“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Luke 24:13-16
This year Easter looks vastly different. Churches around the world are empty. St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City is empty. People are logging on to their computers to view an Easter sermon, try to sing along with the hymns at home, and if your church is ambitious, create a virtual choir.
Nothing seems normal this year. Considering all the pain and suffering going on in the world right now, asking if Jesus is even present this Easter is understandable. Yet, nothing was normal on that first Easter, either.
The resurrection is shrouded in mystery. No human eye saw it. The biblical witness only records angels giving witness to the resurrection and the risen Jesus appearing to His followers. The most pivotal event in cosmic history and there is not a single eyewitness. No security camera footage. No media spectacle.
Even those to whom Jesus first appeared did not even recognize him. Mary thought he was the gardener (John 20:15); the disciples on the Emmaus road were “kept from recognizing him.”
In many ways this Easter may not feel like Easter at all. We are separated from our families, our church families, and many (if not all) of the worship traditions that have brought meaning to our Easter celebrations for years (if not generations).
Just as for followers of Jesus on that first Easter, we may not recognize His presence as we usually do because of the separation. Yet, just as with those disciples on the Emmaus road, Jesus draws near and goes with us, although we may have to look a bit harder for Him this year because our normal ways of experiencing Him are not available to us.
Later in the Emmaus road story, Jesus does eventually reveal Himself, and when He does the disciples say to themselves, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32) It is as if they look back with hindsight and do not understand how they could have missed that it was Jesus.
This Easter, we may have to look harder for Jesus in our midst. It may be more difficult to see where He is present. However, Jesus is as present for us this Easter as He has been for all of our past Easter celebrations. I encourage you to see this Easter not as something less than previous Easters since we are missing our cherished traditions, but as an invitation for us to look for Jesus in new ways and see a new place in which He may be revealing Himself to us.