April 15, 2018: Seeking Jesus Wk 2
Luke 24: 13-35
On the Road with Jesus
We’re continuing our series on seeing Jesus in the resurrection stories. We’re looking at how the disciples determined that they were speaking to Jesus, and how we might learn lessons from them. Today we’re continuing that with the story of the road to Emmaus. Now these two men continually fail to see for most of the story. We’re told that their eyes were kept from recognizing him. It brings a question today: what kept their eyes from recognizing him? And how were they finally opened?
The Scriptures kind of imply by the passive tense that it was God that was keeping their eyes closed, and that might well be the case for this particular situation. But we know if we’re honest with ourselves that we are perfectly capable of blinding ourselves. We are perfectly capable of keeping our own eyes closed from the hurt we cause in others, from the hurt we’ve had in ourselves, from the work of God around us. And of keeping ourselves blind from Jesus around us as well. I’m not saying that in this situation it definitely was them, but I think there is reason to suspect that it maybe was. That maybe, in fact, they themselves were blinding themselves.
One reason for that is the line “we had hoped.” “We had hoped” is a powerful line. It’s a powerful line because it’s past tense. They’re returning home. On Easter. The movement’s done. It’s time to get on with their lives. Jesus is dead. They’re resturning home. This is exactly what Peter and James and John would do later on, when they head back to Galilee and begin fishing again in John’s Gospel. They’re going home. Even with the women who had been there to tell them that Jesus was resurrected, it wasn’t enough. The movement was over. They weren’t looking for a live Jesus. Yet, Jesus meets them where they are, and Jesus redirects them, and sends them back up the road back to Jerusalem. But to me this is relatable to us. I mean this is human. When things go against us it’s human to sometimes want to give up. And we see this throughout society today where the church has hurt people, and the church has failed people, and they think that the church is dead, and they go home; because e movement’s over. It had a good run, but we have to go home. Jesus meets us on that road and Jesus does try and redirect us back. But we must look for him.
“We had hoped.” There are many people who use this phrase after terrible things have happened. That’s usually when it comes. “We had hoped that the illness would’ve gone away.” “We had hoped for a full recovery.” “We had hoped that our child would turn around before jail, or before worse.” “We had hoped…” Again we see that the disciples are relatable. Again we see that these two people are human, are just like us. We are present in the story. This is one of the reasons this story speaks so powerfully to me, why I love it so much. We are present in this story, and we can be present in the end as well. We just have to be open to when Jesus is calling us back to Jerusalem; when Jesus is going to be around us. How can we see Jesus when our hope is in the past tense? How can we see Jesus when we’re on our way home? To answer that we have to ask how did these men see Jesus?
Well first things first we have to recognize that they see Jesus through their act of hospitality. You see they don’t know it’s Jesus all the way back to Emmaus, and they get back to their home, and Jesus is acting like he’s going to go on. But they invite him into the house. They insist that he come into the house, that he eat with them. They offer hospitality to this stranger. That is biblical instruction, to offer hospitality to the stranger and to the immigrant among you, but they still do it. And I have to ask what if they hadn’t? What if they hadn’t offered that hospitality? Would Jesus have truly left them not knowing what they have just experienced? Would Jesus truly have walked away? I think maybe yes. He doesn’t force us to believe. If we blind ourselves, close our eyes, and don’t follow the word that’s in front of us; then Jesus might well let us reject him. But they don’t, they offer hospitality. That’s the first lesson we learn for recognizing Jesus: the offer hospitality to the least of these, to offer hospitality to the stranger, to the immigrant the refugee (there are more of them now). It’s Matthew 25 all over again: you are blessed if you have a fed, clothed, given water to, visited the least of these. Here we see it again. You offer hospitality to those who can’t repay you, to those who maybe don’t deserve it, and you might just see Jesus.
When they finally do see Jesus it is through the breaking of bread. And, yes, they’re talking about communion in this particular sense, or kind of an allegory for communion. But in some sense they’re just breaking bread, or just simply eating a meal with this stranger that they brought into their home. And we can see Jesus in communion, yes, but we can see Jesus simply eating a meal with each other. We can see Jesus sometimes in the way that he conducts ordinary activities. The second lesson is to be on the look out for the Savior in the ordinary things around us; the general conversations among family and friends the person sitting in the corner at the high school lunch, or work lunch room because adults are bullies too sometimes, without anyone to talk to. Go talk with them, for you might just see Jesus. Be on the lookout for the Savior in the ordinary.
But what I want to focus on for the rest of this message was one of the last lines: “we’re not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” This is also extremely relatable, at least to me, and it is very haunting. This goes back to the idea of who it was that was actually closing their eyes to Jesus. Was it God? Because it seems to me that God has been trying to tell them the entire way: “hey! you are speaking to Jesus!” Their spirit has been working within them, warming their heart, to tell them to look who they’re talking to, but they had shut their own eyes.
The idea of hearts being strangely warmed within us is a very central idea to Methodism. You could say that one of the places where Methodism began was on Aldersgate Road on 24 May, 1738, when John Wesley was listening to someone read the introduction to the book of Romans by Martin Luther, and he felt his heart strangely warmed. In that moment he was brought into a new way of thinking about faith through his experiences. This idea of hearts being strangely warmed is one of the central tenants to Methodism; that moment when your heart is strangely warmed, when you truly believe that not only did Jesus do this for the world, Jesus did this for you. That you are saved, that you are in heaven. And it is haunting to me that our hearts can be strangely warmed and we ignore them like the men in Emmaus.
The one thing that the story of John Wesley can tell us is that the scripture can be explained, and it can reveal Christ in our lives, even if were not listening to the person who is doing the explaining. And yes, it would’ve been great if these two disciples had thought to write down what Jesus told them on the road. After all they just had the whole scripture explained to them by the Savior, you’d think maybe they could’ve written it down so then our job would be a little bit easier here 2000 years later. Maybe I’m just a little jealous they got Scriptures explained directly by the savior. But we do have something that they didn’t have in the Gospel of Luke, and that is the Holy Spirit within us. The spirit is in the world today. And Christ doesn’t actually have to be physically present with us on the road in order to be present with us on the road anymore. In some sense Jesus is with us every second of the day. And so, when we tell our story, when we tell how the Jesus of scriptures has impacted our lives, we are in some sense Jesus actively explaining the work of Jesus to each other. Through our own stories we can see Jesus in each other.
The last thing I want to get to is the response that we get when we finally do see Jesus. When we recognize that we have been talking to Jesus what is the proper response? The proper response is summed up in “that same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem.” That’s the response. Throughout the Gospel of Luke we see that this is the proper reaction to a work of Jesus Christ: to want to run and to tell the world, to go and shout it from the mountaintop for you want the world to know that the Lord of love has come to you, and you want to pass that on. We see this in Luke even when Jesus says don’t do it, don’t say anything, they can’t help themselves. So should it be when we encounter God. So let us look for Jesus’ work through the offer hospitality to strangers around us. Let us check our hearts for God spirit at work. And let us run to serve God. Amen.