Forgiveness on the road to Emmaus

April 24, 2020

The Pastor's Page

It was late Easter Sunday afternoon. The sun was dipping in the western sky. The day was largely spent. It was time to call it quits and settle in for the evening.

Two disciples were ambling down the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, one named Cleopas, the other who goes nameless. Some think that his name was Simon or Simeon. Others say Ammaon or Luke. The names are guesses. We will never know.

Road to EmmausThese two disciples were dark sheep. It had been an ugly day. They were befuddled. They did not know where to go. They did not know what to do. They were on a road to nowhere, off course and lost. They made one bad decision after another, and they were in a heap of trouble.

Cleopas and his friend were not apostles, but they were close partners with them. It is likely that they were handpicked by Jesus, two of the seventy additional disciples that Jesus had appointed (see Lk 10:1). They stood out. They were tops among the seventy, friends to the twelve, and companions to Jesus. And they had history together. They heard Jesus speak. They watched Jesus perform miracles. They traveled with Jesus throughout Galilee, and then to Jerusalem.

True friends stay together, particularly when the going gets tough. Not Cleopas and his partner. When things were at their worst, with their Master Jesus dead and buried, a time that they should have pulled together and leaned on each other, they left. They went off by themselves. They abandoned the group, disloyal, undependable.

They were skeptics, doubters. Jesus had told them twice that he would rise on the third day (Lk 9:22; 18:33). The women that went to the tomb reported to them that Jesus had risen (Lk 24:10-11,22-24). They would not believe the women. Worse yet, they did not trust Jesus’ promise. It was too good to be true. It could not possibly have happened.

They were in despair. When Jesus called them, like the apostles they decided to leave family, friends, home, and job. They left everything to follow him (see Lk 5:11,28; 18:28). Yet after they had invested so much time and energy in this new venture, they decided it had been a dismal failure. It was a dream that never came true. Emmaus was home. It was time to go back to their families and pick up with their old jobs. Their disciple days were over.

They were headed west into the darkness, trapped in multiple sins, dark sheep, and lost. The risen Jesus did not punish them, but in his boundless mercy he appeared to them and walked with them. It is what the Good Shepherd does. When a sheep wanders off, Jesus goes in search of them (see Lk 15:4-6). Instead of withholding his grace, he explained the Scriptures and broke bread with them, and through his appearance forgave them, reunited them with the others, strengthened their faith, and enabled them to renew their commitment.

Likewise, when we are going in the wrong direction, the risen Jesus will never abandon us. He appears to us when we are down and out, oftentimes suddenly and unexpectedly, and in a veiled way that may be hard to recognize. His love is constant. His forgiveness is assured. Jesus wants to be united with every traveler on the road of life, particularly if we ever wander off course.


About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

View all posts by Father Michael Van Sloun