This Is Us, Small Groups, and the Emmaus Road
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. Luke 24:13
We are going to be looking at this story of what happened to the two men on the road to Emmaus as a part of our “This is us” series. What happens on the way to Emmaus to these disciples is what happens to a lot of us when we get involved in small groups.
The story about two men on the road to Emmaus takes place after the death of Jesus. These main characters are two men who followed Jesus during his three years of ministry. They are dejected, they are heartbroken as they walk along the road.
Scholars have no idea where they were headed. There are a couple guesses as to what town they were going to, what town to which Emmaus refers, but they’re just that: guesses. Twentieth century theologian Frederick Buechner posited that Emmaus might be less a place and more a state of mind. He said that Emmaus is “the place we go to in order to escape—a bar, a movie, wherever it is we throw up our hands and say…it makes no difference anyway…Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred: that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that men have had-ideas about love and freedom and justice—have always in time been twisted out of shape by selfish men for selfish ends.”
While I’ve no doubt that Emmaus referred to a specific place, I find Buechner’s comments helpful because it suggests that there’s an Emmaus for all of us to go to. It suggests we all can go to Emmaus. In times of trial. In times of defeat. In times of grief. In times of heartbreak.
I’ve been to Emmaus.
In 2005 my best friend died in a car crash. It was August. I had just started classes in my sophomore year of college. Late August 2005 has taken on national remembrance as its when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Late August 2005 has personal meaning for me as its when my friend died.
In the wake of his passing, I went to Emmaus. I had no idea how to handle shock like that, grief like that, loss like that. I wasn’t emotionally equipped. In my defense, no teenager should have to be ready to attend their best friend’s funeral.
I went to Emmaus to cope. I sought healing in college parties. I sought healing in a dating relationship. I sought healing in the company of close friends. I didn’t find healing.
I stayed in Emmaus for months. Then, when I was home for winter break, someone asked me if I would help chaperone a lock-in for a youth group when we got back to school. I agreed. It was late January 2006. I went to the church just looking to help out a friend. I found healing.
After that night four of us came together as a small group to lead that youth group. Four college students getting together every Sunday night to lead youth fellowship. We worshipped together on Sunday mornings. We met together during the week to plan a program. Through that group, I encountered Jesus again. Jesus became alive in my heart and alive in my life again.
We can all go to Emmaus. We can all go to a place where we just want to escape, to be done, to renounce that the world holds anything good. Jesus wants to heal us. Jesus wants us to find wholeness. Jesus wants us to find redemption and grace and community. Worship, small groups, and service are ways that Jesus can heal us, can help us find wholeness, can help us find redemption.
At the end of the story in the Bible the two men leave Emmaus and return to their group, return to the work of being a disciple of Jesus. I left Emmaus and found my life’s purpose in answering Jesus’ call on my life. I hope you, too, can say the same thing.