Sunday the 30th of April 2017
Luke 24: 13-35
During this past week I have been thinking about today’s Gospel reading from Luke chapter 24 where we hear of two disciples on a journey to Emmaus. The distance was on 7 miles, but I get the impression that the ‘journey’ was a long one because of where these disciples were at. It was the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion; they had heard from the women that the grave was empty and were confused by all that had happened; and of course these disciples were greatly affected by what had occurred and were in a place of grief, and were discussing this with each other as they were walking.
Hearing that the women had had a vision of angels saying that Jesus had risen from the dead, maybe they were struggling with the tension between knowing what had actually occurred and what the future now meant for them. What would their future look like? Maybe these disciples wanted to believe the women, but just could not bring themselves to believe. Whatever the case one thing was for sure: their hopes had been deflated and they had become disillusioned.
I suspect that for many of us, during different seasons in our own walk with Jesus, that we can identify with them. When speaking to Jesus they said in verse 21: “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…” Because of the crucifixion their hopes of who they wanted Jesus to be were dashed. Are there times in our lives, where we feel the same, where our hopes of what Jesus will do in our lives and in others’ lives has not happened? Where we hoped and trusted Jesus to put things right, but everything became a mess? And yet at the same time we live on the other side of Jesus’ resurrection; we know and believe in him. And yet maybe we live life somewhere between losing hope and being disillusioned and faithfully believing Jesus’ promise that he is with us.
As these disciples were walking along it says: “15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.” And he says: 17 “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” After being completely dumbfounded that he did not know they said “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he said.
As Christians we live in a time between knowing that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead and the time when he will come back again. But as we journey through this life there are times when we want Jesus to show up, so to speak. We have times in our lives where we need to know that he is present with us as we face the difficult and hard places that we find ourselves in at times. We like to have assurance that he is indeed with us. In my preaching over the last twelve months I have emphasised Jesus’ promise that he is indeed with us many times. It is an easy thing to say isn’t it that Jesus shows up in our times of trial or our disappointments; that Jesus is present in our grief; that Jesus meets us where we are. And it is true he is with us. But the question I ask today is: what exactly does Jesus do when he shows up?
Jesus did not just come alongside these disciples and only walk with them, but he asked them the question: “What things?” Jesus gives them an invitation to tell what they experienced. And the question he asked led them to describe the things that occurred and in doing so they were able to give voice to their dismay, their grief and even their doubts.
Jesus did more than just turn up. And Jesus does more than just show up for us here today. Jesus does show up, but he shows up and give us the opportunity to speak the truth of our pain; to help us make sense of it all, or at least some of it; to help us get to a place where we can see beyond just what’s happened; to help us move from “we had hoped” to “the Lord is risen indeed.” And what this means for us in our lives.
On Easter Sunday I took the opportunity to participate in the ecumenical Easter dawn service at Burnie which is held down on the beach. It was great to go and be a part of this and I really did enjoy welcoming in the Easter morning this way. Afterwards I was speaking to another pastor that I get on really well with and he spoke of how Easter is such an exciting time of the year, that it was an exciting time to be alive. I agreed with him. A week or so later I was sitting down thinking to myself that I know that our risen Lord is with us, but it so easy to lose hope when life is difficult.
I thought about how Jesus appeared to these two disciples. He did not just show up and say, “Hey, I’m here. There, there, everything will be alright.” The disciples were not just having a bad day. The one in whom they had placed their trust, their hope for a kingdom of justice, their assurance for freedom from oppression, just got executed by the system from which they hoped Jesus would set them free. The one who they believed would fulfil the promises of Scripture was dead.
Jesus came to those disciples on the road to Emmaus, but he did not just show up for the ride—he listened to them, but more importantly he taught them what it meant from the scriptures that Jesus had won the victory over death and sin. It is the same for you and me—Jesus comes to us and he walks with us, but he does more than that—he teaches us who he truly is through the scriptures. He teaches us and helps us to learn what it means to walk with him along the journey that we are on.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the most powerful moment in history, as it changed everything. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, death has been defeated for us; we can live a life now with confidence that our sins are forgiven; and we do have the promise of the life to come, life in eternity with him. These are the promises that you and I are to believe and cling to with all our faith, and yet even in the midst of our daily lives we confront the sins of our hearts, the sins of other people, the reality of the sinful world we live in. It is here that we need to realise that Jesus is not only present with us, but that he is actively at work in and through the situations that we are facing, even when we cannot recognise him at work.
It struck me that that moment when the disciples recognized who Jesus was, occurred when he broke the bread. It occurred at the time when the disciples had invited Jesus in for fellowship with them that they then knew. The thing is that Jesus with was with them even though they did not know it, as he is often with you and me when we are not aware of him being present, but as we invite him to fellowship with us, he reveals himself.
These two disciples’ journey to Emmaus shows us that as we face lives as Christians, full of disappointment, discouragement and loss of hope, our risen Lord will come to save us, by walking the road with us, but also by asking us the ‘what things’ type questions in our own lives. And when he asks these questions it means that he is leading us somewhere, that he is present, but also he is teaching us through his Word so that we come through these times closer to him. And as this happens he brings us to a place where we have true fellowship with him, where we begin to recognise and start to live out the life-changing presence of our resurrected Lord in our lives.
As we continue to reflect on the events of Easter, I encourage you to look for the ways that our risen Lord Jesus is coming to you, in the midst of your life, bringing with him his presence and his teaching to help you on your life journey with him.