We had hoped...


My name is Cleopas. It’s been three days. Three days since my mentor died. My Rabbi. My Friend. My friend and I had been following him for a number of weeks. He spoke of riches for the poor and freedom for the oppressed. He ate with anybody and welcomed anyone to follow him. He preached good news. We hoped he was the one. I hoped he was the one. But he’s dead.

Our rulers killed him. They betrayed him. The crucified him. We had our hopes up that he was the One, the One to deliver Israel. To deliver us from our bondage, our slavery, our Roman oppressors. But now he’s gone.

It’s been three days.

And now Mary has told us that she couldn’t find Jesus’ body. She went to the tomb and it wasn’t there. She claims an angel appeared to her and told her that Jesus rose from the dead. We all experience our grief differently. Maybe Mary is just seeing things that aren’t there. If he was alive, why wouldn’t he come back to tell us?

My friend and I made the hard decision to leave Jerusalem. We just couldn’t be here, with the grief so raw. Every little thing reminding us that the person we believed would come and save us has died. We are leaving without hope. We have nothing to offer our friends and family. No good news.

We are on our way home now, discussing what has happened in the past few days, weeks. They were the best weeks of our lives. We were filled with vigour and new hope. We are airing our grief.


My name is Thomas. I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now, if you didn’t happen to be there yourself. Jesus has died. I knew him well, or at least I thought I did. We spent a lot of time together, him and I.

I’m out on a walk, I couldn’t be with my friends right now. They remind me too much of him. They are grieving too, I know that. They are hiding right now behind locked doors. Perhaps I would be safer with them, I don’t know. But I just can’t stand to be with them. They remind me so much of our time together with Jesus. I can’t be around that many people grieving; I just need to be alone.

As I walk along, I think about our last few days together. We should’ve known, I guess. He kept on talking about leaving or how we wouldn’t see him anymore. He gave us a whole sermon on grief! I wish I had listened more. I wasn’t paying too much attention because at the time I thought “I’m not grieving. Jesus will redeem Israel and we will grieve no longer!” We should’ve known. Our time in the garden together seems so long ago now. His last prayers for us are so special. Suddenly, tears begin streaming down my face again.

I see my friends run up. What are they doing here? Don’t they know that if we are seen together in a crowed the Jewish leaders will hurt us? They are shouting something. I listen to try and make it out. As they come closer, my friend grabs my shoulders, panting. “We’ve seen him! We’ve seen the Lord!”

My stomach drops. I try to wipe my eyes with my hands, they seem so happy and it feels wrong for me to be crying in front of them. “You have?” I reply. “You’ve seen him?” I think they’ve gone crazy.

They retell the story. It seems unlikely to me. He just “appeared” in their house? Why isn’t he with them now? I feel awful. I know I should believe but I just can’t. I’ve lost hope. I saw him up there on the cross. I saw the pain in his eyes, I heard the thunder as he drew his last breath. People don’t come back from things like that. People don’t come back from death.

“Unless I can touch him, I will not believe.” I say

What am I saying? What are those words coming out of my mouth? I feel awful. My stomach tightens and I feel like I’m going to throw up. I turn away from them and run the other way. Tears streaming down my face. Jesus is gone, I know it. I’ve lost all hope.


Over the past year, we have experienced grief. And we all experienced it in different ways. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories by now. One person has had their first child and cannot share that with anyone. The new grandparents meet their new grandchild only by looking at him through a window. They long to hold the precious baby but can’t.

Another waits for her husband to come home. He is an essential worker and can’t come home because he knows that he doesn’t have COVID but she might. He’s been away for months. She is lost in the loneliness of her house as the anxiety of the world increases her own.

Another is missed out on a graduation. The last time to party with their friends that they’ve grown closer and closer to during their high school years. These are some of the best years of their life. They are supposed to be listening to music together and talking about their dreams. Hugging and dancing and laughing together. But there are no finals, no graduation, no walking down the aisle to receive a diploma.

Another looks around at her wedding guests. Her parents and one friend at City Hall is not exactly the wedding she had dreamed of. She spend months planning a perfect guest list, rearranging table names so everyone would be happy. Picking out the food, the cake. She wanted to celebrate this big day with all of her friends and family around her. But instead, they are watching online, sending hearts over the Internet. It’s not quite the same thing.

Another can’t wait to get away from his kids. He feels terrible. But they are driving him crazy. His wife works in long term care in outbreak and so she can’t see them and is staying somewhere else. He isn’t used to being at home all day with them and even if he was… What he would not give for five minutes of silence. Even one minute. Anything.

We are all grieving. Grieving about something. Once again, the Easter season has come and gone. There weren’t any big celebrations, gathering at church, Easter breakfasts, family gatherings.

I don’t know about you, but when this all started I had hoped it would be over by now.

Perhaps I was naïve.

But like the two men on the road to Emmaus, I find myself repeating those words “we had hoped…” “I had hoped…”

At its core, grief is an unmet expectation. And we sure have a lot of those these days. A lot of people are calling it anxiety and there is a lot of anxiety but at the bottom of this all, there is grief. And when there is grief, people need time to grieve.

You need time to grieve. Give yourself time. As Christians, we tend to want to put up false pretenses. Saying things to each other like “God’s got it under control” or “It will all work out in the end.” These things aren’t untrue but we don’t need to pretend like WE have everything under control. We don’t need to pretend like we know everyone will have happy endings in this situation. Because the reality is, not everyone will. There will be closed down businesses, lost jobs, lost homes, deaths. There will be grief. There is grief.

And that’s okay. It’s okay not to be okay.

On the road to Emmaus, Cleopas and his friend had given up hope. They were grieving. But Jesus was still there with them, in their grieving, in their suffering. He was walking right along beside them even though they couldn’t see him. God was with them. God was there.

Nobody really knows where Emmaus is. There are a few possibilities but I like to think Emmaus is wherever we are headed. Whatever journey we are on. No matter where we are, at work, at home, at the grocery store, away from our loved ones, too close to our loved ones, Jesus is there, walking along beside us.

In the next few weeks, KyongJung and I are going to move into a new sermon series. It will be a normal sermon series, just as we would do if we are gathering together at church. The Easter season, with all its emotions has come and gone and we will, in a sense, move on from that. But I want you to know that wherever you are right now, its okay to be there and God is with you. I want you to know that we are aware that everyone is experiencing this really differently and we can’t be there for you in all the ways that we want to. But wherever you are, God will meet you as he did with the folks on the road to Emmaus. As he did with Thomas. While we will be moving, we also want to give space for people to lament. You don’t need to tell us everything is okay. We are here for us as your pastors and understand that there are things in your life that are not okay. We want to give you a space to grieve that. So, if you’re not ready to move on from the grief series to something new- that’s okay. Give us a call, we are always hear to chat, have an outdoor visit and be a listening ear.

God is with us now. You don’t need to pretend like everything is okay in order to have God’s presence in your life. You don’t even need to say “God’s got it under control.” God was with the guys on the road to Emmaus. God was with Thomas in his doubting, even though he didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.

God is here. God with us in our grief. God is with us in our doubting. No matter what you are feeling, God is here.

We hear footsteps behind us and turn around. It’s odd for us to see someone we don’t recognize on this road. Well, he doesn’t look terribly violent so we continue our walk. Soon, the stranger comes up and walks with us.

“What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” he asks.

His voice sounds vaguely familiar to me but I can’t place his face. Who in our world does not know the events that have happened these past few days? We fill him in, tears coming to our eyes. The grief is still very fresh and raw for us. We tell him about how we hoped that Jesus was the one to deliver Israel. We tell him about Mary finding no body in the tomb and the angels. We tell him about our doubt- who can rise from the dead? It’s impossible.

The stranger lashes out at us with his words, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” He just went on and on, explaining prophesies to us from the Books of Moses through to the prophets. For someone who didn’t seem to know what was going on a moment ago, he sure has a lot of opinions about what is going on.

We arrive at the village. The stranger has been talking this whole time. I zoned in and out. It was nice to not have to talk for awhile, to face my grief. It’s getting late so we invite him into our home. It’s the kind thing to do.

We talk a bit more while preparing the food. His voice sounds so familiar to me, still. We sit down at the table and the stranger picks up the loaf of bread and gives thanks for it. He breaks a piece off to hand to me. As I look up to take it from him, it suddenly clicks: It’s Jesus.

Jesus.

My friend.

My mentor.

My Rabbi.

He’s here, in my home. Speaking with me. Eating with me.

In a moment, he’s gone. He’s disappeared.

(Pause)

Was it really him? Was God there with us the whole time? My friend and I speak to each other. We decide we better get back to Jerusalem to find out if our friends have heard anything.

 

Questions for Reflection

  • How would you end the sentence “I had hoped…” ?