moment I thought I saw such a look on his face as if the joyous laughter of heaven were about to spill over; but it was gone so fast that I must have imagined it. Then he proceeded to open the scriptures to us in a way that we had never heard before, showing how the Messiah was one who would come to suffer and to die, and that this would be the way that the Kingdom of God would come in. It was the most amazing exposition of scripture I had ever heard, and we were so engrossed that it was with surprise that we realised we had reached Emmaus. We urged him to come in and dine with us – it was late in the day and besides, there was such comfort in his words and presence that we were loath to see him go.

So he entered the house with us, and changed our lives forever. His words had touched our hearts, but now his actions were transformative.  And yet they were such normal, everyday actions: he took the bread, he gave thanks, and then he broke the bread to pass to us. And in the breaking of the bread the Saviour was revealed. He handed us the bread, and in that moment we saw, really saw, who he was, and were struck dumb with commingled love, joy and worship. And even as we struggled to respond to the unthinkable, the outcome we had never considered, he vanished from our sight and we were left gaping at each other.

               It was Jesus!
               He isn’t dead any more! He’s risen
               What has He done? What has God done?
               How could we have been so blind, so stupid, so slow to believe?
               How could we have doubted him?
               Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he spoke to us along the road?

I looked at the piece of bread in my hand, and absorbed the fact that I had just been given the greatest gift of all. God himself had come, and sat down at my very ordinary table, to show me in person,  (why me? Oh my Precious Lord, why me?), that death had been overcome, the ransom had been paid, and the temple curtain had ripped for a very specific reason. He was the one whom God had sent to redeem Israel, but not just Israel,  the whole world was his. With one accord we rose from the table and ran back to Jerusalem again, and did not feel the weariness of the journey. There was one word in our mouths and one song on our lips: ‘The Lord has risen!’

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