Luke 24: 13-36.
Peace Presbyterian, 4/19/15
by Shannon Jung
When did we see Jesus? Jesus on the Road.
It’s common enough. You get on an airplane and the passenger in the next seat says Hello or nods. Sometimes you both get buried in your books or laptops or whatever. But sometimes you chat a bit. Where you from? What doing there? What do you do for a living?
Occasionally your conversation goes beyond that. You realize after a while that somehow or other you begin to share things that you would not otherwise share, particularly not with a total stranger. You had been thinking about something and he or she has a perspective on that, or they share sometimes that had puzzled them or bothered them, and that engages you and makes you think. You think to yourself: “I am never going to see this person again so I might as well just let it out.”
Sometimes though it even goes beyond that. You exchange business cards or invite them to your son or daughter’s wedding, or you agree to consult with them about a technical problem that had bothered you. You arrange a possible future meeting. And sometimes sometimes sometimes you even invite them to share a meal with you.
I suspect that this happened on the Emmaus road, as Luke recounts it. This man, this stranger, comes up to Cleopas and Ms. Cleopas, let us say, and asks if he can share their journey. It’s the first century equivalent to sitting in the next seat on the plane. He may ask “What are you chatting about?” or, as Godspell would have it: “ What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening?”
We are on that same journey.
Hear the Gospel, Luke 24: 13-27.
So, Jesus has come alongside them, and “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Did you hear that. We have to assume that it was God who kept them from recognizing him. But why? Why did God keep them from recognizing him? Well, there’s the obvious reason: we wouldn’t have had that enduring a story if they had immediately recognized him and said, “Jesus, you’re back from the grave.” Not the sort of situation where you meet a stranger in an airplane or have a new boy or girl in the classroom. Or in the condo.
But maybe, remember, this is the evening of the Easter Sunday morning. They may be deeply in despair, as that phrase says….. “But we had hoped….” So they may have been distracted themselves, may have been so downcast that they did not recognize this stranger. Totally preoccupied with their grief. But we had hoped….. When the stranger wonders what all has been happening, they say “You don’t know? About everything that happened to our master Jesus of Nazareth.” But we had hoped….
And now it is the third day when he said he would rise. We hardly believed it before. And, even, even, some women disciples were at the tomb and said that they had had a vision of angels who said he was alive. But we didn’t see him. Other disciples did not see him either. And the stranger then retorted, “How slow you are to believe…. Your eyes must be closed.” At that point he began to explain everything about this Jesus of Nazareth.
We pick up the Gospel again:
The day is beginning to fade and the pre-twilight is enveloping them. Cleopas and Ms. Cleopas are coming up to their village; they have reached their home. The stranger appears to be continuing on, though. Something makes them urge him to stay with them, it is almost evening, the day is about over.
Sometimes we say. “Come on over anytime. Feel free to drop in when you’re in the neighborhood.” Pretty casually. In the first century BCE however this was not a casual matter at all. There were no Hiltons, Super 8’s, or airbnb’s. Often in fact this was a matter of life and death. So when the Cleopas’s urge him to stay with them they are offering a very significant gift, they are practicing very important hospitality to this stranger.
So he went in to stay with him.
At the table at suppertime, he took the bread and blessed and broke it. BOOM!!!!!!
Their eyes were opened. They recognized Jesus for who he was. And he vanished from their sight.
They jumped up (“at that very hour”, Luke writes.) They returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven and the eleven had news for them: “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon!” Then Mr. and Ms. Cleopas told what had happened to them and how he had revealed himself in the breaking of the bread.
And, as they were talking, Jesus himself appeared among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
So, my question to myself and to you is: Why do we have this Emmaus story? After all, Jesus appeared to Simon Peter and then also to all the disciples gathered there. Why do we need this Emmaus story?
You recognize of course that we are back to our original question. Why were their eyes kept from recognizing him? Why did God do that? In the second part of the Gospel, it says that their eyes were opened (again by God) and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.
Why do we have this Emmaus story?
I know there are many, many reasons. Several of them occur to me, and I invite you to share mine at this point.
First, it is just overwhelming that the invitation to spend the night with the two disciples is very hospitable. A bond has been established, but the two might have assumed that this total stranger could make do somehow somewhere else. Even though “their hearts burned within them,” they might have ignored those feelings, they might have closed their hearts as they had their eyes closed, and just gone on with their plans. But they didn’t do that. They invited the stranger in. They were hospitable in a way that went way beyond politeness or a casual invitation. They urged him strongly (so there’s a double emphasis there) saying, “Stay with us. Let our fellowship continue.”
And then, then, as he took bread and blessed and broke it, their eyes were opened (again, presumably by God) and they recognized him. The bond between bread, hospitality, and grace is too strong for us to ignore. What removed the scales from their eyes was this act, this simple yet also ultimate, act of hospitality. The act of hospitality that Jesus was.
Their despair, their profound disappointment was broken. Jesus is alive! Why did Jesus then vanish? I can speculate that Jesus realized his work here was done. That is, it is the hospitality signified by bread, welcome into their home, and blessing that reveals the risen Lord. That reinforces the resurrection. That signifies indeed that “Christ has risen”!!!!
So it is for us. Sometimes it is as if “our eyes were opened” during the breaking of bread and drinking of wine. It comes over us, and we recognize the risen Lord; the reality of Jesus comes to us. A few verses on in Luke’s Gospel we find Jesus hungry. He asks the disciples, “Do you have anything to eat?” And they gave him some broiled fish to eat. The joining of the human and the divine is overwhelming – the mundane bread or fish and the resurrection of the stranger the Lord the divine come together. The Lord said that he would be in the bread and wine. And VOILA.
Now the question comes: Where do we see Jesus? Where do we see Jesus? When do we see Jesus?
I am not guilting you. But I am challenging myself.
Lots of times Jesus appears and either I don’t invite him to come in and eat with us, or my eyes and heart are closed (of my own doing). I don’t expect Jesus on the road. I expect Jesus to be here in church on Sunday mornings. Not on the road. Not the grocery store. When it comes to other times -- I am the airplane passenger who buries his head in his book – not to say that Jesus doesn’t appear there, but sometimes I am closed and don’t expect Jesus. In fact, I block a lot of encounters with Jesus because I am distracted, disconcerted, and also simply not expecting Jesus to be there. I block a lot of the joy of the Christian life because I do not expect to see Jesus. I have my own agenda.
Here’s an example: When we lived in Kansas City, I would often drive into work in a “bad” or “rundown part of town.” There was a Quik Stop there where I would get gas. Lots of times early in the morning there were police cars and lots of other rustbuckets there. Often there would be a bit of a ruckus. I suspect there was some drug activity or other interactions going on. Well, sometimes when I was paying inside and maybe getting a bagel, there would be an older woman there.
Her clothes were gray and nondescript. She stared vacantly ahead and didn’t seem to notice what was going on. I came to think of her as the grey woman; she sort of sagged. She would come in the front doors and stand about three steps in. And she would just stand. She wouldn’t look to the right or to the left. Maybe she had a shopping cart full of all sorts of recyclables outside, maybe not. I never learned. And that is the point, right? Maybe you see, probably, there was Jesus right there, and I never welcomed her, I never asked her name, I never asked her to come in and stay with us. We did not break bread together.
I hope it is clear that I am not proud of my behavior.
Most of the time for me it is less dramatic. I wake up in the morning raring to go. I do not think: now, where or when am I going to see Jesus today? Is Jesus going to cross my path? But because of what one of you said last week, I am trying to learn to expect Jesus to come to me on the road dressed as a stranger. I want to train my eyes to see Jesus.
Of course I am talking about you as well as myself. I want to challenge you to expect to see Jesus. Yes, expect to see Jesus. What would happen to us if we expected to see Jesus?
My bet: that we would in fact see him.
You see, I believe that God yearns to be in relationship with us, yearns to have us love as God loves us. Longs for us. So much so that God is continuously broadcasting to us. God may be beckoning to us from the hibiscus : Hey! Want to see something beautiful? See me, see my stretched out petals, see my rose color, see my vitality, want to see something else, see my lemon tree, see my orchids, see my dolphins.
See Jane, see Paul, see Junie, see Gary, see Javier, Maria, Perry, Angela …
God is broadcasting 24/7/365. You just can’t stop God from putting himself, putting herself out there. God is always transmitting. How can we open our eyes and our hearts? We could encourage each other to do this. Tell each other when we do see Jesus. Believe that you can expect to see Jesus.
God’s Tweet is continuous, God is always in our Face-book. God even speaks through others’ words, and especially in their and our actions. What a joy to see God, to receive Jesus, to recognize the Spirit, to enjoy and to share, and to realize that sharing is joy.
Hey, if you don’t get it the first time, if you don’t remember tomorrow morning, there’s a second time, there is another morning, or maybe you will remember that God is calling you at lunchtime. Whether or not we realize it, God is there. Whether we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, he is there. Can you hear the Spirit? Where do you see Jesus?