Toward Emmaus in the light of the afternoon sun, Cleopas and his friend ambled along the road. Their faces were deeply wrinkled from the biting winds, from whips of sand, and from unceasing work. Cleopas turned to his friend:
“What are we to make of another prophet put to death?”
“What can we make of it?” his friend answered, adjusting the satchel on his back. “If he was God, then God is false, and that’s the end of it. Nothing to do but get back to work.”
“No, no,” Cleopas shook his head. “It can’t be that simple. Our rulers put him to death, that is true, but if he was falsely accused—”
“It doesn’t matter! Even if he was falsely accused, no God would be subject to crucifixion. How does a bony prophet hanging from a cross save Israel? Tell me that.”
“Maybe there’s another plan. Something we’re not seeing,” Cleopas mumbled.
“Be realistic, Cleopas! There’s nothing that’s going to change our lives. We’ll work, and work, and work, and if luck should have it, we’ll find peace in our old age and children to look after us. Nothing more. Why do you need more than that?”
“I’m not sure, my friend. Something tugs at me.” He threw up his shoulders and looked at the sun. Both of them kept walking, on toward Emmaus.
When they were several miles further and the sun had begun to wane, a man approached them from behind. He put his hand on Cleopas’s shoulder, and gently asked, “Friends, I, too, am going to Emmaus. May I walk with you?”
Cleopas and his friend turned their heads and nodded. For several miles they walked on in silence. At last, Cleopas spoke: “I should think a grander gesture would be a miracle. If he is a prophet, why shouldn’t God save him? Raise him from the dead, I believe. That is the only explanation for it.”
“You fool,” his friend dismissed, “why are you so convinced that arrogant man from Judea should have any claim to God’s favor? Let it be! I’m rather content not to believe he was anything to God. It is the only way I can preserve my faith in God at all.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Cleopas relented. He scratched his forehead and turned back to smile at Jesus. “What do you think, friend?”
“It’s a hard thing you say,” Jesus said. “I’m not sure it’s very believable—that God would raise a prophet.”
“But he did such things in the old days—that is what we were taught!”
Jesus nodded. “Ah yes, the old days. Weren’t we all taught of miracles we never saw, and proof nowhere among us? What fabulous stories.”
Cleopas stopped dead in his tracks, whipping around to face Jesus. He eyed the Savior keenly, brow furrowed, gnarled fists clenched at his sides. “Just stories? You think they were just stories? Fables? Entertainment?”
“Oh they were those certainly. Who could believe such nonsense?” Jesus wagged his head and turned a wry smile.
Cleopas’s friend looked to the horizon where the sun had turned to an ember glow. “Come, let’s eat before it gets dark. There’s a village close by. I know of a place we can stay.”
Jesus’s smile grew, but he shook his head. Lifting his hand to both men’s shoulders, he said, “Thank you, friends, but I must go on. I have work to do.”
“No, no,” said Cleopas, “stay with us. I want to hear more. And how will you make it on the road at night?”
“Very well,” Jesus said, reflecting only briefly. “Lead on!”
And so the three entered the village, and though there was no room at the inn, there was a covered stable free for them to rest. There they settled and sat to eat. Cleopas took bread from his satchel and passed it to his friend, who then passed it to Jesus. They broke, and ate in silence.
Finally, Jesus spoke to the men and said, “I must go now. There is much to do. Thank you for sharing your table with me. I will not forget you, my friends.”
But Cleopas argued with him, saying, “But I wish to speak more about the prophet, and about the old teachings. Will you not stay in discuss them with us?”
His friend countered, “Let the wanderer go, Cleopas. He has business to attend to. Who are we to get in his way?”
Jesus once again put his hand on Cleopas’s shoulder. “There will be time for those discussions. We will meet again, my friend. Until then, examine your heart and you will find the answers you seek.”
Then Jesus stood and, thanking his companions, left the stable to go on his way. Cleopas and his friend, when they were finished eating, prepared to sleep. As they removed their outer robes, they found their shoulders stained red on both sides, where Jesus had rested his hand.
And though it was not a miracle, they believed.