"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 Cleopas, 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" (Luke 24:15-23).
Cleopas speaks to Jesus in the past tense: "we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel." He does not recognize Jesus and the resurrection itself has already been reported to him by "some women of our group," but it seems that he did not even consider it a possibility. Suffering and lost hopes can overwhelm the possibility of joy and transformation. It is at that point that Jesus reveals himself to Cleopas and the other disciples, explaining what had happened and who he is from the scriptures. Later he will reveal himself in the breaking of the bread to the disciples. Their eyes are opened to an astounding reality: Christ is alive and with them.
Christ is risen indeed. We believe it and we know it and we proclaim it. We do not have the same "past tense" problems of Cleopas, or so we believe. Yet, many members of the Church are downcast and feeling abandoned. In the midst of our sufferings and lost hopes today, how is Jesus opening our eyes? Do we recognize him walking with us, beside us, today? He is with us and he will never leave us. Let us open our eyes and keep them on the risen Lord so that he can teach us each and every day. His lessons for us are not "past tense."
John W. Martens