They were walking away. This was not the road they thought the two of them would be taking at this time. A triumphant entry had too soon turned into a shameful exit. They happen upon a stranger, who offers them an opportunity to reflect on this turn of events. Not only a retelling of facts, but also what it all had meant to them.

We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. (Luke 24v21)

In the aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, Cleopas and his companion, followers of this Jesus, were walking away from they hoped for. The reality was not matching what they hoped would happen – Jesus the conquering hero, vanquishing the Romans and restoring the fortunes of Israel. Instead, the Romans mocked him, demeaned him, and executed him. Death instead of life. What they had hoped had not come to life.

However, this stranger would later show them that what they had hoped for had come to life but not in the way they imagined it would. The stranger would later reveal himself to be that same Jesus, the one they thought was dead. But Jesus had conquered… even conquered death; Jesus had restored… restored our souls. Jesus was no longer dead. He is alive. The Lord has really risen!

We had hoped…

As we reflect on this anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, what had we hoped?

In 1998, as I sat in a supermarket car park, listening to the excited voices of journalists, whilst my parents did the “big shop” what had I hoped would have happened by 2023. As a 17 year old, I probably did not see much passed my A-Levels or the boy I wanted to notice me. However, over the years I have hoped for so much more than this.

I have hoped for better opportunities for employment than only the public sector.

I have hoped for young people to have vision and to realise that vision.

I have hoped for once divided communities to work together to make them places where everyone thrives.

I have hope for integrated education.

I have hoped for people to invest their intellect, talent and gifts here and not in some foreign soil.

I have hoped for people not to need food banks.

I have hoped for the fear of the stranger (Xenophobia) to become the welcome of the stranger (Philoxenia)

I have hoped…

Richard Rohr writes,

“Resurrection” is another word for change, but particularly positive change, which we tend to see only in the long run. In the short run, change often looks like death.

I have often been frustrated over these past 25 years, as it has seemed that not all I hoped for would ever come to life. Surely 25 years is the “long run”, and we should have seen more of our hopes realised at this stage?

However, as I write my hopes down, I relate to the two on the road to Emmaus; “Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognised him”.

Suddenly my eyes are opening and I recognise that these hopes are being realised, but not in the way I was imagining. My hopes are happening but in much smaller and quieter ways and are blossoming slowly, but in their time.

As dignitaries have come and gone and reminisced about what took place 25 years ago (and no doubt had a nice lunch), I was planting onions in an allotment with a small group of people from my town – long term residents and asylum seekers. Previously the subject of protest and still the subject of wild rumour, today are newest neighbours are receiving a welcome, friendship and an education that watermelons do not grow in Carrickfergus! As by passers stopped for a chat, and to share tips, fear was slowly changing to a welcome, in the smallest of ways.

What had we hoped for? Are those hopes becoming alive, but we do not recognise them… yet?

Let us never give up as people of hope.

Kate Crosbie is Assistant Pastor at Carrickfergus Vineyard Church

This article is part of a series marking 25 years since the Belfast Agreement/Good Friday Agreement that was signed on 10th April 1998. To view other articles that relate to the Agreement, please click here.

Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.