Nearly 2,000 years ago, two disillusioned youths consoled each other as they walked that seven-mile stretch of road separating Jerusalem from Emmaus. They moved slowly, depression having taken the spring from their steps. A double feeling clung to their hearts that day. They were hurting and there was reason. Their messiah and their dreams had just been crucified. A deep dark disappointment dampened their spirits. And there was fear. Most of all, there was fear. Not fear that they themselves might be crucified. That prospect loomed more welcome than the thought of going on. Theirs was that more horrible fear, the fear that comes from the realization that perhaps nothing makes a difference after all, maybe our dreams and our hopes point to nothing more real than Santa and the Easter Bunny. Maybe hope is only for children and the naive? They had been so excited, so full of hope. The uncrucified Christ had filled them with a dream. With that dream had come a new innocence, a freshness, an energy, a feeling absent since they had been children and which, prior to meeting Jesus, they had, long ago, unconsciously despaired of ever feeling again.
One weekend, one black Friday, had changed it all. They walked now, realistic again, more than 48 hours older, their dreams, like their messiah, dead, entombed. They had grown up a lot in one weekend. Their naiveté had died as it hung exposed, mocked and ridiculed by the wise. There was a lesson hard learned, but it brought a hurt and a disappointment beyond words. But another feeling clung to them too, like a demon refusing to be exorcised. The dream still burned holes in their hearts. Mocked and dead – maybe it didn’t matter? Maybe something was more real than even death! Hurt beyond words, confused beyond doubts, they searched for words, grasped for trust. Then a stranger caught their step and caught their mood. They didn’t recognize him. How could they? In their loss of trust, their messiah had died.
But the stranger begins to find the words: “Do they not yet understand the ways of God? Isn’t it always when they don’t understand, and have to trust, that they understand the most deeply? Wasn’t it necessary for naiveté to be so exposed and ridiculed? Is that not its glory?” His words burned in them, touching and soothing that same deep part of the heart where the dream had lain. But they were only words, a balm, a momentary salve, nothing more. The doubt, the hurt, the fear, these lingered on. Emmaus and twilight appeared at the same time. The stranger had been a consolation. Why not ask him to stay? They continued to share, bread and consolation. Suddenly their eyes were opened. Their minds and hearts were opened even further. They understood. Jesus was with them again. The dream exploded anew like an atom split. They split, immediately, for the ends of the earth, hanging their naiveté and their dreams on crosses everywhere. The dream never died again. Easter Sunday had eclipsed a godless Friday. Christianity goes through multiple moods and feelings. Each age must struggle with its own emotions. Today, in terms of feeling, we live in that time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We are trudging along the road to Emmaus. Like the two disciples, we live with crucified dreams. Aesthetically, romantically, ethically, and religiously, we are surrounded by despair and its child, cynicism.
Dreams are giving way before the caveat of the cynic; faith is daily being displaced by doubt; and perseverance and long-suffering are all but extinct in a culture and church of release and enjoyment. Worst of all, there is fear, an unconscious fear whose tentacles are beginning to color every facet of life. It is the fear that perhaps our Christian hopes and dreams point to nothing beyond our own hopes and dreams. Perhaps faith is, after all, only a naiveté. Isn’t Christ as dead as he was on Good Friday? Who, save perhaps for a few good thieves, is still turning to a cross for salvation? Yet there is something else: The dream still clings to us, refusing to let us go. It burns holes in us still, hanging on to us, even when in infidelity and despair we can no longer hang on to it. Hope is still more real than death. In our hurt, we are struggling for words and grasping for trust. We need to remain on the road to Emmaus. The stranger still stalks that same road. In his company we need to discuss our doubts, discuss the scriptures and continually offer each other bread and consolation. At some moment too, our eyes will be opened. We will understand and we will recognize the risen Lord. Then the dream will explode anew like a flower bursting in bloom after a long winter. We will be full of a new innocence. Easter Sunday will happen again.