Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost
Our nation has been traveling some rough roads the past few months. The terrain traversed by our nation has also affected the paths we are personally traveling. As a nation and individually, we are walking down roads not previously experienced. Routes probably not our first choice. Unlike Robert Frost, most of us prefer familiar paths. However, I believe God will use our journeys upon the difficult roads for our good and His glory. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
I am reminded of two roads highlighted in scripture. The Road to Emmaus and the Road to Damascus. I see messages for us as we currently walk down similar roadways.
Luk24:13-25, gives the account of two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They shuffled along and discussed their quandaries regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection. These men knew Jesus was a powerful prophet. However, He had been crucified. Now some women were saying He was alive. What was really happening? They didn’t understand.
These two men may remind us of our nation and ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have not understood everything that has happened. Worldwide medical experts continue to ask questions regarding how to combat the coronavirus. It may appear as if leaders are shuffling along being hesitant to give answers. However, they have moved slowly because of uncertainty. Everyone is traveling down a road previously not taken. During the national shutdown, we felt like we had no roads to travel. We still have our questions. Why do we have to be so careful about being with loved ones who are sick and dying? Does social distancing really help? We get tired to washing our hands. Do we really have to wear masks? Can’t a medicine be found that will heal those who have acquired this disease? When will a vaccine be developed so we can return to the road of life?
Back to scripture. The men traveling the Road to Emmaus were joined by another individual. He wanted to know what they were talking about. It was really Jesus who was with them, but they did not recognize Him. They shared their story.
It is good to remember that Jesus is traveling with us even when we may not be acutely aware of His presence. He hears our questions and understands our struggles. Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always.”
When the three travelers reached their destination, the two men asked their companion to stay. Only when Jesus broke bread with them did they recognize Him. This is a picture of our sacrament of holy communion. We may become broken while traveling the roads of life’s journey. However, let us remember Jesus’ words at the Last Supper with His disciples. Luke 22:19 says, “And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, saying, ‘This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”
In Acts 9:32, the men commented about how their hearts were strangely warmed when Jesus spoke to them. Let us be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”
After their encounter with Jesus, the two men returned to Jerusalem. This time, they quickly ran down the road anxious to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive. No more shuffling with doubt. They were running with confidence. Let us remember Proverbs 3:4-5. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
The two men almost missed Jesus on the Road to Emmaus because He showed up in a way they did not expect. Let us be watchful for Jesus while traveling Emmaus-type roads.
There is another road in scripture that we may travel. In Acts 9:1-10 Saul walked the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. When he took his first steps, his heart burned with anger and he was determined to persecute those who believed in Jesus. He believed lies rather than the truth proclaimed by Jesus. (In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”)
On the Road to Damascus, Saul looked for an opportunity to express the bitterness that raged within him. As a nation, we have encountered men and women who have similar feelings. People have lashed out at people. Wounds of prejudice and inequality and disrespect have erupted into lawlessness. Bottled anger has exploded violently. Protests against inequality and authority have not stopped. A mixture of lies and truth continue to be voiced.
Saul’s intent was to find and kill those who believed in Jesus Christ. However, God had a detour planned. Not just a minor road detour, but a major itinerary life change. The light of the Lord flashed before his eyes. Saul hit a roadblock that knocked him to the ground. He remained blind until Ananias prayed for him. The route he would travel throughout the remainder of life was changed dramatically.
There are constructive changes that need to be made within our nation to eliminate racial inequality. However, our country would also benefit from a restoration of respect for law enforcement. Destructive riots are not the way to achieve God’s plans and purposes. While Saul encountered physical blindness, our nation encounters mind blindness. I John 2:11 says, “But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” Then II Corinthians 4:3-4 says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” We need the light of Jesus to take away our blindness. Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This is true for us as individuals as well as for our nation.
The United States would benefit from a Damascus Road experience. We need an encounter with the Lord to get us on the right track that will glorify Him. Also, as individuals, we can benefit from Damascus Road experiences. There are times when we need to draw closer to the Lord and allow Him to recalibrate our motives and actions. He may choose a different route. James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Saul encountered Jesus on the Road to Damascus. He became a new man named Paul with a new mission. Let us be aware of Jesus when He appears to us on the Damascus-type roads we travel.
II Corinthians 5:17 tells us that if we are in Christ, we are new creations.
“Myterium tremendum” is a phrase that describes how we feel in the presence of the holy. I believe the holy presence of God was experienced by the two men on the Road to Emmaus and by Saul/Paul on the Road to Damascus. Let’s anticipate the Lord’s presence as we travel the roads ahead of us. We may discover that the road less traveled is the most blessed route. Acts 17:28 says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”