THE RESURRECTED JESUS ON A WALK, THEN & NOW
SCRIPTURES: I Pet. 1: 17-23; Luke 24:13-32
What an intriguing story of Jesus immediately after his resurrection joining these two companions, perhaps husband and wife, or maybe just friends, who have left Jerusalem heading home to Emmaus. We may have read this passage several times and it still pulls us in.
Largely it has been preached regarding the two friends being unable to recognize this stranger as Jesus until he breaks bread, begins to share a meal with them. Their meal with Jesus was/is highly symbolic to the Communion table remembering when the Lord gave a blessing and broke the bread before his Disciples in that “last supper.”
There has well been mystery to the sudden disappearance of Jesus upon the two coming to have their eyes opened and recognizing him. What kind of abilities did the resurrection body of Jesus hold that he could enter locked rooms where the Disciples had gathered, partly out of fear, and in this instance as if Scotty of Star Trek fame had beamed him to the Enterprise. Or, perhaps more basically, why did Jesus feel led, have the compulsion, as it were, to quickly escape--make his exit? Could he not have left in a more rudimentary fashion, like saying, ‘Well, I need to get on over to Galilee to see the Disciples. You guys take care’?
We will circle back in a few minutes to this last move of Jesus as it applies to us .
But first, today let us instead concentrate on Jesus in this story--the resurrected Jesus, glorified yet seemingly holding human qualities, encountering these two from Emmaus. What can we learn of how Jesus, who is now, we could assume, in the same form as he was that day on that road, howbeit, at the Father’s right hand? How did Jesus relate to those two leading us to understand how Jesus relates to us, though by way of Holy Spirit, absent a body-form? And also, how did Jesus want those two and today us to relate to him.
Our translation stated that the two, Cleopas and the other, were talking and “arguing (Revised New English Bible).” I can imagine the one asking, ‘Can we believe that Mary really saw Jesus?’ Perhaps the other responded, ‘How preposterous, she has too large an imagination!’
Then Jesus, as a stranger to them, adjoins himself to their steps and conversation. He inquires to what they are discussing, why they are so distraught, disturbed. He entreats them to allow him into their company, their conversation, into their feelings of anxiety, sorrow, pain.
We do not have to think very hard to see how Jesus wants to be in our company, included, to share our burdens. And yet, how Christ can go unrecognized. Perhaps there is failure to hear the voice of Christ in a friend or stranger’s words of concern and comfort. Maybe an answer to a personal need is offered by an out-of-the-blue opportunity as if from the hand of the Lord and it is snubbed for not matching our particular desires. Our sensitivity to Christ’s presence may be clouded by our anxiety, fear, confusion or such. But we are assured that Christ awaits our acceptance of his presence, his voice, his comfort as we walk the road of life.
Additionally, we note Jesus wanted them to share details. How often do we think Christ is not interested in our burdens because they are not big enough to need God or we alone should be able to solve. We may alone be capable to solve some problems, nevertheless, it may take offering our prayers for the moral support of our Lord for us to finish the tasks before us. It is not that the Lord is against us until we ask, but it likely is we do not recognize and tap into the synergy Christ provides.
Cleopas and the other were sad that Jesus had not become the liberator for them as a people. Then we take note of how Jesus turned to support them by way of the scriptures. While we Reformed Christians shun making an idol of the Bible and scriptures, we receive the Spirit presence of God in Christ through the them. The Scriptures for those two in the earthly day of Jesus would have been the books of the prophets, the Pentateuch--the first five books of our Hebrew Bible, and also the Psalms. So Jesus began to quote the prophets about the coming of the Messiah, actually of himself.
He scolds them. Could they not understand by way of the scriptures why Jesus had to be crucified, placed in a tomb? No wonder Mary had found it empty and an angel announced that Jesus was alive. We too are invited to have the Scriptures opened to us. Promises are there for us. And if overwhelmed in grief or by confusion or fear, it may become necessary to call on a sister or brother in Christ to share those promises, to be encouraged and supported. And, lest some forget, corporate worship opens scripture to us.
They reach Emmaus and Jesus creates an occasion for the choosing of the two walking-companions. Jesus makes as if he shall continue along on his journey.
What this did was create the opportunity of choice for them to decide if they wanted to be open to his previous words of scripture, to extend hospitality to one they saw as a stranger, or, they could go into their house and prepare themselves to wear down their grief ever how long it took.
The purported move as if he intended to keep walking, as they dropped off, gave them, if they so decided, the opportunity to recognize Jesus--to know that he had been raised, to lose their sorrow and come to rejoice.
Untold numbers of opportunities Christians have had when they have left the side of Jesus to get back to personal comfort-zones, or were dull in sensing Holy Spirit, or ignored Christ’s voice or help through others.
Cleopas and the other, fell back on the ancient rituals of hospitality to strangers. Abraham and Sarah had so acted toward strangers, called angels, who gave them God’s message of promise for a child and future generations.
Invited in, not only for a meal but for the night’s lodging, Jesus gave a blessing for the meal and broke bread with them. And though it was not Communion, perhaps because they too had been with the Disciples at the Last Supper, their eyes were opened. They recognized the Lord, their Lord, the very one whom they bereaved. Then they knew him. Had they not done the right thing to invite the stranger in they would have missed seeing Jesus to know him. What a missional lesson to us! When is it that we may falter in ministering, thus to miss Christ’s revelation to us?
Now back to the mystery of Jesus disappearing.
It seems as fast as the two came to realize who Jesus was. Poof--Jesus was gone. But the couple did not appear disturbed about that. Rather they reminisced those steps with Jesus from Jerusalem. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he opened the scriptures and talked to us?”
Well we too may sense the personal absence of Christ following some mountaintop encounter with the Lord. Perhaps we were alone along a lakeshore, watching a sunset, poring over scriptures, praying with a friend, or in corporate worship and the presence of the Lord was palpable. What a glorious encounter!
Attempts to replicate could be tried. ‘Let me quickly get back to the seashore, or cabin-retreat so I can experience the Spirit of the Lord like that again.’ Or, ‘if we could only sing those same hymns again when Holy Spirit burned within us.’ But if manufactured to identical settings or with the same props, the Lord seems to have vanished.
Our final lesson related to Jesus slipping out of sight is this: we cannot worship experiences. Oh, definitely recall them, but do not attempt to fabricate new ones. The Lord’s coming is a God-thing. The revelations of Christ are his call.
Oswald Chambers wrote about being faithful in and out of season, as the Apostle Paul wrote in II Tim. 4:2. We may desire a constant sense of Christ, thinking we can function only with such in-season times. But be assured, the Lord is with us, Holy Spirit abides in us, even when the Lord has withdrawn the ability for such awareness.
Chambers said, “One of the great snares of the Christian worker is to make a fetish of (his) rare moments. When the Spirit of God gives you a time of inspiration and insight, you say--’Now I will always be like this for God.’ No, you will not, God will take care you are not. Those times are the gift of God entirely. You cannot give them to yourself when you choose. . . If you make a god of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life and never come back until you do the duty that lies nearest, and have learned not to make a fetish of your rare moments.”
This is the resurrected Jesus of then and now.