Cathy Harris – PFM – April 26, 2020 – Luke 24:13-35
I enjoy a good road trip. One of my favorite memories growing up was a road trip out West that my mother and step-dad took us kids on – my brother and two step-sisters. Mom and Everett had been saving their pennies for several years to be able to take us on that trip, and all of us still have fond memories of that time together and reminisce about it at family gatherings from time to time. Oh – there were fights and arguments along the way – to be sure! – but it was quite an adventure.
I was in high school – already had my driver’s license – and Everett even let me drive part of the way to give him a break. We drove through the Badlands of South Dakota, saw Mt. Rushmore, drove through Yellowstone National Park and stayed at the Hoosier Motel. Then we drove up through the U.S. side of Glacier National Park – but there were no vacant hotels outside the park – there was a state fair going on – so we drove for hours that night looking for a motel to stay in.
A lot of things happened during that road trip – we got to see a lot of wildlife, all of the mountains that we had never seen before, and yes, my parents were stuck in the car for two weeks with four kids – kids who didn’t always get along so well. I’m not sure how they did it!
At one point on the trip, the car was having problems in the mountains. Mom was the office manager of a car dealership, and they had loaned her a brand new station wagon to take on the trip! The car started having problems in the mountains. We tried to find a repair shop, but were in the middle of nowhere, so Everett tore off some type of emissions thing, and then it worked fine. We all wondered if that would be a problem when we got back to Indiana and Mom returned the car …
While driving out West – we were very mindful of how far we were from the next town – because out West there’s a lot of open road and if you don’t take advantage of a gas station, it might be a long time before you pass another one – and this was way before cell phones.
The last time I went to the gas station – at the pump, gas was $1.45/gallon – not bad.
I’ve read that in Kentucky, there are places selling gas for under $1/gallon.
Crude Oil is selling for -$1.43/barrel. In other words, they are practically paying people to take it away.
Gas prices have dropped because the whole world is traveling less.
Perhaps it’s not until we stop driving that we realize how much roads play a role in our lives – not many of us could have imagined how little we would be using roads this spring.
Many of the stories in the Gospel of Luke take place on a road.
For example –
– Mary and Joseph traveled on the road to get to Bethlehem for the census, and it was there that Jesus was born. So Jesus had his first road trip just a few days after he entered this world!
– And the story of the Good Samaritan took place alongside the road – when robbers were hiding and robbed and injured a Jewish man – and it is the Samaritan – not the Jewish priest and religious leaders – it is the Samaritan – the hated enemy of the Jews – who walks across the road to help the Jewish man – and even paid to have him taken care of by an innkeeper.
– Then there is the Prodigal Son – and the road the son takes to be reunited with his father after insulting him by asking for his half of his inheritance early.
– And – Luke tells us that “Jesus set his eyes toward Jerusalem” – he tells us that in Luke 9 – and we find Jesus traveling on roads heading toward Jerusalem from chapter 9 to the end of chapter 19 in Luke – and those chapters are often referred to as Luke’s “travel narrative” – because Jesus and the disciples are “on the move” toward Jerusalem.
And even in the book of Acts, Luke continues to tell us road stories – we learn that Jesus appears to Paul on the road to Damascus.
Roads are important – they take us places we want to see – take us places we want to go – and sometimes roads in life take us places we don’t want to go or wish we didn’t need to go to … roads can bring us together … and – roads can pose dangers (as in the story of the Good Samaritan – or when our family had car trouble in the mountains), and Luke even shows us through these road adventures that not only can we travel on roads, but he shows us that in the early church, people’s faith in Christ was “on the move”.
For some reason, roads and traveling captured Luke’s imagination. It’s not surprising, I guess. When I think about it, there are a number of songs about roads: “Country Roads, Take Me Home to the place I belong” (John Denver), or Willie Nelson’s “On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again”. Or that country song, “Red Dirt Road”.
Today’s story – you’ve got it! – takes place on a road – the road to Emmaus! I like this story a lot – it has some humor, some mystery, a couple of twists, and a big reveal at the end!
Luke begins the story with two disciples – Cleopas and a friend – who have been in Jerusalem for Passover, and they ended up seeing or hearing about Jesus’ death. Luke also tells us that they have heard an incredible story from some of the women who had gone to the tomb – saying that Jesus was alive! But they are overwhelmed with grief. They have left Jerusalem and are walking the 7-mile trek back home – on the road to Emmaus.
An unusual thing happens – a man joins them on their walk. We know it is Jesus, but Cleopas and his friend didn’t know it was Jesus. Luke tells us that their eyes were kept from seeing/recognizing Jesus. We don’t know if Jesus looked different, or whether they were overwhelmed with grief and didn’t recognize him – but – for whatever reason – they don’t recognize Jesus.
Jesus joins them on their walk, and Jesus asks them what they are talking about. They had been discussing all of the events they had seen at Passover – but their hearts were very heavy – with grief.
When Jesus asks them what they’re discussing, they stop in their tracks – right there in the middle of the road – Are you nuts, they ask Jesus. Are you the only person around who doesn’t know – who hasn’t heard – what has happened?!
And then, in the midst of telling Jesus what happened, they begin telling him about their dashed hopes. They HAD hoped Jesus was the one who would rescue them. They HAD hoped that he was the one – this mighty man of God – that he would be the king of the Jews, but now he is dead.
Jesus answers them by telling them all the stories from Moses down through the prophets – he’s telling them THEIR story – their Jewish history – their heritage of faith – reminding them that the scriptures had predicted that the Messiah would suffer and die in order to fulfill the scriptures.
And you can just see the wheels turning in their minds – as Jesus helps them connect the dots of their past – remembering how God had been with them – with their people – in the past – and by doing this, Jesus enables them to move forward – there is something familiar – Jesus gives them a new perspective – and they’re not quite sure what all of this means, but their hearts begin to warm – perhaps a spark of hope.
They ended up asking Jesus – this stranger – to stay overnight with them. They got food out on the table – they were the hosts who had invited Jesus as their guest, but it is Jesus who blessed the bread and shared it with them – and – right then and there – in that familiar act of blessing and sharing bread, they recognize Jesus.
After his death and resurrection, Jesus wasn’t as easily recognized by the disciples. We get glimpses in different resurrection stories of Jesus appearing and coming to be with people. But these stories didn’t happen all at once – Easter for these early followers of Christ – came with glimpses and experiences of the risen Christ.
But the things that made Jesus recognizable to them – were the things that had always been true about who Jesus was – sharing a meal, the hospitality shown to the stranger, the way Jesus explained the scriptures to the crowds – it’s those very same things that made Jesus recognizable to them – through the familiar, ordinary things in life.
Perhaps – maybe – this is how Jesus always shows up. Even today. In the midst of our ordinary lives – when we are walking towards home or getting ready for dinner. In the faces of our neighbors or the strangers we meet along the way. When we read the Bible and discuss it together. When we share a meal. When we invite someone to join us in fellowship.
This is an Easter story, and after all: Easter doesn’t happen on one Sunday and then disappear – it’s done and over. And Jesus wasn’t just alive thousands of years ago, never having been heard from since.
As Friends, we believe that resurrection is something that happens every day.
It happens in our relationships that break and then are mended.
Resurrection happens when our hopes seem to shatter and then are slowly reborn.
And Resurrection happens in lives that fall apart but get put back together piece by piece.
Kristin Adkins-Whiteside writes that, “If we want to experience Jesus—if we want to celebrate Easter—we don’t need to position ourselves in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
No, we simply need to pay attention. For the risen Lord is among us. Moving and speaking and working here and now. And even when we find it hard to recognize him. Even when we realize we have gotten it all wrong and missed the whole point, Jesus keeps walking beside us, meeting us on whatever road we are on. He asks us what we are thinking about, and then begins to retell our story back to us with a whole new ending. He sets our hearts are on fire within us with a hope that we thought we had lost forever. And all of a sudden we realize: Jesus has been with us all along.”
Jesus walks alongside us – on whatever road we are on – even when we don’t recognize him.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] 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.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
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.