According to the New Testament, late one Sunday afternoon in the spring of the year, two of Jesus’ followers were walking along a road to the little village of Emmaus. They were deeply discouraged. They had lost everything they valued two days earlier when he was killed.
Jesus once had promised that if anything happened to him, they shouldn’t give up. “Keep going,” he said. He would be back three days later. It was now the third day. (CH Dodd, The Leader, page 13)
Along the way to Emmaus, a Stranger joined them. It was Jesus. He was alive, miraculously raised from the dead. They experienced him on the road and that evening at dinner. And they continued to experience him, day after day: in Jerusalem, Galilee, Samaria, and everywhere they went.
Life didn’t change because of Easter. Those early followers of Jesus still faced all the trouble that sometimes goes with life. That didn’t change. But they changed. They found courage, hope, peace, and bliss. They found it in him. The Stranger stayed with them, and remained with them always.
St. Luke’s version of the whole Eastertide story comes to a close with a magnificent line: “And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy!”
We would be amazed if they didn’t.
That brief Biblical vignette still reveals the meaning of Easter for Jesus’ modern-day followers. It “doesn’t take away all of life’s problems, or brush aside all of life’s pain.” It doesn’t change that.
But Easter still changes people. Wherever and whenever people experience the Stranger among us—and they still do in churches, chapels, and cathedrals; in hospital rooms, living rooms, classrooms, boardrooms, and prison cells; beside lakes, alongside roads, on sidewalks, and at dinner tables—they still find courage, hope, peace, and bliss. It is the reason why we keep going. It is still the third day. (CH Dodd, The Leader, page 19)
Reverend Greg Renstrom is Minister at Wesley congregation in Minneapolis.