Third Sunday of Easter – Luke 24:13-35
Of all the disciples present in the story of Jesus’s resurrection, I am most envious of Cleopas. Yes, the women – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – were the first to receive the news (Matthew 28:1-10). Yes, Jesus went fishing with the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-14). However, Cleopas and his traveling story best describes my relationship with Jesus: foolish and slow of heart to believe (Luke 24:25).
It is unclear who Cleopas is. Other than the account in the Gospel of Luke, Clopas, the variant name of Cleopas, is also mentioned in the story of the crucifixion of Jesus:
“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.” – John 19:25
Scholars have long debated whether Luke’s Cleopas and Clopas, whose wife’s name was Mary, were the same person. However, we can agree that Cleopas was one of the early followers of Jesus, and he, too, was aware that Jesus died on the cross.
As a follower of Jesus, it is understandable that Cleopas was disappointed. He, like many others, had put great hopes in Him. He was the Mighty One, the one who could save the entirety of humanity. Then, He was gone, and Cleopas was utterly confused; he did not know what to do. Cleopas was probably thinking, “Should I stay in Jerusalem? Should I go back to my previous life, pre-Jesus? The other men are going back to fishing anyway.”
And so, he, and his other companion, walked.
For those who know me, I like walking. I would walk 50 blocks going home from class. I could spend two hours on a Saturday leisurely walking along the riverside. Cleopas and the other disciple were walking to Emmaus, seven miles away from their origin, Jerusalem. If Cleopas, like me, liked to walk at a very leisurely pace, the journey would have taken approximately 2.5 hours. That was a whole 150 minutes that he got to spend with Jesus.
There was one tiny problem, though: he did not recognise Him. Instead of spending more meaningful time with Jesus, Cleopas was debating with his companion, possibly exploring many theories about Jesus’s whereabouts, and, most likely, doubting his faith, “Was I wrong to believe in Jesus all this time?” This all happened while Jesus was with them; those 150 minutes were essentially wasted.
Cleopas is a representation of all of us, or, at the very least, me, right now. In times of crisis, I often doubt my faith. I had great hopes for this year, but life is on pause indefinitely. Everything that I had imagined happening this year is, well, obviously not happening. I cannot plan for the week ahead, let alone a year. When God ordains things to happen contrary to our expectations, we are tempted to doubt His promise and, as a result, lose sight of Him, just like Cleopas.
How do we regain our sight? The gospel gives us a hint: the Sacrament of Eucharist. But, hey, masses are canceled too. Although not entirely perfect, the sacrament has been made available online, where we can easily have access. A good friend shared a compilation of online English mass URLs from every corner of the world with me. “It’s always mass o’clock somewhere,” he said. Making time for 20-30 minutes of daily mass in my unstructured day has helped me to reaffirm to myself that all of this is temporary, that we will be able to receive the body of Christ soon.
However, more importantly, we must understand what faith is and what it will bring us. The Book of Hebrews provides me with comfort during these trying times. According to the Book of Hebrews,
“Faith is the realisation of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1
If Cleopas had had a little bit more faith in Jesus, he would have recognised the Man sooner. In a crisis of faith, we must endure and keep our hopes up; we must not abandon and, rather, keep practicing our faith. We must “persevere in running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). One useful advice is to “endure your trials as discipline” (Hebrews 12:7).
“At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:11
Let us all pray that, through discipline, we will be able to gain those extra 150 minutes of Jesus.
By Christie Ruslim, CFJ Bible Fellowship Leader