“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20 KJV We need your presence on the long road, Lord. The road between fear and hope, the road between the place where all is lost and the place of resurrection. Like the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, we are in need of your company! Jesus, stand among us, in your risen power, let this time of worship, be a hallowed hour.(~ written by Carol Penner, and posted on Leading in Worship. http://carolpenner.typepad.com/)
Scripture ReadingLuke 24:13-35 Sermon Today’s Scripture passage comes from the Gospel of Luke. Like gospel-writer Mark, Luke is not an eyewitness to the story of Jesus. He was friend and companion of the Apostle Paul, and probably a Gentile. Because of his writing and storytelling ability, and his style (he wrote the book of Acts, also) it is believed that he was well-educated and possibly a doctor by trade. His purpose for writing his Gospel is stated in Luke 1:1-4. Here we learn that Luke wrote specifically to a man named Theophilus, so that he could be certain of the truth of all he had been taught about Jesus. It is likely that Luke wrote knowing that through Theophilus, others would also receive his message of assurance.
Really, Luke’s resurrection story reads much like that of Matthew and Mark because it starts with women at an empty tomb and ends with Jesus commissioning the disciples to carry on his work, and then ascending to heaven.
However, in the middle of all that, we find something unique to Luke, because we find the story of the journey to Emmaus, an event that is briefly mentioned in other Gospels, but not given the great care that Luke attributes to it.
The Road to Emmaus? Well, this is our story really -- a story that sums up a relationship with Jesus about as well as anything in Scripture. Think about it. There they are, these two disciples, tired and discouraged as they trudge the seven or eight miles from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus. We don't know why they abandoned the company of their fellow disciples. We just know they decided to walk home. After everything that had happened, maybe it's all they could think to do.
If they could just get home, they could eat a simple meal, and sleep in their own beds. Sometimes that alone is good medicine when times are tough. And Jesus meets them on the way. He doesn't come to them in Jerusalem. He doesn't wait for them at home.
He doesn't ask them to make some holy pilgrimage up a mountain or undertake some great religious task. Rather, he meets them where they are -- on the road, in the middle of their journey, right smack in the middle of all the pain, frustration, and fear that threatened to overwhelm them. And Jesus met them on that road, even though they don't recognize him. Consider what takes place: First, Jesus opened up the Scriptures, and he helped them to not only make sense of recent events in light of the Scripture, but also to make sense of all of Scripture -- and in turn, all of life! -- in light of God's redemptive work in and through the cross.
And then Jesus shared a meal with them, he lifted the bread, blessed it, and then he broke it and gave it to them. And because of these simple and symbolic actions they finally recognized him.
Through the sharing of Scripture and the sharing of the meal the eyes of these disciples were opened and they recognized not just the person of Jesus they always knew, but the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the God whose powerful word said “Let there be light” in Genesis, and their Savior who just three days earlier had conquered sin and death at Calvary.
(A little side note here: In the simple actions of worship and the sacrament of communion, we open ourselves up to seeing Jesus, too. In the bread and the juice, and in the sharing of God’s Word, we have the opportunity to recognize him for who he really is: Our Risen Lord and Savior. And hopefully as we worship together, we recognize him in the love we have for each other. This is one reason why being present in the worship service is so extremely important. This is why each of us adds to the experience if we come ready to fully participate.)
Jesus shared a meal with them. Notice that he, the guest, suddenly becomes the host. They recognized him and then he was gone, and they instantly knew they needed to be gone, too. So, they got up, and begin what was probably a dangerous night journey back to Jerusalem, to tell the others what they've seen. Why? Why take this risky trip? Because they can't help it – they can’t keep good news like this to themselves. Question: Can you find yourself in this story? Because as I said earlier, I think this story beautifully sums up a relationship with Jesus. We’ve all been tired, we’ve all been discouraged, in life in general, and in our work for the Lord. In fact, if you never get discouraged on your Christian journey, then maybe you’re not doing it right.
Because as Christians we are not promised a perfect life. Knowing Christ does not mean a problem-free existence. Someday, but not yet. In fact, truly living as we are called to live, as God’s holy people, often means rejection and ridicule. And because we are broken humans living in a broken world, we are not exempt from sadness, pain, and loss. These two disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t even know what we already know: Jesus is alive. He has risen from the grave. But they didn’t know that as they walked back home. So, they were confused, they were sad, maybe frightened, and in their loneliness, they just wanted to get home. I don’t know about you but I’ve found myself in that story, and that state of mind, from time to time. I find it interesting that, although other Gospel writers mention or allude to this appearance by Jesus after his Resurrection, Luke goes into a full twenty-three verse discourse about it. In fact, if you took out the Emmaus story in Luke 24, and skipped from verse 12 to verse 36 you'd hardly miss a beat.
You’d still have the women coming that first Easter morning, bringing spices, and finding an empty grave. You’d still have the “He is Risen” message from an angel. And you’d still have Jesus appearing to his frightened and confused disciples, revealing his resurrected body, issuing the Great Commission, and ascending finally to heaven.
Luke has clearly inserted this event into an otherwise stable and traditional telling of Jesus’ resurrection. Which makes me ask why. Why, while others hardly mention it, does Luke tell the story in such great detail? I think he did it for Theophilus, and I think he did it for the rest of us. The writers of Scripture were inspired by God to write what they did, and I believe that both Luke, and certainly God, knew this was a story to which we would be able to relate, and at times, it is something we would need to hear. Because the Emmaus story responds to our heart’s desire to see and experience the resurrected Christ just as the first believers did.
Here Luke offers a word not only for Theophilus, but a word for those Christians who would come later, starting with Theophilus, and continuing on to each and every individual who would, at some point in time, come together to worship and break bread. Keep that in mind next time we share in the sacrament of communion.
Will you recognize Jesus in the broken bread and the cup of salvation? May it remind you that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and that Christ will come again someday.
Let’s wrap this up with some real-life application: Because it's not a bad pattern to emulate, is it? This meeting people on the road where they are. It’s what the Great Commission is all about really: meeting people where they are just as Jesus did, and still does, for us.
It’s about opening up the Scriptures to men, women, and children, so that they can make sense of their lives in light of God's mercy. It’s about gathering them to the meal at the communion table so they too can be nourished by Christ's own presence. And then it’s about sending them on their way, as new disciples, back into the world to partner in God's work and to share God's grace.
And I know it's not always that simple. The responsibilities each of you shoulder is significant, and finding time to dwell in the world, to be open to it with love and care, to love your neighbor as you love yourself, can at times be daunting. If we're honest, we’ll admit that it is a hard work that we've been given by Jesus. But it is also good work; work, in fact, that is worthy of the sacrifice you’ll have to make to become a true disciple of Jesus. So, remember Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20, “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus who sacrificed his very life, walks with you, in joy and happiness, and in sadness, doubt, and frustration. He will meet you on the road and walk with you, to the very end of the age. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Blessing for This Day May God who comes to us in the things of this world,bless your eyes and be in your seeing.May Christ who looks upon you with deepest love,bless your eyes and widen your gaze.May the Spirit who perceives what is and what may yet be,bless your eyes and sharpen your vision.May the Sacred Three bless your eyesand cause you to see. Amen. ~ written by Jan L. Richardson, and posted on The Painted Prayerbook. http://paintedprayerbook.com/