Some of the most heart rending words that have ever been spoken were spoken by the two disciples on the way to Emmaus when they said to Jesus, “We had hoped.” They were not the first people to say these words and they will not be the last. But every time I hear these words I understand the pain that forces the heart to express these words. These two men had such high hopes for Jesus. They had seen His love. They had seen his miracles. They had seen His popularity grow. They had seen the people flocking to hear Him and draw strength from Him. It seemed that Jesus was poised to become something really special and these two men were poised to become a part of this movement. They envisioned their future with Jesus would be one of glory and joy and countless blessings. As they talk with Jesus on the way to Emmaus they still can’t believe how quickly their hopes had turned to ashes. They couldn’t believe His arrest, His trial, His crucifixion, and His death. Out of the depths of their grieving hearts came the words, “We had hoped.”
Louder than the roar from a packed sports stadium we are hearing those words all around us these days. “We had hoped” say countless businesses and restaurant owners as they look at their shuttered doors and wonder if they can overcome their financial losses and reopen. “We had hoped” say countless students as they prepare for careers that may no longer be there for them or as they ponder what course their future education will take. “We had hoped” say countless family members who could not sit at the bedside of a dying loved one and could not have a traditional funeral for the loved one who died. “We had hoped” say millions of people all over the world who wonder when will the threat be over and when will things get back to normal.
What strikes me in this story is how Jesus responds to the grief of these two disciples. He walks with them. He listens to them. He lets them get all of the grief and pain out in the open and then He tries to show them where the path ahead may lie. He helps these two men to see that what they hoped for is not what they were going to get. The very thing they didn’t want to see happen was exactly what had to happen. So Jesus gives them a different hope. No glory now but there will be glory later. Suffering can’t be avoided but it can be a pathway to higher meaning and higher goals. And then He sits down and breaks bread with them and their eyes are opened and their hearts burn within them.
This speaks to my heart right now and I hope it will speak to your heart also. We are so divided from one another in our world today. We shout at each other from our silos. We label each other as liberals or conservatives. We see ourselves as people who have nothing in common with one another so we can’t talk to each other and we can’t understand each other. And yet we are all in this together. We are all grieving right now. We all are living with broken hopes and broken dreams. Our shared grief unites us. We can cross boundaries and sit down with each other and listen to each other as we express our grief. And then maybe we can also look at how our hopes may have to change. Maybe then we can try to help each other try to figure out what will the real normal be when the virus subsides. Maybe then we can provide a helping hand and a word of wisdom and a word of encouragement to each other as we try to get back on our feet. Maybe we can even break bread together which is where we truly experience the intimacy of knowing that what unites us is so much bigger than what divides us.