Reading Luke 24:13-35
May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have you ever been on a long journey? I think in the modern world the glamour of travel has largely been taken away. We may be able to get further and faster but rather than travelling on a big ship or trekking over an ever-changing landscape, romantically riding on white chargers through the mountains but now we are stuck in little tubes of metal and plastic, the environment is kept artificially cool, the air is filtered and we made to sit in uncomfortable little seats for hours on end. I think the worst I had was taking a coach between Johannesburg and Cape town a distance of around 1400 miles. It was 18 hours long; the bus was packed and it was utterly miserable. I am sure many of you will know what I mean.
This morning we heard in our gospel reading about two similarly miserable travellers, going home to their village of Emmaus some seven miles from Jerusalem. They were travelling home after a disaster of a week. They were both disciples of Jesus, they had travelled with Him to Jerusalem, had watched as the prophesy began to come true as Jesus was welcomed as a King on Palm Sunday, had seen Him arrested in the dark night, had found Him taken to the Romans, seen Him beaten, broken, crucified, dead and buried. In that most traumatic week, these two had been eye witnesses to everything that had happened and despair fills their hearts. They are going home, full of horror and unbelief, discussing all they had seen that week and I suspect with their faith in Jesus as messiah in tatters, their dreams shattered.
Along comes a stranger who asks them what they are talking about. This stranger asks them what the matter is, and they, given the week they are having, are almost uncivil aren’t they, they can’t quite believe that this Person has no idea about the huge events that have transpired in the Jerusalem. So Clopas, one of the pair explains Holy Week: ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[h] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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 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.’
The traveller turns to them and says oh how foolish you are, although the word translated here as foolish is more properly translated as ‘how stupidly unobservant you are’ and how slow to believe the prophets.
And so the traveller, walking beside them the whole way explains how everything that had happened that most momentous of weeks had been there, in the black and white, in scripture.
As they approach Emmaus, the two disciples invite the traveller who was going on, to join them and He does. They sit down for a meal and the traveller blesses and breaks the bread and suddenly they recognise Jesus, their eyes are uncovered and He is gone. They rush back to Jerusalem and share all they have seen.
This wonderful encounter with Jesus is so rich. We are all on a journey, from the youngest member to the oldest, from the smallest to the largest, from the most foolish to the most intelligent. I won’t dare ask you where you feel you are personally on any of those scales! But all of us, without exception is on a journey to Emmaus and we will all be at different stages.
So the question is, I think, where on that journey are you? Perhaps you are on the Emmaus Road, unable to see Jesus, unable to understand what has happened or is happening during this season of your life. Perhaps on your road, you are carrying the worries and weariness of modern life, carrying mistakes and mishaps, unable to shift sins or slip ups. Perhaps you are deeply mourning, or like our disciples feeling defeated, low and useless. But my friends, even in those times of deep anguish, the Traveller is walking beside you, wanting to listen to you, wanting to teach you.
Or perhaps, you are on the Emmaus roundabout, not travelling anywhere. So many Christians are either stuck in their own problems, or so comfortable in their own understanding of the faith, they aren’t travelling anywhere, but just going around in circles. Not growing in faith, not praying, not studying God’s word not whatever. This is perhaps the most difficult of places to be, because often we don’t realise we are in a rut. But the Holy Traveller is still there, still waiting to minister to us, still walking beside patiently. God is always a gentleman and never forces His presence on people. I think it would have been entirely possible, even probable for the disciples to have said to Jesus, ‘leave us alone, we are grieving our friend’. Jesus would have and we would never have known about a little village called Emmaus. But they chose to interact, to listen and to allow their hearts to feel the presence of God. By doing so, they came to know grow towards that great realisation of Jesus with them.
Perhaps, of course you have heard Jesus teaching you, your hearts have felt the burning love of God and He is about to carry on away from Emmaus. Are you prepared to invite Him inside for fellowship? That is what it is to be a Christian, having heard of Jesus and His love, we are to invite Him in. This isn’t just a one-time deal. Over the course of our lives, there are many times when we will have to invite Him in having walked a road to Emmaus again. To come and eat with us. So much of church energy is spent on attracting new people, which is right, but how much energy do we spend as ‘mature’ Christians inviting Jesus in to our lives again and again and again, as we must continually strive to do? That is what it is to become a disciple. Each time we invite Him in, we understand a little more, we see a little clearer, we understand our calling a little better. Having heard Him, will you invite Him into fellowship again?
Perhaps of course, you have walked with Him, you have invited Him in, and you have recognised Him. In those high moments of recognition, of miracle, what do we do? For many, we simply stay at home and continue to eat the meal as if nothing extraordinary had happened. Not so for our disciples. They rush back to Jerusalem and tell everyone about the risen Christ. Our job, as people who have met the living God, have recognised Him in the breaking of the bread or in prayer, should be to share that knowledge with the world. through our words, our actions and our lives. Through loving our neighbours and ourselves as God loves all of us. An encounter with God is amazing and is something to be shared. There are many out there who don’t know that Jesus is walking with them, longing to explain to us foolish slow creatures all that He has done for us. We are tasked with making the introduction if we can, so that He can transform their lives, so that they can recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine also.
The Christian faith is a journey of discovery and a journey of encounter and transformation. This is true where ever you are on that journey and whatever challenges you face this day. Jesus is there, travelling with you, even when you don’t recognise Him. The question is not one of whether or not you will encounter Him but rather a question of whether or not you will interact with Him, whether or not you will listen to Him, whether or not you will understand Him in scripture or whether or not you will recognise Him when He breaks bread. Will you follow Him on this exciting and dangerous journey of faith on this road of discipleship that will transform you and the world, and ultimately lead to recognising your Lord who broke His own body so that we might live, and rose again to glory of God the Father. Your journeying in faith is up to you, so journey well and find your Lord who is standing with you all your life. Amen