On the Easter Sunday after the women encounter and then report about the empty tomb and their conversations with angels, two disciples travel from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a small village that is 7 miles away. They are deep in conversation about everything that just happened. As they walk and talk, a stranger, or so it seems, joins them on their journey. It’s Jesus himself—crucified, now risen. He’s right there, walking and talking with them and they see him, but they completely miss him at the same time.
Why could they see him, but not see him? Is it that his resurrected body is so different he’s unrecognizable? Other stories suggest his resurrected body does seem to have a few differences in what it can do, but no one acts shocked or thrown by his appearance.
Luke tells us something interesting. “They were kept from recognizing him (24:16).” In Greek, the verb is in the passive tense. It means something was acting on them, pushing against their sight, preventing them from seeing. That’s led to all kinds of speculation. Was it God veiling their eyes? Was it Satan stunting their sight? The text doesn’t say. But an upcoming verse makes me think it’s something still powerful, but also simple. “They stood still, their faces downcast (Luke 24:17).” They’re sad, in grief, mourning, depressed.
There’s a parable Jesus tells in Luke 8 about a sower and seed and soil. In it Jesus says that sometimes faith is choked out by the worries and riches and pleasures and other pursuits of life. Here’s what I know. It doesn’t require a cosmic force to keep us from recognizing the risen Jesus walking beside us. Sometimes it’s other priorities and pursuits. It can be busyness, the hustle and bustle of life. And especially in the midst of times like the past year we have lived through, it can be worry and anxiety, suffering and struggle, sadness and grief.
Though Easter is now behind us, the light and hope it brings is still our guide. We are not alone on this journey. The risen Lord is walking beside us, ready to lead us into life and peace and purpose and understanding and joy. We may struggle to recognize him, sometimes. A lot of things obstruct our view. But here’s what we proclaim this Easter: The tomb is empty. Hope is still ahead of us.