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When broken hearts become burning hearts

7 months ago

In this week’s ReSource Blog Kate Wharton, Assistant National Leader of New Wine and Vicar of St Bart’s, Roby explores the events on the Emmaus Road on the first Easter Day and reminds us that the risen Jesus walks with us when our hearts are broken, when we are searching for answers and when our hearts are burning with joy and anticipation and passion.

An extraordinary journey

What an extraordinary journey it was that those 2 disciples took from Jerusalem to Emmaus on that first Easter Day. We don’t even know for certain who they both were – only one of them is named, Cleopas, and the person who is with him may have been his wife, or a friend. We also don’t know why they’re making this journey, of some 7 miles. What we do know is that they had left before the best bit!

I’m a big football fan, a lifelong supporter of Southport Football Club, who glory in the ranks of the National League (so I am very clearly not in it for the glory!). In all my days of attending football matches, and watching them on television, there is one thing that I have never understood, and that is those fans who leave the stadium with 5 minutes to go until the final whistle. Whether it’s to get out of the car park before the crowds, to make sure they don’t miss the last train, or just because they’re bored, it makes no sense to me – what if they miss the dramatic ending?! And (admittedly for slightly different reasons), that is exactly what had happened to Cleopas and his friend as they left on their way to Jerusalem.


A heart-breaking experience

Cleopas and his companion have gone through the trauma of seeing their beloved friend Jesus die on a cross. I’ve no doubt that even up until the very end, they had hoped that things might work out differently, that something would happen which would mean that Jesus did not have to die. All of their hopes and dreams had rested on him. They had believed in him, and now he was dead. As they set out to Emmaus they were heartbroken. I doubt they could even imagine the next day, let alone any further into the future. All of their hopes had been dashed. And so as they walk, they talk. They discuss the events of the past few days. It’s only Sunday, so the events of Thursday and Friday are very fresh in their minds. All seems lost.


A heart-searching experience

Suddenly, as they walk along, a stranger joins them, and begins to walk with them, and he becomes part of their conversation. He seems to know nothing of what they’re talking about, which astonishes them – they wonder where on earth he has been! And so they tell him about Jesus, who they had thought was the Messiah. They tell him of who he was and what he did, and of what dreadful fate had befallen him. They even tell him that the women had gone to the tomb and found it empty, but that no one had seen Jesus, or knew what on earth had happened.

They were so close to knowing the story, and yet so far – as they talked, and poured out their hearts, I expect there were tears, as the hope and the sorrow and the grief and the fear all mixed up together. They searched their hearts to try to hold on to the hope, but they couldn’t see a way through. Beautifully, prophetically, poetically, the ‘stranger’ teaches them – he explains how in fact everything they already know, everything they believe, has not failed, but has been fulfilled.

They reach Emmaus, and their new friend goes to continue, but they ask him to stay and eat with them. He breaks bread, and somehow, in that action, in that moment, they recognise him, where before they had not. It is Jesus! And then, in an instant, he disappears.


A heart-burning experience

I imagine they were back on the road in a moment, with no care for the meal they had just abandoned, or for how late it was. And I’m sure that the 7 miles back to Jerusalem passed a lot more quickly than the 7 miles to Emmaus had done. When they got back, they found the other disciples still gathered together. They too had news to share, because Simon Peter had by this time encountered Jesus himself. And so Cleopas and his friend arrive and they share their story, of meeting Jesus on the road, and recognising him in the breaking of the bread.

As they marvelled together that they had met Jesus without realizing, they realised that their hearts had burned as they had been with him. And as they all excitedly chattered together, suddenly there was Jesus again, in their midst, saying “Peace be with you.”

What an extraordinary day this was for these 2 disciples. Their broken hearts became searching hearts and finally burning hearts, as they encountered for themselves the risen Jesus. He was with them through it all, as he is with us through it all. He is with us in the moments when our hearts are broken through sorrow and pain and trouble. He is with us in the moments when our hearts are searching for answers and truth and hope. And he is with us in the moments when our hearts are burning with joy and anticipation and passion.


"I must thank you for the Sanctuary Hours in Holy Week, in addition to doing the survey. It was a very, very helpful time for both my husband and myself as we prepared for Easter at this strange period of partial lockdown and all the other restrictions. The content of the Sanctuary Hours was superb, the prayers, timing, pictures and music complemented each other so that each hour just flew by, richly nourishing and deepening the walk through Holy Week."
Attendee at online retreat



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