April 19th, 2020

Resurrection Day on the Emmaus Road

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER – APRIL 19TH, 2020.
Text: Luke 24:13-35.
Title: “Resurrection Day on the Emmaus Road”.
The Gospel of Luke is one that is full of action – a real thriller. And for Luke, those “action-packed” stories were full of purpose. Look at how he set up his first record of the appearance of the Risen Christ – the women discover an empty tomb and report to the disciples. Luke 24:11 records the disciple’s response, “but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” Picture it, a group of rather rough men, who had been living on the road with Jesus for three years, with little of the comforts of life. Now in hiding from the law. Disregarding the report of the women. Their fear had overcome them.
Then Luke shifts the scene to two disciples, one named Cleopas, who were smart enough to get out of town! Jesus joins them on the road, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Another dramatic touch. Luke is saying that Jesus hid his identity on purpose! It is not the fault of Cleopas for not knowing this was Jesus. Rather it was just the opposite – how blessed he was being among the first to hear the Scriptures explained by the Risen Christ!
Our visits from the Risen Christ can be like the one on the Emmaus Road. Christ often comes to us unaware of his presence. The grace of God is often imperceptible. It’s like the morning dew – barely noticeable – and yet when you walk through the grass, your shoes will be wet! And this almost unnoticeable dew is awesome in its power, for vast portions of the earth survive on its moisture!
Next Luke turns to the dialogue. Jesus asks them what they are talking about. A typical question and common enough in most circumstances, yet these were extraordinary events of the last few days. And, of course, they were talking about what everybody in Jerusalem was talking about – from military rulers to common thieves. All were talking about the execution of the “miracle man”, the “prophet of God”. After Jesus asks them this question – Luke summarizes the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual state of the disciples. “And they stood still, looking sad.” What a simple, powerful description of those who had thought that this Jesus was the one who would rescue Israel. These, indeed, were dark times. “they stood still” – demonstrating their feelings – the loss and pain were very real. That pain brought fear and paralysis to the small band of believers. At that moment, the disciples had thought that the story had ended upon the cross. Unable yet to see that the cross was where the real story was to begin. This is what fear does to us. When we live in fear, we become “frozen in our faith.” “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Luke also notes that they “looked sad” – undeniably they were depressed, weary, and unhappy. The joy and peace of God wasn’t theirs. This is what becomes of us when we lose the “immediacy of faith”. We become paralyzed, melancholy, depressed – unable to regain our hope.
Then Jesus, his identity still hidden, began to interpret the Scriptures. Jesus is able to make sense of even the darkest of times. His death was unexplainable for these two men. Their hopes and dreams were shattered on the cross. They expressed this bewildered regret: “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel.” Words of those whose hopes were dead and buried. Then Jesus came and talked to them, and the meaning of life and death became clearer, and the darkness began to turn to the dawning. A storyteller has one of his characters say to his beloved: “I never knew what life meant until I saw it in your eyes.” It is in the eyes of Jesus – even in bewildering times – that life can make sense.
Now Cleopas and his friend reach their destination. Jesus made out as if he would go on. He would not force himself upon them, he waited for their invitation. God gave us the greatest and most precious of gifts, the gift of free will. We can use it to invite Christ to enter or lives or allow him to pass on by. The choice is ours. If we but ask, seek, and knock – then he will enter in our homes, our family life, our church, our very souls.
He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Yes, this sounds like the Holy Sacrament, but it wasn’t. It was an ordinary meal, in an ordinary home, when an ordinary loaf was being divided. Perhaps these men were at the Last Supper, or maybe by the sea at the feeding of the 5,000. I like to think that as Jesus broke the bread, they recognized his hands first. For it is in his handiwork that we see the Risen Christ. It is not only at the Communion Table where we can be with Christ – we can be him at the dinner table, as well. Not only is he host in his Church, he is the guest in every home, as well.
So, we learn that the revelation of Christ comes in God’s own time, not when we would have it. Certainly, these disciples would have greatly preferred to know that it was Jesus walking on the road with them. But that was not God’s time. These two disciples from Emmaus, prepared a simple meal, invited a stranger to join them – not knowing of God’s time for the revelation, yet prepared to receive it. The Christian lives every day in a Christ-filled world. Be prepared to receive him.
These two were compelled to share the joy and the Good News of the Risen Jesus. It was a 7-mile walk, at night, back to Jerusalem. But this news could not be kept until tomorrow. They had to share it. That’s the way Good News is. I remember the birth of each of my children – and in every case, I could not wait to share that good news. What Good News do you have to share? It can’t wait!
On returning to Jerusalem, they found others who had already shared their experience. This speaks to our fellowship in the Body of Christ – His Church. People who have had a common experience – a common memory – witnessing the building up of the people of God.
In conclusion, the question is not “Was the resurrection real?” The question is “Is the resurrection real in your life?” The lessons from being on the road with God let us know how to live the answer. Here is how: 1) All is from God – the Risen Christ is revealed by His Grace. 2) When we are living in paralysis and fear, most likely it is because we are feeling God’s absence in our lives. 3) It is the Risen Christ that is able to make sense out of life, who communicates the Gospel, who interprets the Scriptures, and who guides the faithful in the journey towards God. 4) Christ comes into our lives and into our homes by invitation only. 5) Christ is revealed in the “everyday” living. And 6) The revelation of the Risen Christ issues in the life of the believer the mandate that the Good News is to be shared (our evangelism) and it restores the community of faith (our fellowship).
Read the story – Open your hearts – Ask the Living Christ to enter – And “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”
Amen.