Practicing Resurrection: On the Way (Luke 24:13-35)

series of reflections on Jesus’ resurrection appearances, contributed by past and present Pepperdiners. Today’s is from Seaver ’12 graduate A.J. Hawks.

Georges Roualt, On the Way to Emmaus

Luke 24:13-35 Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus

(Not Jesus’ actual profile pic)

I’ve been thinking a lot today about this one particular high school kid I know. His family and I are friends and he has evidently moved back home from boarding school. The reasons are long and complicated, but that isn’t actually what I’ve been pondering. You see, upon his return, he changed his profile picture on Facebook to one of those… um… self-portraits. You know? The pictures people take in a mirror of themselves with their cellphone? Right. Well, anyway. Like every good socialite, said portraits absolutely kill me.

As I was pondering the best way to eradicate the world of all such pictures, a thought squirmed its way inside my brain: “You know what he needs? He needs someone to make him take that picture off. Now.” For whatever reason, this led me to think about why these pictures bother me so much. And, in truth, I had never stopped to think about such a thing. “They’re embarrassing!” my internals cried out. “Yes but why?” my slightly more academic side responded. Ultimately, I settled on at least a partial answer. Pictures like that reflect two things about the featured individual: (1) They are self-obsessed and (2) They are alone. The first needs no explanation but I want to clarify the second. When I say alone, I do not mean that they have no friends. They might, in fact, have a great number of friends. Rather, I mean to say that they have no profound friends. Something about said pictures suggests to me (and I don’t think I’m alone) that the individual lacks anyone in their life to push deeper and further into each other and find what is actually valuable. They are trapped in an isolation of superficiality. So I found myself correcting my earlier statement. He doesn’t need someone to tell him to take the picture off. What he needs is someone to walk with him and ask, “Who are you?” in such a way that implies he needs to answer with more than a name.

Perhaps our connection to Emmaus is emerging here. I have to say, I am not short of words, and being asked to limit myself in such a way almost seems a crime. This story is brimming with things to point out and ponder. But at the end of the day, one question kept drawing my attention: Why were the two travelers kept from recognizing Jesus? Why didn’t he just reveal himself? Why the hours of exposition and unnecessary dinner? I don’t know exactly. But the only answer that I can see is that for whatever reason, Jesus knew that what those people really needed at that time was not something dramatic, but something subtle. In this case, it didn’t need to be a light show. They needed a teacher. Because sometimes people need a tutor, not a professor. Because sometimes people need patience, not anger. Because sometimes people need time, not a drill sergeant. Because sometimes people just need someone to walk with.

Jesus knows exactly what we need when we need it. And it might not be what we think we need. As much as we want one thing, or hope to grow in one way, maybe Jesus is pushing us for a different purpose. That doesn’t mean he won’t come back to the first issue, just that maybe he has a different order in mind. He did, after all, reveal himself to them eventually. Just not when we would expect. Speaking of, did you notice that they didn’t realize their hearts were burning until after he was gone? Isn’t that just the way it is with us? Sometimes, we are being saved and we don’t even know it. Sometimes, we have a savior and it takes their absence for us to feel saved. Because sometimes people not only don’t know what they need, but even that they have need.

John Calvin talked about salvation as a lifelong process. In a commercialized Christian world centered around the “Sinner’s Prayer”, I think we tend to look for special moments and immediate revelation. But life isn’t really like that, is it? In the first day after the Resurrection, we find our Lord. And he isn’t shouting from the heavens or scaring the daylights out of people. He’s quietly walking with two men, patiently explaining various Scriptures, and breaking bread. We could probably all learn a bit from our Lord about being a Christian witness. I for one am grateful that my God is a God that can walk with me and wait. In the end, it really does all come down to Christ in me, the hope of glory.

A.J. became a Pepperdine alumnus (B.A. Political Science & Religion) just a few weeks ago, and is afire with hirability. A.J. has experience as an author, minister, and D.C. political intern. As much as we’d love to keep him in the neighborhood, I’ll be happy to send you a resume and reference on request.


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