Summary: The men walking to Emmaus didn't recognize Jesus until their eyes were opened.
Luke 24:13-35 “Incognito”
In our close relationships, we strive to be together even when we are apart. Some of us have family and friend pictures on our desks, or in our wallets and purses. We may carry a letter or special card, which we take out and read on occasion. Faye had the practice that whenever I would go on a trip she’d pack a card for each day that I was away, in my suitcase. All of these practices and more help us stay connected and keep our loved ones in our hearts.
For three years, the disciples had been with Jesus. After his resurrection, even though he appeared to them occasionally, it was necessary for them to learn how to live when they were separated from Jesus. Our text today taught the early Christians how to keep Jesus close to them and alive in their hearts. As we live our lives as disciples of Jesus, and people who are waiting his return, this text has several helpful truths, which we can incorporate into our lives.
Two of Jesus’ followers were returning to their hometown of Emmaus. We think Emmaus was about twenty miles from Jerusalem. The followers had seen the crucifixion and had waited for three days for Jesus to be raised from the dead. When this didn’t happen—though they had heard the testimony of the women—they left for home. While they are walking a stranger approaches them and begins to walk with them.
As the group walks they begin to discuss the events of the past week. The disciples were knowledgeable in what happened—but they were downcast because the events didn’t fit their idea of what should have happened. The stranger, who the reader know to be Jesus, “[began] with Moses and all of the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” Later when the disciples reflected on their encounter with Jesus they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Scripture plays an important part in this story. Luke is highlighting the need for study of the scripture while the Christians live their daily lives and wait for the return of Jesus.
We have become a biblically illiterate people. Many people believe that Noah’s wife was Joan of Arc. Over half the Christians say that they live their lives according to the Ten Commandments, but don’t know the Ten Commandment when asked to list them. A number of Christians believe that Moses and David were disciples.
Today it is necessary for us to immerse ourselves in scripture. I know of all the excuses not to do so. The Bible is difficult to understand. To many reading the Bible seems to be an empty exercise; an exercise in futility. Others think that the Bible contains old answers to today’s questions, which don’t work.
Study Bibles and devotionals that take a small piece of scripture and reflect upon it help us apply the scripture to our everyday lives. Bible study groups and classes are other ways to grow in our understanding of God’s Word. The Bible opens our lives to God’s presence and power and to a life changing relationship with Jesus.
Worship and communion are other means for us to keep Jesus close to us in our daily lives.
At the end of the journey, the disciples invited the stranger to stop and eat with them. Jesus “took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened.” Jesus’ actions at the meal were identical to his actions at the last supper. They are also identical to the actions of Christian leaders in the early Christian congregations.
We believe that there is more to Holy Communion than simply remembering a past occurrence. We understand that Jesus is in with and under the bread and wine; the Jesus is really present. As a sacrament, we believe that God is touching our lives in a special manner.
Worship, Holy Communion, the fellowship of believers are important elements in nurturing our faith, and keeping our relationship with Jesus vibrant and dynamic.
ON THE ROAD
The entire story of the walk to Emmaus happened on the road. As the disciples were traveling along the road, so we are traveling through life. As the disciples encountered Jesus on the road, so we can expect to encounter Jesus in our daily lives. It is important for us to be on-the-lookout, and expectant to see Jesus.
The disciples were surprised by Jesus, and so are we. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of Jesus in an act of kindness. Other times we may see Jesus in the small miracles (coincidences) of life. We can sense Jesus’ presence in the words of others. We can see Jesus in a hug, a pat on the back, or a squeeze of a hand.