Now on that same day two of [Jesus’ disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.In the minds of the travelers, “all these things that had happened” included the arrest and execution of Jesus on Friday, a frantic report Sunday morning of angels meeting several women at his tomb, and the discovery soon after that his body was missing—a bit of information that, as far as they could tell, meant only that even Jesus’ death had not satisfied his enemies’ bloodlust.
While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”The two then proceeded to explain the facts to their oblivious companion, lamenting that they “had hoped that [Jesus] was the one to redeem Israel”—hope that now seemed terribly misplaced.
“We thought this guy was the one,” they seemed to say, “but we were wrong.”
Have you ever given someone a pompous answer to what you thought was a ridiculously uninformed question, only to discover that they knew more about the subject than you?
If you’ve done that, then you can imagine the shocked looks on the disciples’ faces when the stranger pointed out a serious deficiency in their understanding of recent events.
“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.As Jesus explained the relationship between the Messiah’s suffering and his glorification, the travelers reached Emmaus where a series of events transpired that not only changed their lives, but charted a new course for the community of Jesus’ disciples and linked forever the simple action of breaking bread and the revelation of the holy presence of risen Christ.
Emmaus is the place where, on the Day of Resurrection, Jesus stayed for a little while. This is where he took, blessed, broke, and gave bread. This is where God’s power opened the disciples’ eyes to the one gathered at the table with them. Emmaus is the place where the disciples confessed that Jesus set their hearts aflame.
What happened that evening in the little village just seven miles from Jerusalem is tremendously significant to you and me. There’s a direct link between the table in Emmaus and the table around which we gather this morning, a link between the simple meal we share in remembrance of Christ and his soul-stirring, eye-opening, heart-warming presence.
That’s why we make Charles Wesley’s words our own today,
O Thou who this mysterious bread didst in Emmaus break,Luke’s account of the Emmaus event gives shape to our life, mission, and spiritual practice. However, according to Luke, the Emmaus event almost didn’t happen.
return, herewith our souls to feed, and to thy followers speak.
Listen again to this part of the story.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he [that’s Jesus] walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.This is Easter’s cliffhanger.
Will Jesus stay or go?
Will the full potential of this encounter be realized, or will the disciples miss out?
The resurrection has taken place. The Risen Christ is walking and talking to his disciples. This is true whether those disciples stop him or let him go.
But for Cleopas and his friend, the experience of Easter hangs in the balance.
As John Wesley, notes, “[Jesus] was going on; and he would have done it, had they not pressed him to stay.”
This dramatic moment is no less important than what happened around the Emmaus table, because it speaks to our fundamental experience of God’s presence in our lives.
God’s blessings and mercies abound.
God’s Spirit moves in our midst.
Jesus is present in the poor, forgotten, and displaced among us. Jesus is present as our Shepherd and friend. Jesus meets us at this table, when we gather in his name, and when we serve humbly and love deeply.
Our faith tells us that these things are true.
The heavens are telling the glory of God, but are we paying attention to them?
Are we actively receiving the blessings of God and employing them to build up others, to shine a light in the darkness, and to proclaim, in word and in action, the Good News of everlasting life in Jesus’ name?
The Holy One has drawn near to us, but are we engaged enough, alert enough, to offer an invitation to stay?
Imagine that your dear old grandmother sends you a card in the mail every month with a crisp one hundred dollar bill tucked inside it, yet every month you simply place the unopened envelope in a drawer in your desk.
The reality of your grandmother’s thoughtfulness is undisputed. She really has been generous even though you really haven’t received her gift. You’ve done nothing with it. You’ve used her gift to bless no one, not even your self.
To truly honor the giver, you need to open that gift. You need to say thank you and do something worthwhile with what’s been given to you.
This is the crux of the Emmaus story. The full measure of God’s blessing was not received until the travelers took action.
They urged him [who was Jesus] strongly…So he went in to stay with them.Oh that you and I would be as engaged and awake and as eager for Jesus to stay with us as the Emmaus travelers were.
Oh that the sparks of grace in our hearts would erupt into the full flame of resurrection faith.
Oh that the Risen Christ would break bread with us and open our eyes today.
Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me;Let it be so. And let us give thanks to God for this Good News. Amen.
place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.