The theme for 2019 Joni and Friends Family Retreats was “One Way,” based on John 14:6. Chantal Huinink, Coordinator of Organizational and Spiritual Life with Christian Horizons, delivered a series of devotions based around this theme for the 2019 Christian Horizons Family camp, and we wanted to share them with you through this forum. To learn more about Christian Horizons Family Camps, visit our website.

Can you think of a time that you encountered Jesus without realizing it until afterward?

The road to Emmaus involves two men walking toward a town called Emmaus who are joined by a third. They walk and talk with this third individual and invite the third person to dine with them. It is only after the two men invite the third in to dine is it revealed to them that they have been walking and talking with Jesus.

The men on the road to Emmaus were unable to recognize Jesus when they were focused on their own conversation. This alerts us to how preoccupation with our own concerns can distract us from opportunities to witness to the presence of Jesus.

Sometimes when people are struggling with grief and loss as the two men were, the pain is so severe that they cannot recognize that Jesus is very close to them. If we come alongside someone who is hurting we can serve as a valuable reminder that Jesus cares for them and is close to them too.

Well-meaning people who hear stories of pain and suffering may rush to relieve it too quickly. Such behavior is often rooted in a sense of compassion. However, it can often have the unintended impact of trivializing the pain of the sufferer, causing them to feel ignored or brushed off.  Jesus could have claimed to have all the answers or simply said “I told you so!” Such an approach probably would have put his followers on the defensive and made them want him to go away. Instead, his humility makes them want him to stay.

a pathway

On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus’ strategy is to walk alongside his friends for a long while, allowing them to tell their whole story. Similarly, matching the pace of someone else and demonstrating that we are truly listening, even though it may be hard to relate, is a way to show that they are valued. When they had finished relating their story, Jesus finally speaks but it is not to offer advice as many of us might. Rather, he points out their foolishness and reminds them of what they already know. Through this he empowers them and offers hope.

Their journey with Jesus ends at the dinner table. Jesus’ identity is only revealed to them after he breaks bread with them. Jesus could have kept moving, but because he was not in a rush and he did not resist being vulnerable, they came to a full appreciation of who he is. How do we experience mutual transformation around our own dinner tables?

On a related note, you can read Tyler’s thoughts on the Road to Emmaus here.

Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash