Finding Joy In Shattered Expectations

Emmaus Road

Emmaus Road

We are accustomed to think of Easter as the most joyous of festivals, and certainly all the texts of today’s liturgy, and all the Easter hymns, fill our mouths with words of rejoicing:

Sunday, I discussed the first Easter. It was a distressing day for Jesus disciples. When you read the Gospel accounts, you see the immediate response of the disciples was fear and despair, rather than joy.

Consider the account of the two walking sorrowfully along the Emmaus road. A stranger joined them as they walked and asked them what it was that they were talking about so sadly. They told him about Jesus’ death and the empty tomb. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done (Jn 24:21).” They were blinded by their grieving, and did not recognize that the stranger who walked with them was the Risen Lord. “O slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken (Lk 24:25)!”

Does their blindness surprise you? Consider what had happened. The death of Jesus upon the cross spelled the end of his followers’ hopes. The triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the prior week The triumphant procession into the Holy City only a week before where Jesus was hailed as the Messiah by the crowds must have seemed like a farce following his death on Calvary. A week after this apparent triumph, Jesus was executed, dead, and buried. How could this be the Messiah? Even worse, the body was now gone.

This made no sense to the disciples, so they were disappointed, afraid, and they ran away and hid. They were unable to see beyond their own broken dreams and expectations. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel (Lk 24:21).” The disciples followed and heard Jesus. They heard him speak of his dying, and rising again. They heard him speak of his kingdom, a kingdom quite unlike earthly kingdoms. Despite this, it was impossible for the disciples to see beyond their own hopes, ambitions and expectations, even when Jesus was still with them. In Jesus, they were sure, they had found the leader who would restore Israel to its ancient glory.

They could not comprehend that God’s redemption could be something greater than their own hopes. They experienced the loss of their hopes, the pains of travail. It took the ruination of their expectations to open their eyes to God’s new way of living. It was only by sharing in Jesus’ death that they could share in his new life.

God does not support us in our own limited expectations. God makes all things new. Jesus says there is no new birth without the pains of travail (Mt 24:8).

All of us have make plans, and we own our ambitions. Each of us expects certain things out of life and each other. We feel frustration when our expectations go unfulfilled. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel (Lk 24:21).” We make plans and we expect God to support us in those plans. Who knows better than we what God ought and ought not to do? We are disappointed when things do not go our own way, and sometimes we worry and despair.

That is wrong-headed. The truth is that if we are to live, we must first die.
St. Paul said, “For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3).” “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die…” says Jesus, “it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit (Jn 12:24).” God brings resurrection out of death.

When we gain freedom from the bondage of our empty vain ambitions, we become heirs to God’s new kingdom. Bread becomes the bread of life after it is broken. Wine outpoured becomes for us the cup of blessings. God makes the world out of nothing. Before God made the world it was “Tohu wa bohu,” formless and void (Gn 1:2). God created the world from nothing and so he makes life from death. That transformations is painful and simultaneously awesome.

So when we come to God, we do not come to him asking for support in our own little things. No, we come to God for resurrection. As the passage from Revelation states, God makes all things new.

So now, during this Eastertide, we must sing our praises to God; to Jesus who died, and now lives together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. To God the Holy Trinity be all honour, praise and dominion, now, henceforth and for ever. Amen.