“They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and the round the eleven and their companions gathered together.” Luke 24:32-33 (NRSV)
Two people walked home to Emmaus which is a short distance from Jerusalem. They talked about what had happened to Jesus who had been put to death on a cross. They talked about their disappointment because they thought he was the one who was going to save Israel and restore the nation to its own people. When a stranger appeared on the road, they all walked together, talking about these events, even though Jesus acted as if he didn’t know about it.
When Jesus spoke, they had the same burning in their hearts as they had before he died, but it didn’t dawn on them that it was really Jesus; after all, he had died on the cross and been buried. Logically, they never expected him to be alive. As they approached their house, he acted as if he was going to continue on, so they encouraged him to come into the house and have a meal with them – typical hospitality in those days.
Somehow Jesus took the bread to bless it, and it was at that moment that they realized who it was, and he was gone. They had a glimpse of the risen Christ, and they dropped everything as they hurried back to Jerusalem to share their amazing and wonderful news with the disciples. Their hearts burned within them. A good kind of “heartburn!”
As I’ve pondered my mother’s death since the end of February, I have wondered why my grieving wasn’t more intense. In fact, I mentioned it to my husband and then later to my grief counselor. It seemed as if I should be crying more or something, but what I felt most was joy for her, even in the midst of my own loss. This Easter season has been poignant for me as I deal with Mom’s physical absence and my relief that she is no longer tied to her physical body. I don’t wish her back in the state she was in with Alzheimer’s Disease, and yet, there is a large empty space in my heart because I miss her.
I told my dad that I was homesick for the first time in forty-one years since I left the Midwest and moved to the East Coast. He paused and said quietly, “It’s because of Mom.” I knew that, and yet at the same time, I believe she had a joyous homecoming in Heaven. I can’t be sad for her gain, even though I’m sad for my loss.
This past Sunday, the choir at one of the churches I serve sang an Easter song about the power of the cross and how it sets us free. I struggled through it because I truly am happy that Mom has been set free, but it also reminded me of my own loss. My heart is warmed and overflows with gratitude at the hope we have in the resurrected Christ and the promise of life with him forever. My prayer is that others will come to that place of faith where their hearts burn within them as they recognize the risen Christ with them. Amen.