Title: Trekking With Jesus
Text: Luke 24:13-43
Thesis: The Christian life is a long walk with Jesus.
The Season of Easter Series: When Jesus Shows Up
During the Season of Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ as he shows up in unusual and unexpected ways.
Last week we saw how Jesus understood the need for his followers to see him… seeing was believing. In seeing Jesus, Thomas’ doubts were allayed.
This week we see how Jesus walked with two of his followers… Jesus accompanied them on their journey and Jesus accompanies us on our journeys as well. The Christian life is going the distance with Jesus as a companion.
People are bipeds. Bipeds move by walking, running or hopping. Our form of locomotion is walking upright and on our two “hind” limbs. We are distinct from other bipeds in that we do not combine walking with swinging, climbing and knuckle walking.
Walking is a good thing. The person who makes walking a life-long practice experiences health benefits that can extend your life. They say that for an 85 year old man, walking can give him an extra five months in the nursing home…
This week Homiletic Magazine featured a story about Ed Stafford. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. On August 9 of last year (2010) Ed Stafford completed what no other person has ever done before… he walked the entire length of the Amazon River. A little over two years earlier he began his trek on the southern coast of Peru and 4,200 miles later he reached the mouth of the Amazon where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. (Homiletics, May/June 2011, Volume 23, No. 3, pp. 19-20)
I’ve just ordered The Places In Between by Rory Stewart. It is the story of how he trekked across Afghanistan in June 2002. When he met with authorities to gain permission for his foot-journey he was told, “It is mid-winter. There are three meters of snow in the high passes, there are wolves, there is war. You will surely die, I can guarantee.” (Tom Bissell, A Walk Across Afghanistan, The New York Times, June 11,2006)
When we embark on the Christian life we might think of it as a pilgrimage or a journey or even a trek. Some time ago, Eugene Peterson wrote of the Christian life as A Long Obedience In the Same Direction. So we may think of the Christian life as an arduous trek in which we go the distance with Jesus.
The disciples had been on a three-year trek of sorts with Jesus and then the journey seemed to have come to a startling conclusion. Discouragement was the prevailing mood among the followers of Christ after his death and a nagging doubt persisted when they heard that Jesus had risen from the dead. The post-resurrection appearances of Christ were intended to alleviate that doubt and give the disciples hope.
Our text picks up on what we would call Easter Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Jesus had appeared to Mary and the other Mary at the tomb. And now, two of Christ’s followers have left Jerusalem and the other disciples and are walking to the village of Emmaus… a seven mile walk.
And as they walk along they are engaged in an ongoing conversation, but they were not alone.
I. Jesus is an unseen companion on our trek through life.
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them… Luke 24:15
They were chatting just like we all chat when we are sitting down over a cup of coffee or as we might chat riding along in a car.
We can readily identify with them. Last Sunday evening Bonnie told me that they had just announced on television that Osama Bin Laden was dead and that the President would be making a statement to the nation shortly.
I was headed for bed but decided to wait up to hear the breaking news from the East Room of the White House. And eventually President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden was dead following an operation launched earlier that day in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In making the announcement President Obama stated, “Justice has been done.”
That story has been the fodder for our conversations throughout the week. And the discussion continues today as the public mulls over the conflicting accounts of the operation and need to see the photographic evidence of Osama bin Laden’s death.
On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart spoke of how America hardly got a respite between the people calling for the President to show his birth certificate, to people calling for photographic evidence of Osama bin Laden’s death. (Katla McGlynn, Jon Stewart Makes Case for Showing, The Huffington Post, 5/5/11)
And many, like doubting Thomas are saying, “Unless I see with my own eyes, I will not believe it,” despite existing evidence of the truth.
So just as we mull over the events of last Sunday, the disciples of Christ are mulling over the events of Easter Sunday. Christ had been crucified, was dead and had been buried. And then some women had discovered that his body was missing from the grave which was later corroborated by some of the disciples.
The bible says that as they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them. And he asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Luke 24:15-17
That question stopped them in their tracks. The bible says they stood still, their faces downcast. And then one of them, the one named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
It was as if he asked, “What planet are you from? Where have you been? Haven’t you seen the news? It has been the subject of news reports on the AP. It is the lead story on every newscast. It is the headline of every newspaper in the world. It has been on the Top Ten lists of late night television hosts. It is the subject of social media’s Twitter and Facebook. Prime time television viewing has been interrupted to report the latest scuttle. How could you not be aware of what has happened in Jerusalem?”
Jesus deadpanned it. Of course he knew but he asked, “What things?” So they poured out the sad tale of events of how their great hope for a Messiah to redeem Israel had been crucified, was dead and buried and now his body had gone missing.
What are we to gather from this little exchange on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus?
Even when we are beset with disappointment and grief, Christ comes to walk with us. We are never alone. We are never orphaned, never abandoned, never alone.
Shortly before his death and passing the reigns of leadership to Joshua, Moses spoke to the people of Israel these words of encouragement: “Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Hebrews 13:5 states: God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
The first take away we glean this morning is the simple reminder that Christ is always present… that as you make the long trek over the years that is your life, Christ is the unseen traveling companion at your side.
But usually the problem is not one of whether God is always present or not because God is present. The issue is more a matter of our being aware of God’s presence.
II. We do not always recognize the presence of Jesus on our trek through life.
…but they were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:16
As the two followers of Christ walked along, Jesus was present. Jesus was matching them stride for stride. The same Jesus who would later assure his followers of his ongoing presence in their lives saying, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” was walking along the Emmaus Road with them.
If you were to commit to reading the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) with the intention of discovering where and with whom Jesus was, you would be amazed. He was wherever people were. Only rarely did Jesus get away for some quiet time with himself and God.
I love those little guru cartoons in the comic page in the newspaper. There is usually a white robed guru sitting on top of a mountain in the Himalayans. Someone in search of the meaning of life manages to climb to where the white-robed, turbaned guru is sitting cross-legged on a ledge in front of a cave. Peaking over the edge the climber asks the swami about the meaning of life.
In one of my favorite, the guru responds saying, “I can explain the meaning of life but I don’t know where to start in understanding healthcare reform.”
This is the point… we do not need to climb some mountain high in the Himalayans to find the presence of God.
Jesus might be attending a wedding. Jesus was often walking through a market place. Jesus could be found eating dinner with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus could be found at the village well getting a drink of cold water. Jesus was often in church. Jesus might be found sitting on the water-front. Jesus was always walking on his way to somewhere.
I read a statistic recently that based on Jesus’ activities as recorded in the book of Matthew, it is estimated that Jesus walked 21,525 miles in his lifetime. One commentator said that Jesus’ long walk allowed him to see faces, hear stories, experience the hospitality of strangers and feel the connection between the land and its people.” (Homiletics, May 2011, p. 20)
I read this week that the day before 9/11 Michael Jackson had a concert in New York City that was attended not only by many concert goers but also by many of his close Hollywood friends, among them Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando. Actor Corey Feldman reportedly told Vanity Fair that fearing another attack, Michael Jackson, along with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando rented a car so they could get as far away from New York City as possible. Jackson and Brando switched off driving until they reached Ohio. One of the little asides in the story is that Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor were annoyed with Marlon Brando because he made numerous stops at KFCs and Burger Kings along the way. (Sam Kashner, Liz Taylor, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando star in… Escape from New York, VF Daily, vf.com, May 5, 2011)
Imagine bumping into Marlon Brando ordering a bucket of extra-crispy or a Whopper in a fast food restaurant along I – 80. Or imagine working the cash register at a Toll Way Oasis in Pennsylvania when Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando stop for gasoline.
While we think it would be freaky to see Hollywood celebrities noshing at a KFC or a Burger King… that is exactly where Jesus would have been.
Jesus can be found at the busiest bus stop in downtown Denver. Jesus would be where the buses and taxis are running. Jesus can be found at the intersections where foot traffic is heaviest. Jesus can be found in the ERs, cafeterias and waiting rooms of the busiest hospitals. Jesus can be found walking along bike trails and in shopping malls.
The truth is, wherever you are, Jesus is!
A favorite adage to keep in mind is, “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener in every conversation.”
Those disciples may not have been aware that they were walking with Jesus but we are assured that wherever we may be along the long trek of life, Jesus is always with us.
The second take away this morning is, Wherever I am, Jesus is!
We do not know why those two disciples did not recognize Jesus at first but eventually they did and when they did it was what we call an “Aha Moment.”
III. “Aha!” moments in our trek with Jesus affirm our faith along the way.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Luke 24:31
An aha moment is a moment of clarity. An aha moment is a moment when you gain wisdom or insight. It is a moment of discovery when you say, “Aha, now I get it.”
You could say that Isaac Newton had an aha moment when one day as he was sitting under an apple tree an apple dropped hitting him on the head. Perhaps Sir Isaac rolled his eyes and blinked and said, “Aha, I believe I’ve just discovered the Universal Law of Gravitation!”
Monica Seles was once the Number One World Women’s Tennis Player. In 1993 she defeated Steffi Graf and shortly thereafter a Steffi Graf fan went a bit fanatical and stabbed Monica in the back during a break in the action in Hamburg, Germany.
She wrote in her autobiography, Getting a Grip: on my Body, My Mind and Myself of how following the stabbing and when her father was diagnosed with cancer and later died, she slumped into deep depression and food addiction. Then one day she said she had an aha moment and she realized “the problem wasn’t what I was eating, it was what was eating me.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monica_Seles)
An aha moment is a moment of discovery and it was an aha moment of discovery when “Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him and he disappeared from their sight.” Luke 24:30-31
One Sunday during morning worship in preparation for receiving the Lord’s Supper a young woman, a high school student, came to the pulpit and sang:
How beautiful the hands that served
The wine and the bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads and the hill to the cross
How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ.
I was sitting in my big chair pretty much preoccupied with making my way through the order of service but when Andrea began to sing so beautifully and as I listened to the words I was overcome with emotion and began to cry.
How beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sin and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That chose to forgive and never despise
How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ.
At times and in unexpected ways, our eyes are opened to God’s presence and we comprehend once again the immeasurable love for us in Christ.
The third take away this morning might be that we ask God to open our eyes to see him anew… that God open your senses in aha moments of awareness of Christ’s presence.
Aha moments are wonderful personal affirmations of the presence and activity of God in our lives.
It’s an old story now. It came out in 1994, but having seen it, Forrest Gump remains vivid in our memories. Throughout the film are scenes where Forrest is engaged in a conversation with someone while sitting on a park bench at a bus stop.
In one exchange Forrest said, “That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d run to the end of town. And when I got there I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I’d run this far; maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. For no particular reason, I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I’d gone this far I might just as well turn back… I ran for three years, two months, fourteen days and sixteen hours.”
Our lives are like long treks or journeys. Every trek has a beginning, a middle and an end. Followers of Christ may think of the Christian life as “a long trek with Jesus in the same direction.”
Some of us have yet to begin our trek with Jesus. Others are well on their way and others are nearing the end. But wherever we are in our walk with Jesus we might do well to adopt Forrest Gump’s attitude, “Since I’ve gone this far with Jesus, I might just as well keep on trekking.”