24:13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
24:14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
24:16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
24:17 And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad.
24:18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?"
24:19 He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
24:20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.
24:21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.
24:22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,
24:23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
24:24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him."
24:25 Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!
24:26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?"
24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.
24:29 But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them.
24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
24:31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
24:32 They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"
24:33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
24:34 They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!"
24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
How I love the Easter season in the church! Long after the rest of the world has packed away baskets, grass, eggs, and bunny ears, we continue to proclaim for the next two months and beyond, “Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”
Over and over again, God meets us in the place of our doubts and our fears, offering to us the Risen Jesus as a balm for all that ails us ever declaring to us in our place of need, “Do not be afraid!”
The “do not be afraid, only believe” message met the women at the empty tomb. The “do not be afraid, only believe” message met doubting Thomas in the prison of his unbelief and the “do not be afraid, only believe message accompanies the disciples along the Emmas Road on this day.
Who amongst us has never felt so sad that we come to an abrupt standstill in our lives? Who amongst us has never been so disappointed that we “were kept from recognizing Jesus” even as he stood with us along the pathway of life?
If this has never happened to you, I give you the wise words of my Mama, “Keep livin’ chile!”
At some point the circumstances of life will become so dire that you will feel absolutely paralyzed.
A beloved parent, child, or spouse will die. A job or dream will be downsized. A country will fall into war. A tornado will whisk away your home. A car or plane accident, sickness or infertility, will rack your body. Bankruptcy, infidelity, divorce, or a wayward child will catch you unawares, and all of a sudden you will be standing alone on the side of the road wondering where God is and how he could have abandoned you…
It is a common refrain of the broken heart to exclaim, “Where is God? How is God at work in my circumstances?” Or even…”If there is really a God, this would not have happened to me…”
I love the honesty and transparency of the disciples on the Emmaus Road. When they encountered the unknown man on their journey away from Jerusalem, they were quick to share their sadness, the death of their dream, and their inability to believe in God’s good news message.
In fact scripture says that they, “stood still, looking sad, as they declared, “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel…”
As human beings we have so many hopes, don’t we? And sometimes God has the audacity to interrupt our plans, with plans of his own. And when this happens, we sometimes get stuck—physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, standing still on the side of the Road called Life.
In response to our paralysis, I hear Jesus gently saying, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!”
It is true. In the face of God’s unsearchable wisdom, we are at times foolish. We are slow of heart to believe the good news message that God sent Jesus into the world to suffer death upon the cross, making atonement for our sin, and thereby opening the door to our glorious and eternal life!
I am so glad that God is patient with us in our unbelief. I am so glad that God does not leave us alone on the side of the road.
Although it sometimes looks to us like God is going to walk ahead as if he were going on, in truth, he is only waiting for our heart’s invitation for him to stay awhile with us during the darkest night of our souls...
The disciples on the Emmas Road were wise enough to make that invitation. They wanted to talk more with this man who made their hearts burn within them. They wanted to share their hopes and dreams and sorrows. And then they wanted to share a meal with him…
This, my friends, is the work of the church. We walk together sharing our stories. We welcome the stranger. We hear The Word.
And finally, we encounter the Risen Lord in the sacrament of Holy Communion, coming to recognize him in the sharing of bread and wine…body and blood…given for us!
In response to this recognition of Jesus’ presence amongst us, we are all sent out, full of JOY, HOPE, AND PEACE to share the good news acclamation, “Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”
Isn’t it miraculous how God encounters us sad and stuck on the side of the road and then fills us with joy, hope and peace through the power of His unconditional love?
And isn’t it a God-given gift that we are able to repent, or turn around, from our sin and doubt literally changing direction, as God sends us out full of courage, hope, and faith in order to share the good news with others?
My friends, this good news is simply too wonderful to keep to ourselves! Just as the early disciples hooked a U-Turn and returned to Jerusalem in the middle of the night to share their joy, we are called to do the same in a world besot with the darkness of sin, death, and the grave.
Beloveds, look at our world! Look at our neighbors! Look at our friends! Look at our family members! Look at us! We all need Jesus!
We all need to hear the good news message, “Do not be afraid, for Jesus is risen!”
In Word and Sacrament, we encounter our Risen Lord again and again in local churches around the world. But, this joyful encounter is not meant only for us!
Through our relationship with God, we are led into relationship with others. And as we grow in relationship with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors near and far, we are invited to share the good news story that God has raised Jesus from the dead, just like he said that he would!
In response it is our prayer that our loved ones will repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, receiving the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit—just as we have.
Indeed, our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is a gift of faith that is meant to be re-gifted and passed on, again and again and again…
Jesus is waiting! Jesus is waiting! Jesus is waiting! Have you seen him?
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaLta