What an event the resurrection is! The cross is the roadblock to destruction, and the resurrection is the sign of God’s ‘yes’ to humanity. A ‘yes’ to the path to discovering true humanity. The birth of new creation marked by the raising from the dead of the ‘firstborn of all creation’, closely followed by a whole group of saints in Jerusalem also being resurrected (only Matthew records this, but it indicates a major time warp… that something takes place of such proportions that saints who are only ‘scheduled’ to be raised at the ‘end’ are raised and seen in Jerusalem).
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people (Matt. 27:51-53).
Then the first appearance to Mary Magdalene with her identification of Jesus as the ‘Gardener’ highlights the connection back to the first garden… and then.
The road to Emmaus.
If not a married couple, Luke records it in such a way that we are to think it is a married couple… but a married couple I strongly consider it is: Cleopas and his wife Mary. The man is revealed as Cleopas (Lk. 24:18), and we have his wife identified in John’s Gospel (a variant of name Cleopas is used Clopas, variants not being unusual also where Aramaic and Hebrew languages being similar are quoted):
but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (Jn. 19:25).
The parallels (explicit and implicit) are incredible. Imagine the two leaving Eden. The discussion, the heavy hearts, the disappointment. Then the same feel on the road to Emmaus: the heavy discussion, perhaps even the ‘he let us down in the end’ discussion.
Then the day is closing, the evening is drawing in, as they walk with a ‘stranger’. Just like that other Garden when God came to visit at the ‘cool of the day’, certainly a stranger to them.
Their action in Eden caused their eyes to be opened (to shame); he breaks the bread and their eyes were opened.
They leave Eden with the ‘death’ consequence ringing in their ears; they talk to the stranger informing him that the one who carried the hope for the future had been ‘condemned to death’.
Behind them was a cherubim with a flaming sword that stood guard so that access to the tree of life was banned to them; but the flame no longer external but burning now within them (Lk. 24:32).
I am sure there are more parallels, but here on resurrection morning, with the birth of ‘new creation’ that changes sight (2 Cor. 5:16,17 – kaine ktisis -‘new creation’, not new creature… see up to date translations) there is so much to see.
Sight all the way back to the beginning. The original commission is re-established; the future placed in the hands of humanity again. Placed in the hands of humanity for when they were expelled from Eden a stranger walked every step with them. Unrecognised, unrecognised even by the righteous who could (as did Jesus) quote Psalm 22 ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me’. They might have left with the sound of ‘death’ in their ears but the Living God left Eden also carrying the consequence of death in his heart, trudging through the dust with them.
(And as we continue to read in Psalm 22
For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help (Ps. 22:24).
We realise that God did not turn away from Jesus on the cross. Far from it, he was ‘in Christ reconciling the world to himself’. Even the final words of Jesus on the cross ‘it is finished’ are likely to be a response to the last words of Psalm 22 – ‘he has done it’. The idea that God turned away from Jesus on the cross does not bear up – there is no split in the Trinity, not even a ‘creative dispute’!)
And God had been a stranger all that time. Only when the Incarnation took place was there true sight of God. ‘If you have seen me…’
Along the way sight was gained, but sight of a God who carried sin, carried the consequences for those who were opposed to him, was not something that was clearly seen. Power, all-might. Yes that was seen, but perhaps interpreted to mean a crushing of the enemy. This is why the Emmaus Road encounter is not just something historical but essential so that our eyes also are opened, and opened even to read again Scripture through the lens of Jesus, a lens that can even push beyond the interpretation given by the text, and push to the place where the heart of God is revealed, and felt.
The path from Eden for God was the path to the cross; the path for humanity that opened up was to the tree of Life. The cross was indeed the final door closed to the tree of knowledge of good and evil that religion in particular has always sought to cultivate. Right / wrong are such sub-criteria in Scripture, the overriding criteria being that of life and death.
I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deut. 30:19).
- Tells us God was with us and never left humanity. He walked from the Garden, determined that he would restore not a Garden but the whole of creation for and with us, where we could invite his permanent presence to be with us (no going to heaven then).
- It tells us that we cannot flee from his presence; that he does not hide his face from us.
- Visiting first a woman and then a married couple tells us that the restoration of gender equality is essential for the way forward (and also what lies beyond gender, for there is not ‘male and female’).
- It gives us sight back – to Eden and original purpose, and forward – to new creation; a creation that appears in contrast to this one as feminised, incomplete but to be explored (with the eschaton as both an end and a beginning).
- It gives us new lenses to see others. Not through the lenses of categorisation but the lens of ‘image’, the ultimate lens being the Jesus’ lens.
Little wonder the couple did not sleep that night but made their way back to Jerusalem to tell the others. We live in that flow. The flow of resurrection.