That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Have you ever been speaking to a friend or acquaintance about someone, complaining about how they do this or that? If you haven’t, keep it up. I know I’ve done it a countless amount of times.
Imagine one of those situations. Imagine speaking to your friend about your other friend x. “X said this today. I can’t believe she would do that! I thought she was better than that.” On and on. But then, someone walks up to you and asks what you’re talking about. Awkward!
What are you supposed to say? “Oh, I was just kinda sorta bashing one of the people I claim as my friend, no big problem, right?” I don’t know about you, but I’m sure not going to say that. I’m probably going to say something like, “Well, we were just discussing…how people should be genuine.” Makes me look intelligent, right?
When I heard the above passage from Luke’s Gospel, I was struck with the similarity between my little “gossip chats” and the conversation between the two men. First clue, it says they were “discussing” and “debating”. “Well I don’t think that’s what it means.” “Yeah, but he promised us. He must have been lying.” “I’m not so sure.” Second clue, when Jesus interrupted them (even though they didn’t recognize him for who he was) “they stopped, looking downcast“. Sounds even more and more like two friends caught in the act of gossiping. Third clue, they change the subject. “Oh, surely you must have heard about Jesus. We had just been hoping he was the Messiah, you know?”
What do you think they really had been saying? Go back to your conversations with your friends. If you thought that someone was the Messiah who died and never rose as you thought, you’d probably have some hard things to say. People don’t mince words when they are alone with friends. We know that from personal experience.
Think about it: these men were angry with Jesus in a way. They thought they had had a hood pulled over their eyes. They felt ashamed and they were venting about it. Here’s the question: is it wrong to vent our pent up stress and emotion?
Let’s think about that a moment. Talking about our feelings, about our struggles, helps us cope with them. It helps us understand what’s going on in our mind. It also helps us look at things more objectively. When we keep things trapped in our minds, they can seem much worse than they really are. So is it wrong to speak our thoughts? No, I don’t think so.
Now, I know right now you’re feeling confused and at a discord. These men were speaking ill about Jesus, that can’t be right. You’re absolutely correct. It wasn’t right. You’re still confused. How can it be right and wrong at the same time? Let me clear that up for you: it’s not both right and wrong at the same time.
It is right and maybe even good to speak about your feelings as long as you take the time to understand other’s feelings and give them the benefit of each and every doubt. That’s what these men weren’t doing. They said that Jesus claimed he would rise again on the third day. This was how they seemed to be proving to themselves he wasn’t the Messiah. What’s the problem here? The tomb was empty. They didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. He was a powerful, good prophet. You could see the admiration they had for him by the way they spoke about him, but the moment he didn’t suddenly appear to them after leaving his tomb they got upset. They didn’t wait in hope that the empty tomb meant he had risen. No, they just assumed it was all a lie.
Was it a lie? No. Was it right and good that they didn’t wait in hope? No. Was it honest of them as followers to speak of him that way? No. Was it respectful? No.
Was it shallow of them to see the empty tomb and not seek him out, not wait in hope for his return? Yes, it definitely was.
It begs the question though, where was Jesus? Shouldn’t he have come immediately to his followers to prove he was alive, to prove he truly was the Messiah? I think not. Jesus did what he did for a reason. This passage is a story of faithlessness. It’s a story of impatience. It’s a story of not holding our tongues. It’s a story of gossip. Jesus was testing his followers, just as he tests us by making us wait for a response to our prayers.
This test only proved to these men that they were mistaken. It proved that they still had a long way to travel in their journey of life.
The moral of this passage is this: think 7 times about a situation, think 7 times about what the other person in the situation might be encountering, think 7 times about why you feel the way you feel, think 7 times about whether a person is the problem or your reaction to the person is the problem, then you can speak.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Put yourself in their shoes. Don’t say about others what you wouldn’t want said about you. Treat others with the kind of respect and kindness that makes them smile.
We can rant or vent, by all means. But let’s just make sure that in ranting or venting we aren’t bashing an innocent man who happens to be the King of the Universe.