I do this little bible study twice a week called “Coffee with Jesus” which is based on this “Radio Free Babylon” comic strip of the same name.
Sometimes we refer to that fourth panel up there where the comic typically drives home its point as the “Snarky Jesus” panel.
That can be troublesome for a few folks.
“What do you mean, ‘Snarky Jesus?’ When was Jesus ever capricious? When did Jesus ever display a sense of humor or anything that resembled sarcasm or being a trickster?”
I could point to a number stories actually; but none of them has quite the bite and edge as this “Road to Emmaus” story.
This is indeed a ‘snarky Jesus’ if ever one was revealed in the scriptures!
For seven miles Jesus accompanies these two forlorn followers, without ever once interrupting their grief and shock to reveal himself to them. Somehow his identity remains shrouded through the whole conversation.
“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
He asked them, “What things?”
What have you been doing in Jerusalem these last three days? They might just as well have asked him, and he might just as well have replied, “Oh, just hanging around and laying low….”
By not identifying himself right away, this is a Jesus who “plays along” with the situation. Don’t tell me this isn’t a bit like one of those “coming home from armed services” gags where the father or mother hides in plain sight!
We are told in retrospect that “their hearts “burned” within them as Jesus opened the scriptures and explained things,” but during the walk they can’t put two and two together!
Moreover, they have the whole story right, and they end up witnessing to Jesus as they walk along with him.
They are talking through the important key events, clicking them off as if it was the creed.
“Jesus of Nazareth”
“A Prophet mighty in deed and word.”
“Handed over by our chief priests and leaders, condemned to death and crucified.”
“We had hoped he would redeem Israel…”
“Some women in our group astounded us…they told us of a vision of angels and how he was alive.”
“Some of those with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.”
That’s pretty much the whole Jesus story right there, but they didn’t listen to the women, or to Jesus very well in life either!
In the Gospels Jesus had told his followers that they would see them in Galilee, and that he would go before them.
Of course you’re not going to see Jesus at the tomb! That’s not where you were supposed to look for him in the first place, Oh disciples!
The “Snarky Jesus” part of me wants to say, “if you’d just listened to the women in the first place, you’d have saved yourself seven miles worth of denial here!”
But then, the point that these followers are supposed to learn is that Jesus does meet you along the way.”
The point that they, (and probably we) are supposed to begin to understand is that Jesus is present with us in the midst of our grief, our disappointment, and our confusion.
The point that we are supposed to get out of all of this bewilderment is that Jesus has already gifted us with the ability to witness to the resurrection, even when we aren’t completely confident in it!
Oh snarky, snarky Jesus in his accompaniment with those on the road to Emmaus is letting them to discover as they journey just how much of the story they already confidently have under their belt!
And, maybe that’s supposed to be our take away from the story as well.
What keeps us from witnessing to Jesus? Is it not that we have sometimes have convinced ourselves that we just don’t know what to say?
“I don’t know my bible well enough!”
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“I don’t know what to tell people.”
And so, we keep to ourselves, quietly shuffling along instead of engaging those we meet. We’d like to say something, know that faith should compel us to say something, but we’re unsure. We don’t want to get it wrong.
What if we looked at every opportunity to witness to our faith as if it were an “Emmaus Road” experience?
What if we began with the premise that all we are really doing here is telling Jesus what the Jesus we meet in that other person already knows?
“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place?” the men say to Jesus.
And Jesus, simply plays along.
“What things?” he says.
He knows perfectly well the events, he has lived them! But allowing a person to tell the story from their own perspective gives them the opportunity to make sense of it, and it gives them practice at telling it and making connections in their own life of faith. Often times sharing in this way opens up moments of dialog that make hearts, and sometimes cheeks, and often times eyes burn as we tell our story of what God has done for us.
Maybe all we are really doing in witnessing to Jesus is telling the story of God’s accompaniment with us to that other person who already knows it all too well, but simply needs to hear it from out lips and from our perspective. Sharing the story opens new avenues for understanding how it is that God is walking and working in this world.
You might for instance, already know that Jesus walks along with you in the journey, but isn’t it reassuring to hear someone else’s experience of that?
Or put another way, Cleopas and that other disciple may have heard the women’s story very clearly. They can certainly recall it, recite it, but it hasn’t yet become their story.
Not even seeing the empty tomb made it their story!
It is all well and good that “the women” believed, astonishing really, but what difference does what they believe and what they have seen make in my life?
It simply isn’t their story of understanding Jesus’ accompaniment in life with yet, and its not until their hearts burn and their eyes are opened that the women’s story becomes theirs as well, and it happens in the telling of it.
Maybe it’s the same with us. We tell the story of how God has met us along the way, as silly or strange or momentus as that story might be, and when we do, we can join the women, and Cleopas and Simon and all the others and acknowledge that they were right! “We have seen the Lord!”
And now what do you do with that?
Well, for Cleopas and the other disciples, it meant running back the seven miles you just traveled again to confirm the story for those others!
It isn’t an “idyll tale” as we dismissed it earlier.
“The Lord has indeed risen!”
There is found in the sharing of the story a kind of confirmation. “I get it now! Jesus did appear to you, because this is how Jesus appeared to me!”
It may be different for us all, how Jesus appears.
Your story may be unique to your experience, but once it has taken place, then your story joins with my story, and with the Women’s story, and with Simon’s story, and with Cleopas’ story.
We all become witnesses of it to one another.
Jesus is not capricious, but he is at the very least one who delights in popping up and popping in and revealing himself at least for a glimpse in people’s lives.
That “glimpse” is often enough to fuel the telling of the story again, which prompts the next story from someone else, and so it passes on and forward again and again, and to make one wonder just where Jesus might pop up next!
This is the kind of Messiah Jesus has been all along, popping into the lives of people to heal, to forgive, and to surprise them with God’s compassion and grace.
Is it any wonder that Jesus is still that way?
It may be that Jesus comes off a bit “snarky” from time to time to lead us into finding our own conclusions.
Or, it may just be that at the end of our “seven miles of denial” Jesus is waiting to reveal to us what we should have known, and may have sensed all along.
A God who accompanies never truly leaves us. As he promised, “I am with you always.”