Sermon - Brad Brookins
Luke 24. 13-33
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 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?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’
“What things?” Jesus asks.
“Why, everything!” Cleopas answers. “About Jesus of Nazareth, the mighty prophet. You really haven’t heard? How our leaders turned him over to the Romans; how they crucified him. And we had hoped—we had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel.
“And if that isn’t enough, this morning some women from our group found his tomb empty. And they saw a vision of angels who told them He wasn’t dead after all, but alive. And some others from our group also found the tomb empty—and this is all so very strange; it makes no sense.”
Then this secret Jesus smiles at them and says, “You really are a bit slow on the uptake, aren’t you. You still don’t see that it had to be this way?”
Then he launches into a 7 mile long Bible study. At a slow walk when you’re deep in conversation, it would take 3 hours, or more, to cover the distance from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It’s a good thing they had that much time, because Jesus is in no hurry to get through the story.
He begins with Moses, Luke says—the first 5 books of their Bible, and then goes through all the prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, all the way to Malachi. He shows them how, from a certain point of view, the Bible writers all along were saying it was necessary—unavoidable, for the Messiah to suffer.
What happened was supposed to happen.
Book by book, chapter by chapter, over this 3 hour conversation, he “opens the scriptures” to them; and their hearts begin to burn.
For three hours or so, he talks; they listen.
They arrive, finally, at Emmaus. It’s already getting dark. The stranger—he’s still a stranger to them, remember, makes like he wants to walk on alone. I wonder where he might have been going.
But Cleopas says, “No, don’t go. Look, it’s already very late. Stay with us!” He urges him “strongly”, Luke says.
The stranger consents and soon they are in the house, sitting together around the supper table.
And this brings us to our second reading for today. Luke 24. 30-32—When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’
They jump up from the table and run the 7 miles back to Jerusalem where they learn from their friends that Peter, too, has seen Jesus. They tell their story—that Jesus was with them for 3 hours, talking with them, opening the Scriptures to them.
But, they say, “we didn’t know who he was until he broke the bread!”
God is speaking to us through these words. What God says is always true. We can always trust it:
My friend, Ted Swartz, took half of my allotted sermon time this morning, so I’ll have to make this quick.
I don’t know what kept Cleopas and his companion from recognizing Jesus. To be fair, I guess, the idea that Jesus was alive was at best a rumor based on a vision—not the kind of thing you’d stake your life on. And they weren’t exactly important people. This is the first, and the last, we hear of them in the gospel story. And they are on the road going away from Jerusalem—away from all the action and back to their everyday lives.
If the eleven remaining disciples were the core of Jesus’ followers, Cleopas and his friend were on the outer, outer ring—out there on the edge.
So they could be forgiven for never, in their wildest imagination, thinking they might be the people Jesus would seek out—if indeed he was alive at all.
But Jesus always goes to the edges.
Remember that. That’s important.
It’s the afternoon of the first Easter; the first day of a new world. Everything has changed. Everything is more strange than we could have imagined.
And where do we find Jesus?
Not heading for the halls of power to get even with his enemies—he has no enemies now anyway.
And not with his closest friends—you remember, the ones who ran away and now are in hiding.
No. He shows up on a country road taking a three hour stroll on a pleasant Sunday afternoon with two acquaintances who, it turns out, were ready to hear what he had to say.
And maybe that’s why he meets them there.
That’s the first thing to take from this story. Jesus thinks ordinary people are worth talking to. People like them; and people like you and me. People who want to understand, who want to hear what God is up to—we are worth three hours of Jesus’ time on the most important day since God said, “Let there be light!”
So don’t be afraid to wonder and imagine and ask your questions. Don’t be afraid to look deep into your own heart or the heart of God. Don’t be afraid to open yourself to the gentle promptings of the Spirit.
Because when you do, Jesus will come along side to be your guide. This is the promise of this story. It becomes even more clear in what happens next.
They sit at table in a house in Emmaus. The conversation could have gone on for hours—for days. But it doesn’t. It halts, suddenly, when, as Luke says, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it and gave it to them.
And you all know what that is. That’s Communion language. That’s what Jesus did at the last supper when he added the words, “This is my body…Eat. Drink. Remember”.
He says as much, without words this time, at this Emmaus dinner table. The bread is broken; they do remember!
Their eyes are opened. Their eyes are opened by the broken bread and they realize what has been true for at least the last three hours—that they are with Jesus; that he is with them.
The conversation along the road got their hearts racing. But the broken bread opened their eyes to the very real presence of Jesus.
Knowing is good, you see. But seeing is better.
So here’s what Luke told his readers about that Easter Sunday afternoon—the first day of a whole new world:
The road trip was good;
The supper was better.
Theology is good; Bread is better.
Knowing about Jesus good.
Being with him is better.
And here’s what I’m telling you on this Sunday after Easter—this second Sunday in a whole new world:
Theology is still good.
Bread is still better.
The promise of that Sunday still holds.
So come. Eat the bread. Drink the cup. Let your eyes be opened to what has always been true, and always will be true—
He is with us.
We are never alone.
Thanks be to God.
Read the questions below first, then come back to read the story before you answer them:
Luke 24. 13-40
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then 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?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But 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. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
1. Notice the interpersonal dynamics at play in this story of a group in crisis. A self-appointed committee of women go to the tomb. "The eleven" and some others are holed up in a house in town. Two of them leave the group in the afternoon to walk home to Emmaus. What is holding this group together?
2. V. 16--What kept their eyes from recognizing him?
3. Two disciples are walking to Emmaus. One is Cleopas, the other is un-named. Use what you know about un-named people in the Bible to speculate on this un-named person, on the possible relationship between these two and on what this might say about the early community of Jesus followers.
4. Note how Luke is careful to have Cleopas say, "our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death". Compare this to John's gospel (19.14-15): "(Pilate) said to the Jews, 'here is your king'. They cried out 'Away with him!'" Is this difference significant? Why or why not? Reflect on the importance of word choices and rhetoric in story telling and in everyday conversation.
5. V. 26--"Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer?" Jesus asks. Turn that question around. Why was it necessary for the Messiah to suffer? This is a difficult question. Beware of the rabbits!
6. V. 30--"When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them." This is obviously Communion language. By the time Luke wrote this the church had been celebrating the Communion meal for 50 years, or so. V. 31--"Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him". What was Luke doing by connecting Communion food and language to recognizing Jesus? (Remember, their eyes weren't working right. Jesus wasn't present to them until he broke the bread).
7. V. 31-- "and he vanished from their sight." What do you think resurrection life is like? How is it different from your life now?
8. Extra Credit: V. 32--"Were not our hearts burning within us...while he was opening the scriptures to us?" Talk about a time when something you learned from Scripture set your heart to burning.