Road to Emmaus
Luke 24:13-35 April 26, 2020
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I was talking to a church member this week who said that she’d started out to do some shopping at Smart and Final, but once in her car, she just zoned-out in her driveway for ten minutes.
Then when she got to Smart and Final the same thing happened – she just sat like a zombie in the parking lot for ten minutes.
And when she finally did get into the store and she saw everyone in masks, she forgot much of what she came to buy.
Others have told me similar stories.
When so much we had planned and counted on is taken away, we become disoriented … it’s perfectly natural.
That’s how today’s scripture begins.
Two disciples had fled from Jerusalem after the arrest of Jesus, the one they had put all their hope on.
Luke 24:13, 14 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
They had been part of the extended group of Jesus’ supporters who traveled with him.
They may have been part of the crowd that cheered and threw branches on the road as Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem just a week earlier.
They might have watched Jesus burst onto the Temple grounds, their confidence swelling when he drove-out the moneychangers, and then stood-up to the Temple authorities – like a prophet from times past.
He sure had seemed to be the real McCoy.
But mid-week some ugly rumors started circulating – just whispers at first – about betrayal from within the ranks of Jesus’ closest disciples, the very men they’d envied for their privileged position.
They had been debating whether or not to believe such gossip when suddenly the Temple guards had swept in under the cover of darkness and grabbed Jesus.
Now the eleven remaining disciples, the ones everyone had assumed would sit at the right hand of God, were hiding somewhere in the city.
So much for the revolution that would drive out those brutes from Rome.
Now that they’d come to their senses, this seemed so foolish … what had they been thinking?
Lord, they could have been arrested themselves!
It is hard to get yourself up and moving when you feel bewildered, but the two had somehow pulled themselves together enough to get out of town.
Now they just needed to make Emmaus before nightfall, and hope that no one recognized them.
Being a part of a long line of Passover pilgrims returning home, they were not surprised when a stranger caught up with them and struck up a conversation.
Luke 24:15b, 16 Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
God can be walking right beside us, but when we feel discouraged, disoriented or depressed, we can become so self-focused or fear-focused that we are blind to His presence.
Luke 24:17, 18 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Cleopas’ question is the height of irony because he’s actually talking to the one who knows better than anyone the events of the previous days.
Jesus then proceeds, in verses 19 to 24, to unpack the meaning of the scriptures from beginning to end.
I marvel at Jesus’ patience.
Cleopas now had all the facts laid out before him, but consumed by shock and sadness, he just could not grasp the truth.
While reading this passage, I was reminded of a time in my life of great discouragement.
As I neared graduation from seminary in June of 1994, I was anxious to get started in my new career.
In fact, I really needed to get started because I hadn’t earned a paycheck for nearly three years and our savings were shrinking week by week.
School policy is that everyone must vacate student housing within three days of graduation, but we did not have a place to live.
To make matters worse, Amy was terribly weak from chemotherapy and radiation so she really needed to get settled somewhere.
The thought of living out of boxes in a motel or in someone’s spare bedroom for an indefinite time seemed overwhelming.
We went on an interview in Seattle, where I was offered a call, but it clearly was not the right church for us.
During that visit, though, I learned of a church in Bellevue that was just beginning their search for a pastor.
This would be perfect – it was located about fifteen minutes from the home of one of Amy’s closest friends, and it was offering a generous compensation package.
The search committee liked me – and a couple of its members were even willing to skip what would be several months of a process in order to offer me a call on the spot.
But the rest of the committee rightly decided that they should conduct a full and complete process.
Meanwhile, I was wrapping-up final exams, and spending some weekends traveling to other cities to meet with search committees.
Amy was spending more and more time in a wheelchair … and we did not even know where we would live.
At the last minute, my friend Ken Barnes called to say that he was leaving for a summer sabbatical and offered us his home in the Berkeley Hills for a couple of months … but in the middle of all our confusion, with no definite job in hand, it sure didn’t feel like God was looking out for us.
But we piled our stuff into a corner of Ken’s house and wondered why God wasn’t leading us to the church we wanted when we wanted it.
You would think, I said to myself, that when someone had sacrificed to go to seminary and had given our lives to the ministry, that God could show just a little consideration!
Often, it is only looking back that we see what gifts God was giving us.
That summer in Ken’s house would be Amy and my last free time together.
Soon we would be consumed with moving here, setting up a new house and starting a new career.
Amy’s strength would rapidly decline … and within a few months, she would die.
It is in looking back that we see the fingerprint evidence of God in our life.
In Romans 8:28 God makes an unshakable promise: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
In a moment of crisis, I may not be able to see what God is up to, but I can do two things:
First, I can remember that God is here whether I recognize Him or not.
Life has to be lived forward, although we often do not recognize God’s hand in our situation until we look back.
So, I can live in this pandemic with the assurance that I am not alone – even if, like Cleopas, I don’t recognize Jesus’ face in this time.
Second, I can ask, “What is God up to in this situation?”
Even if the pandemic and quarantines are overwhelming, we can pray for insight about things God might be doing, possible lessons He might be offering us, and possible opportunities He might reveal.
The two had just a personal tutoring session from Jesus Christ, but they didn’t get it until they invited the stranger into their home for dinner.
Luke 24:30-32 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
The sacrament of communion is Jesus’ gift to us … his gift to remind us of his presence and his promises.
==> Sacrament of Lord’s Supper here