Luke 24:13-35; Easter In Us; 4-19-15 (408)
By the Rev. Bob Gochenour
Where is Emmaus?
Historically, no one knows for sure.
Three different towns claim to be the biblical town of Emmaus.
This is partly due to the confusion of the text itself.
Ancient manuscripts have two different numbers listed as the distance between Jerusalem and Emmaus: 7 miles or 18 miles.
Furthermore, there is no record of any village called “Emmaus” in ancient sources.
The only mention of Emmaus is in our scripture lesson from Luke.
Perhaps, the historical location of Emmaus is not important.
We can understand that the Emmaus story point to a reality about life.
Emmaus is nowhere because Emmaus is everywhere!
Emmaus is wherever in your life journey that you meet the risen Christ and Easter comes to dwell in you.
This story deals with the question of how Easter gets in us.
Story Begins: A Mysterious Traveling Companion Appears
The point of this story is to illustrate how the RISEN JESUS comes into our everyday life.
Two disciples are trudging along the road to Emmaus.
The first one is named Cleopas.
The second one is not named.
Apparently, they are headed home.
We do not have any record of either one of these disciples except in this isolated story.
Luke uses these 2 disciples as a symbol for “every Christian.”
The road to Emmaus becomes for us the road of the Christian life.
Life is like a daily journey: we travel from morning to evening.
We travel to work and home again.
We travel with companions—friends, family, colleagues, fellow disciples.
Sometimes the journey is full of excitement: we approach the day with a joyous attitude, saying: “Good morning, Lord!”
Sometimes the journey is full of reluctance: we approach the day with dread, saying: “Good Lord! It’s morning!”
Sometimes the day is full of sadness and despair: Monday morning type of drudgery.
We are sometimes like these two travelers: standing still and looking sad.
Each day has GOOD NEWS: Jesus walks besides us.
The story tells us: “Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:15-16)
This is amazing: Jesus was with them but they didn’t know it.
Jesus was their traveling companion but they did not recognize him.
Before we start down the road of criticizing these two disciples for their lack of perception, we must understand that we make the same mistake each and every day.
How often do we get so involved in the details of our life, that we forget that we are on a Christian journey with Jesus?
How often does the stress of daily living invite us to troubleshoot our problems and we forget that Jesus Christ is with us?
Do we recognize the mysterious presence of Jesus Christ who travels with us every day?
Do we understand that the power of Easter is always with us?
It is easy to forget!
One preacher shares this story.
He had just finished a speaking engagement in South Carolina.
He was on the plane returning home.
He was seated next to a man who was in his 70’s.
They struck up a conversation.
Eventually, the conversation turned to the man’s 30 year old son who was confined in a nursing home.
He had been in an automobile accident several years earlier.
His brain had been damaged resulting in a comatose state.
This man startled the preacher as he began to open up with his fears and frustrations, saying:
“We had stopped loving our son.
We visited him every week because we felt it was our duty as his parents. But we came to see that we stopped loving him as before.
Love is a reciprocal relationship, it involves giving and receiving.
Our son could not receive our love.
Our son could not give us his love.
We went to see him, but we had stopped loving him… until one day, we went to see our son and were surprised to see that he already had a visitor in his room.
We did not know this person. He was a stranger.
It turned out that it was the Lutheran pastor from down the street.
He routinely visited members and others in the nursing home.
We waited outside in the hall and overheard the conversation.
The father thought to himself: “As if my son could appreciate a conversation.”
The pastor took out a Bible and read his son a Psalm.
The father thought to himself: “As if my son could understand the words.”
The pastor prayed a prayer.
The father thought to himself: “As if my son could hear a prayer!
And then it dawned on me: this pastor does know that my son is in a coma and unable to understand like he used to.”
In fact, this pastor understands far more than I understood.
He sees my son differently than I do.
He is not using clinical eyes: eyes that only see my sons’ limitations, his inability to respond, his inability to love.
He sees my son through the eyes of faith and treated my son as a child of God.
The power of Easter was present it that room.”
The power of resurrection has a way of penetrating down deep into life, even our everyday life.
It helps us to see the world through the eyes of faith:
The world is more than a place of death, decay, and defeat;
The world is a place awaiting, groaning, and longing for God to break in with new life and final victory.
Jesus Becomes A Table Companion
Jesus continued to walk with these two travelers to Emmaus.
When they arrived, they invited Jesus to their table.
They extended the ministry of hospitality: “stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is nearly over.”
Dinner time was a sacred time of community sharing.
These two disciples opened up their home and their hearts to this guest.
The guest quickly became the host as “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.”
It was then that they realized who this stranger was: Jesus.
Notice that Jesus did NOT appear to them at the empty tomb, in the upper room, in Galilee, in the temple, or on a mountain top.
Jesus appeared to them at a home-cooked meal.
He came to them as a table companion—in the everyday moments of life.
He came to them in the breaking of the bread—in the normal routines of daily living.
They understood instantly that their meal had become a Eucharist meal—this was just like the Last Supper of Jesus when he took and distributed the bread and wine to his disciples.
They came to understand that this was also the sanctification of their daily meal—every meal can be sacred, a place to meet and fellowship with the risen Christ.
Maybe we can also experience EASTER IN US at our dinner tables.
We need to have our eyes opened so that we can recognize him.
Meals are important—nutrition, fellowship, community.
Meals are important—Jesus visits us at our mealtimes.
He visits us through friends, family and strangers.
Christ is found at our table through table companions.
The dinner table is the Lord’s every day cathedral.
Or in another words—this is where we experience CHURCH.
Leigh Schmidt writes: “The eat-in kitchen is a place of both nourishment and devotion, food and family are blessed together through the common ritual of table graces.”
This kitchen poem captures this deep meaning:
“Christ is the head of this house,
The unseen guest at every meal,
The silent listener in every conversation.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that Jesus is a “table companion.”
Scriptures tell us that Jesus loved to eat and drink with friends:
He saved a wedding feast in Cana;
He fed 5,000 men and more women and children;
He ate with tax collectors and sinners;
He ate the Last Supper with his disciples;
He promised that he would host a final meal in heaven called the Marriage supper of the Lamb.
Like the early disciples, we can eat and drink with joy because our Bridegroom is with us—Jesus lives and comes to us daily.
The resurrected Lord is the “unseen guest at every meal.”
He offers us his peace, joy, guidance and love.
We must just acknowledge his presence.
These two disciples came to understand the resurrection of Jesus.
Easter got into them—their hearts burned with this new truth.
They came to marvel that Jesus Christ is risen and journeys with us EVERY DAY—on holy days and on normal days.
They marveled at this new understanding: “were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Gone was the sadness and disappointment over Jesus’ recent death.
Gone was their dashed hopes and confusion over an empty tomb.
They experienced Easter! Easter got into them.
They left their dinner table, their home, their village of Emmaus and returned immediately to Jerusalem.
They now ran with joy and a message of hope: Jesus is alive!
They joined the disciples in the upper room: together they celebrated the power of Easter—Jesus has risen!
The Emmaus story can become our story: Easter is IN us.
We can experience this mysterious presence of Jesus Christ:
When we come to worship;
When we gather to eat;
When we commute to work;
When we say our prayers;
When we wash the dishes;
When we visit with friends.
This is the GOOD NEWS: Emmaus is everywhere because Jesus lives: Jesus lives to give us the power of Easter in us.