Easter in Emmaus
Once upon a time, a long time ago, a short time ago, even today, there was a village called Emmaus. Emmaus was located about seven miles outside the city called Easter.
Every year the residents of Emmaus traveled to Easter. They began their journey on the Day of Palms. Their pastor led them on the journey, proceeding a mile a day until they arrived at Easter on the final day. Along the way they would pause to remember the events that led to the founding of Easter.
On Thursday of their journey, they would stop early and prepare a special meal that everyone ate together. It was the meal that the Founder of Easter had given for all the people of all time to come and enjoy. Then, the next day, they wore the dark, somber clothing of mourning and death. All the pilgrims of Emmaus wept on Friday, because they felt deeply the love of the One they called “Savior.” The next day, Saturday, they camped just outside Easter and prepared for the festive celebration. Excitement would build as they brought out their celebration clothes, flowers, and trumpets and prepared for the morning of entering Easter.
Finally, at dawn the next day, they entered the city of Easter. There they joined the people of Easter in singing hymns of praise. What a day of joy and gladness! The people of Emmaus believed sincerely in their risen Lord Jesus. They knew His cross and empty tomb were the heart and center of their life. They also looked forward to being raised to eternal life.
Then right after the celebration at Easter, the people of Emmaus would go home. This would take seven more days, because the joy and gladness of Easter stayed with them, and they were in no hurry to return to life in Emmaus. And they just couldn’t wait until next year—then they could rejoice in Easter all over again.
Finally, the Sunday after Easter came, and they went back to the tasks and routines of everyday life. For the next fifty weeks they hardly changed anything. Easter quickly became something that was a long year away.
One year, after they returned from Easter and resumed their Emmaus lives, a stranger came to town. The people were very fascinated by the stranger. He looked vaguely familiar, but they still couldn’t place him. He told them that he was a visitor from Easter. During that week the stranger wandered around Emmaus. He visited schools. He was seen in the library, the bank, even the jail. He went to the factory and the shopping center. He seemed to show up everywhere.
He spent a lot of time talking with the good people of Emmaus. Some folks told him, “You’re so fortunate to live in Easter. It really is too bad that Easter lasts only a short time every year. Oh, some day, when Emmaus is gone, then we’ll move to Easter and celebrate every day. Right now, though, we’re just too busy to spend much time over there.”
The stranger asked, “Why can’t Easter happen all the time, throughout the year?” The citizens of Emmaus had thought of the question; some had even asked the question of others on the return trip to Emmaus. “Easter is a long way off,” said the minister. “If we went there every day, it would lose its meaning. After all, the Good Book says, ‘Moderation in everything.’”
The school children would tell the stranger, “We have to study hard to be successful someday. Our moms and dads say we don’t have time for Easter.” High school students had different reasons, as they were preparing for life: “I’d feel weird about it. Easter is okay to visit, once in a while. It makes me feel good, but I don’t want to be a fanatic.”
Housewives agreed. “If you had to do all the work we have to do,” they said, “you wouldn’t even ask. Easter is a lot of work. We just don’t have time for it all the time.”
The stranger interviewed many workers and professionals: “Who would earn a living? Who would keep things going? There’s just too much to do. Easter is a nice place to visit, but you can’t really live there! Besides, what does it have to do with work and schedules and goals, the real stuff of life?”
At the bars they said, “This is where it’s at, man. Don’t bring that Easter stuff in here. It’s bad for business. We need to relax, keep things light. Easter is too serious.”
Well, the stranger visited others. He went to hospitals and jails, to homes and workplaces. He found many hurting people—people suffering from failure, sickness, trial, and frustration. “Easter doesn’t happen where we live,” they said. “We’re too sad and hungry and bitter. Easter is a nice place to visit, but it just won’t work here in Emmaus.”
Finally, on the next Sunday, the stranger called all the people of Emmaus together. They all came—the children, the teens, the young adults, the middle-aged and the elderly; the joyful and sad; the sick and the healthy; the poor and the wealthy.
The stranger addressed them all: “People of Emmaus, how slow you are in your hearts to believe! Sure, you know many facts about Easter in your heads, and you can even recite them. But in your heart and soul you’re missing the point. You went to Easter two weeks ago. Why did you go? What did you celebrate? You celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, whom you call Lord and Savior. But did that message change you? Or did you instead tuck your Lord into a little tomb once you returned to Emmaus? Have you sealed Him away from your day-to-day life?
The stranger was gentle as he continued: “You know the Easter message. It’s all there in Moses and the Prophets.” Now the minister was impressed with the stranger. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” Is it not necessary “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations” (Lk. 24:47)?
These things all made sense, but the people of Emmaus still needed more. They needed more than a rousing speech or factual information. They needed the joy of life, the gladness of Easter that continues day by day, week after week. So, the stranger took some bread, gave thanks, and broke it. And suddenly, the people of Emmaus recognized the stranger: it was Jesus Himself!
At that point Jesus didn’t have to add a thing. Now it clicked. Easter did continue—every time they gathered at the Altar of their church. Every time the minister broke the bread and gave out the cup, the people of Emmaus realized that Jesus Himself was giving His own Body and Blood. They realized and trusted that whenever they wanted to celebrate Easter—the joy of Jesus’ resurrection life—all they had to do was go to the Altar, look at the Altar, and eat and drink at the Altar.
Then the folks of Emmaus began to notice a difference in their day-to-day life. The real stuff of life—the goals and schedules, the sicknesses and trials and frustrations, even the many other joys of life—began to be less pressing and yet have more meaning. The negative things of life did not seem so weighty and burdensome. The positive things of life did not seem, well, so all-consuming. When they celebrated Easter every week at the Altar, everything seemed to be much more real and much more joyous.