Recognizing Jesus

3rd Sunday of Easter: Luke 24: 13-35

The two disciples in today’s gospel are making a journey from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. They are not doing well. They are grieving the death of Jesus whom they just saw crucified and buried. The text tells us that they are “downcast,” hoping that Jesus would be the one to free them. But now Jesus is dead, and their dreams are shattered. They stagger as much as they walk on that road, putting distance between themselves and Jerusalem, the city in which their lives fell apart. In the midst of their loss and grief, Jesus comes and walks with them.

It is key to the story that the disciples do not recognize Jesus. How can this be? Even though Jesus has been transformed by the glory of the resurrection, should not these two disciples who traveled with Jesus, ate with Jesus, and knew Jesus’s voice as they frequently heard him addressing the crowds, perceive who it is who is walking with them? It certainly must be that they are so caught up in their pain that they do not see what is before their eyes. They are so controlled by their fear that they do not sense their Lord. They are so focused on what they had lost that they are unable to see who is with them.

We are those disciples on a journey as we continue to face the threat of the coronavirus. It is natural for us to focus on the things that we have lost. We have lost our routine. We have lost our security. We have lost our touch. We have lost our income. We have lost our patience. Each day, all that we have lost is right before our eyes. It will continue to be so for days to come. Therefore, it is crucial that the things we have lost are not the only things that we see. Unlike the disciples, we must be able to recognize the presence of the risen Christ who walks with us and continues to bless us always.

How does Christ bless us in this time of crisis? He blesses by giving us a governor who makes clear and strong decisions, thereby saving thousands of lives in our state. He blesses us by giving us scientists who use their talents to discover a vaccine and tens of thousands of healthcare professionals who minister to those who are infected. He blesses us by giving us a home in which we can wait out this virus in surroundings that are familiar and comforting. He blesses us with modern communication that allows news and entertainment to come into our isolation and connect us to the larger world. He blesses us with the relationships of family and friends who, in this time above all, continue to ground us, support us, and love us. He blesses us with our faith, a faith in Jesus who—though he lay for three days in the tomb—is still the Lord of life and whose love for us is stronger than any threat or virus.

Each day when we pray, we should begin not by focusing on what is absent or what causes us fear. We should begin by focusing on what is present and what blesses us. We should begin with thankfulness. We must not be like the disciples who failed to see what was right before their eyes. As we continue our journey through the darkness of this pandemic, let us be aware that the risen Christ walks at our side.

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