Sermon Lesson: Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)
Alternate N.T. Lesson: 1 John 3:1-7 (NRSV)
Psalm: Psalm 4 (NRSV)
Usually when I write my mini sermons, I look ahead to the upcoming Sunday, but this time I want to look back to the previous Sunday. I find myself unwilling to let Jesus go, to let go of his earliest post-Resurrection appearances to the twelve. Our Lectionary completely skimmed over his second appearance to his followers after he appeared in the garden of his own Tomb, more specifically, on the Road to Emmaus, and I want to circle back and add some context and not just “skim over it.”
First – let me give you a calendar, to help situate you.
- Sunday Morning – Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (Easter Sermon – “Early that Morning”)
- Sunday during the Day – Jesus appears on the Road to Emmaus (this mini sermon (#53))
- Sunday Evening – Jesus appears to the Twelve and to Thomas (Second Sunday of Easter – “When it Was Evening)
So, we are circling back, but think of it as useful backstory.
It tells of two men who were walking West of Jerusalem. Some have suggested they had sun in their eyes. Whether that is enough not to recognize someone is really up to interpretation, but this story tells us little things.
- Jesus is able to relate to the situation relatively quickly
Think of it. Hours ago he was with Mary, beside his own tomb. Hours before that he was in the grave. But here he is, walking with these two men, relating with them, living their hopes and dreams, and adapting to being alive really rather well.
Most of us, when faced with enormous change, have difficulty adapting. It’s a fact of the human condition.
I remember the first time I was back in the pulpit, filling in for my mother (who is also a minister), and I looked out and saw about a half dozen people, all wearing face masks. I was absolutely devastated. I should have expected it. At that point, we were months into the pandemic, our isolation bubbles were highly restricted, and our movements were highly regulated. But for me, the simple act of stepping into the pulpit and not being able to see the faces of my congregations—the faces of people that I have in fact known since I was young child—was emotionally devastating to me.
I’m proud to say that I barely missed a step and pulled it together, but that sort of thing is miniscule compared to what Jesus went through – trial for crimes he did not commit, state execution, burial, and resurrection. And he didn’t miss a step, and walked along the road to Emmaus as if it were just any other Sunday.
- Jesus is extremely courteous
Now, this might have you scratching your head, but think about it.
Jesus pretends as if he would go on without them. He will not force his company on his traveling companions. He waits for their invitation given out of free-will, the most precious gift God ever gave humanity.
They must invite Christ into their lives or allow him to pass on.
In that way, the story of the Road to Emmaus is a metaphor for every Christian after the death and resurrection of Christ, just in real-time.
- The story tells of the Breaking of Bread
This, whether it is apparent immediately or not, a reenactment of the Christian sacrament. Wherever two or three or more are gathered in my name… are not idle words. It’s a beautiful scene and one we should take heart from.
- It tells of how, when these two men receive great joy, they do not wish to horde it but instead wish to share it as quickly as possible.
This is the essence of Christian joy. You do not hide it under a bushel, but you share your light with the world. Joy is always meant to be shouted from the rooftop.
We should emulate these two men when we receive the Good News and, truly, when we accept Jesus into our hearts, the joy is so overwhelming most of us find it impossible to keep it to ourselves.
- When the travelers reach Jerusalem, they in fact share the news.
This point grows out of the former one. The joy is too wonderful and too great to keep to oneself.
It’s like an Easter “Alleluia” you can’t quite keep to yourself (I’ve had one or two of those myself over the years), and you just have to announce even if you’re in a grocery line (though even I will admit that can be slightly awkward).
- The final point is that Jesus appears to Simon Peter.
This is a beautiful story that is never fully told in the Gospel, but one I would like to pause over. Peter denied Jesus three times (as Jesus predicted) and it is specifically Peter that Jesus appears to in the Gospel of Luke. What was said we can only guess, what words Peter used to beg forgiveness and how Jesus granted it.
Needless to say, it was important enough for the Gospel of Luke to mention. We can only guess at the reasons why it was not reported. Certainly, one can gather that it was poignant.
Our Road to Emmaus
As I mentioned earlier, the Road to Emmaus is the story of two men accepting Jesus into their lives through their God-given free will. They make the choice. Jesus offers himself as traveling companion (for their journey), but the choice is ultimately theirs.
Every person has their own Road to Emmaus—a road from a moment of self-doubt, or grief, or uncertainty, that spreads out from the rest of their lives. Human life, one might argue, is several smaller Roads to Emmaus that blend into one another.
We, as Christians, often speak of accepting Jesus into our hearts.
But it would be equally as accurate as speaking of accepting Jesus as traveling companion in our lives. Where we walk, he walks beside us. When we are weakest, he will carry us through, even if we think our faith is weak or nonexistent.
As a society we have suffered horribly this past year, and I won’t pretend we haven’t, I won’t pretend that we each have had our own different challenges with the pandemic and isolation. I spoke earlier of one specific momentary challenge I faced. I know Jesus was there with me, holding my hand, when I looked out on a sea of masked faces and felt my throat close in surprise and horror. He was the breath I forced myself to take. He was the second breath that I took when I set my hands down on the pulpit and reminded myself why I was there and that I was needed. He was the third inhale I took before I spoke through my own mask.
A sceptic would say that I was all alone up in that pulpit, but I know differently. I know that Jesus was with me because I ask him every time I feel weak in this pandemic to follow me on this strange new path I can’t quite decipher myself. I see him in the sunshine through my apartment window. I hear him in the meow of my cat. I see him in the smile on my nephew’s face—because Jesus is everywhere that is dear to my heart.
This is just one long way to say that Jesus is with us every step of the way on our long and difficult road, if only we allow him, and if only we know where to see signs of his presence. Sometimes it’s so difficult to see, I’ll be the first to admit, but if we open ourselves up, Jesus has left his fingerprints in every part of our life.
You just need to look.
Have you asked Jesus to walk beside you on your long road of your life?
Think about it.