Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleona’s, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?”
Over the past year I have had the joy and privilege to go on two extraordinary walks. At this time last year I was in the middle of a 35 days walk of over 1000 km across the north of Spain, following the accent Camino de Santiago. As of this writing I have just returned from a much shorter (thank God) walk of 5 days, 79 km on the Salcantay Glacier Trek, up and down through the Andes in Peru to Machu Picchu. While both of these “walks” were in very different settings and very, very different terrains, they have many things in common. The key similarity being that they are both associated with a destination. The Camino ends at the Cathedral of Santiago or St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Santiago is the traditional burial site of the recovered bones of St. James the Apostle and has been a major pilgrimage site for over 1400 years. Machu Picchu is the famed “Lost City” of the Inca “discovered” by Yale archeologist and explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911 after being lost to the jungle during the Incan genocide perpetrated by the Spanish Conquistadors under the command of Francisco Pizarro in the 1530s.
While both these walks are to someplace, it is not the destinations but the journeys that I will never forget. Traveling on foot, sometimes with great difficulty, and breaking bread three times a day with once strangers, is possibly one of the fastest and most ordinary yet extraordinary ways to get to know others and yourself and to build community. Jesus understood and practiced this throughout his ministry. Whether it was on the road to Galilee or the road to Emmaus, Jesus spent time walking, talking and eating. These are three of the most human of activities, yet we tend to rush through them. We more often then not walk simply to get somewhere and eat in a hurry, frequently in silence, to get to our next task.
If I have learned anything in the past 51 years and in particular in walking and talking with strangers or my loved ones through life, it is that – it is not the destination that makes us who we are but the journey.