Scripture: Luke 24:13-35
On the Road to Emmaus
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 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.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
I introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Dawn” and quickly the man interrupted me and saoi, “I know who you are.”
It was an awkward pause… ”Ok…” I said eventually.
Thinking to myself… I guess we’re not doing the polite thing where we reintroduce each other.
Finally he pulls out a piece of paper from his manila folder and it is an email from me. To him.
“Oh, I say, YOU’RE George.”
He nods and I realize how awkward the encounter really is. I had sent him an email a month ago complaining about the way a particular thing was handled and so he took the time to figure out who I was – the person behind the email. I, however, had not. I just fired off the email to the man with power and released it into cyber space without thinking twice.
Lucky for me, the encounter turned out quite lovely as we talked a bit more in person about the issue and took time to get to know each other better.
In this moment, I feel like I got a glimpse of what the two people in our story were experiencing as they encountered a stranger who knew exactly who they were.
* * *
Our scripture passage today is a pretty dramatic story, the outside looking in.
How could followers of Jesus, who were so close to him, worshiped, followed him… NOT RECOGNIZE who he is?
It seems bizarre to us, as we read the story already knowing the end, but for them, it was real. This person was a stranger. An odd stranger… perhaps the only person visiting Jerusalem who did not know the most important gossip of the weekend.
Jesus, in risen form is a stranger. Unfamiliar. Unknown.
We recognized Jesus when he was alive. People flocked to him for his teachings and healings.
We still get to know Jesus in living form as we read about his life and ministry in the gospels and we do our best to follow his teachings and ways.
We recognized Jesus in his death. In his suffering and wounds, we connect through the pain.
But now, the resurrected, risen Jesus?
He is impossible to recognize.
There are several accounts of Jesus appearing to his followers in risen form and EACH TIME he has to help them recognize him.
* * *
The risen Lord is a stranger to us because he does not fit into our understandings of time and space.
Through his resurrection, Jesus rose out of the confines of this world. The confines of time. He exists at the beginning of time, right now with us and in the future.
As he rose, he was set free from our projections and expectations as well. He became something new, something different. Strange, to us.
This week I invited you to pay attention to where Jesus is in your daily life and, if you’d like, to share with me a vine (short video) with us.
I have two to share with you today. One created by Eden and one created by me.
But, then, as we seek to capture it in film and explain to ourselves and others … It becomes more complicated.
HOW CAN WE recognize Jesus in risen form? If none of the followers could do it, how can we?
* * *
I’ve been compelled this week, in reflection of this text and in our task to look for Jesus, to slow down…
To pay attention…
and to wonder about the things around me.
The hipster on their phone… what are they doing? How is Jesus showing up in them for me?
The woman in the business suit. With her hurried pace and somewhere important to be. Jesus, (I think) is that you?
In the wind hitting my face as I cycle down Folsom St. I pause to wonder about time and space and how the risen Christ may be speaking to me in the strange form of the wind. The cold bite of air reminding me that I’m not alone. There are people and living things growing and moving all around me.
And as I slow, pause, wonder… I think of what Jesus shared with these two walking to Emmaus. He opened the scriptures to them… explaining to them that the gospel is real. Jesus has risen. He is not here in the same way.
He frees them from the confines of this world – from their grief – to recognize him. The risen Savior… who has already fulfilled their hope and saved them.
And then they get it. They realize that their hearts were burning the whole time they were with him.
* * *
Last Monday was the Boston Marathon.
This annual running race has become one place I find Christ in a stranger.
Since the bombing two years ago, crowds gather at the race and more watch online to cheer on the courageous runners.
We recognize today in our news, that this race has become much more than a running event. It has become a tribute to those who were harmed by the violence. Who lost limbs or their very lives on the day of the bombing.
The runners and cheerers who gather claim new life and hope for a safer future. They do not let the violence stop them, but through it have drawn closer, more hopeful than ever.
It’s amazing to me that this event of strangers has become one of great meaning. We start out as strangers watching or running…. and then as we hear each other’s stories… and we draw closer to each other… our hearts burn within us…
We being to see, through each other, the truth of new life emerging out of death.
Our hearts burn within us as we see a victim of the bombing racing strong with the support of others.
Our hearts burn within us when we see the family who’s loved one was killed in the bombing finding new family in those who race today.
Our hearts burn within us when we see in each other, strangers, the same desire for hope….and new life emerging from tragedy.
The presence of a stranger can be a powerful way to recognize what we had not before.
The two walking to Emmaus FINALLY recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread. It is in the communal act of sharing food and in the remembrance of this same act he did right before his death, that it all FINALLY makes sense to them.
Jesus, you are risen!
You have redeemed Israel!
You have set us free!
* * *
Encountering Jesus in risen form is a strange task. We must look for him in unknown, unfamiliar places.
We must slow down enough to pay attention. To wonder at how Christ is present among us.
And as we do, I pray our eyes would be open to the saving grace of the risen Christ.
I pray that we could see ourselves and this world with renewed hope for resurrection.
I pray that our hearts would burn within us as we witness our Savior, in the form of a stranger, right here in our midst.