Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Luke 24: 13 – 35. Focus on how post resurrection we become Christ for one another. Check out Kelly Crandell & Alex Pikarsky’s solo. Amazing!
Luke’s story of what happened on the road to Emmaus is one of seven post-resurrection stories in the gospels, and like the rest of them it follows a pattern: a stranger – whom the disciples don’t recognize at first, turns out to be the Messiah, and then vanishes as soon as they know who he is.
His resurrection is based largely on what we would call rumor. Someone said that someone said his tomb was empty, but that could mean anything. Maybe his body was stolen. Maybe he was revived and walked away. It was the women who first spread the story, and everyone knows how they embellish things.
Even those who saw him in the flesh had a hard time convincing others it was true. Even Thomas didn’t buy it at first. And Jesus didn’t appear to everyone before he ascended to heaven, which left plenty of people to weigh the evidence for themselves, to decide if and what they heard from others was true.
That, in a nutshell, was the situation of the post-Easter church. It was the situation faced by Luke’s church. It was the situation Paul addressed in his letters to the churches of Asia Minor. And it’s our situation today.
None of us was there. We all have to decide whether what we’ve been told is true or not. And if we decide that it is true then we have one more thing going for us. We may have encountered the living God too. The question is – where?
For Luke, the answer is: somewhere on a road between here and Emmaus. But the truth is that everyone will have to walk this road at some point in their lives. It’s the road of deep disappointment and walking it is the definition of sad, just like those two disciples in today’s story.
It takes, maybe, two hours to walk the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. You have plenty of time to talk and reflect on the events of the past three days: The trial, the crucifixion, the women’s vision of angels, and the empty grave. Real death. Rumored resurrection.
They’re trying to make sense of it all when a stranger comes up behind them and asks what they’re talking about. Stops them dead in their tracks. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened?” Cleopas asks him.
They tell him everything, all of the mighty acts, the miracles, and then how things went terribly wrong. “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel,” they say to him. “We had hoped,” as in the past tense. We hoped that he was the one.
And that’s when he let’s loose. “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart!” he says to them. Or in our vernacular, “Wake up!” If you had paid attention to what he had taught you none of this would come as a surprise to you. It’s right there in the scriptures: the Christ is not the one who wins the power struggle; he’s the one who loses it. The Christ isn’t the undefeated champion; he is the suffering servant who comes into his glory with his wounds still visible. Those wounds are the proof that he is who he says he is, because the way you recognize the Christ isn’t by his muscles but by his scars.
Which means that they’re not to despise the painful parts of their lives anymore. Which means that they’re not to interpret their defeats as failures anymore. Which means that they are not to fear their enemies anymore, which means they are not to fear death anymore.
And contrary to common sense, they’re to follow their leader into the scariest, most dangerous places in the world, armed with nothing but the good news of what they know, because they, like Jesus, are physicians – wounded healers – whose credentials are worn on healed hearts.
Starting with Moses and working his way through the prophets, the stranger opens the scriptures to them and they hang on his every word. This stranger is resurrecting their crucified hope. So when they arrive home and he bids them goodbye they don’t want him to go. They want to ask him many more things, so they invite him to stay and he does.
He’s an odd guest. It’s their home, their food, their table, but when they sit down together, it’s the guest, who acts like the host. He reaches out, takes the bread, says a blessing, breaks it and gives it to them.
Maybe it’s the oddness of this act that opens their eyes, or maybe it’s the familiarity of it – something they’ve seen him do before on a green hillside with five loaves and two fish, in an upper room with unleavened bread and Passover wine.
He takes, blesses, breaks, gives – and through the torn edges of the bread he holds out to them, they look at him and know who he is and then he vanishes from their sight.
But the good news is that Jesus doesn’t limit his post-resurrection appearances to those once upon a time. He comes to the disappointed and the doubtful today. He comes to those who don’t know their Bibles, who do not recognize him even when they are walking right beside him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home broken hearted
It seems that Jesus prefers working with broken people, with broken dreams, in a broken world. If someone hands him a whole loaf, he will take and break it and then bless it, and gives it, and he’ll do the same thing with his own flesh and blood, because that’s the way of life.
That’s what it’s about – to take what we’ve been given, whether we like it or not, to bless it, to say thank you for it and break it because that is the only way it can be shared, and to hand it around so that all of us who’ve been broken might become as one body made whole now and forevermore by the risen Christ. Amen