Summary: Easter was a time of Adrenaline for the disciples, but the two walking to Emmaus missed it... until Jesus became known to them.
When I told people about my family’s plans to spend a day at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course last month, some nodded, others gave a look of questioning, and a few responded with one word, “WHY?!”
Researchers tell us that younger generations are drawn more than ever to adrenaline. My husband tested this theory up in Flagstaff on the day we played in the trees. It was vividly clear to us that most of the guides and participants were under 30, but when he asked the age of the oldest person to swing through the trees, he was told: 84. I guess there are some adrenaline junkies in every generation.
Have you looked in the coolers at a gas station lately? There are as many energy products like Red Bull and Monster as there are caffeinated sodas. Movies are rated based on their thrills. And Extreme Sports have unprecedented popularity. If your heart isn’t racing, something’s wrong.
You wouldn’t know it from all of that hype, but real life has moments of “down time.” Even with the excitement of Easter still fresh in our minds, gospel writer Luke invites us to travel with two disciples in their down time.
To us, it was Easter. To these disciples, it was a day of fear and grief. Their teacher had been executed. They were scared for their own lives. They had heard reports that there was no body in the tomb, but resurrection was the furthest thing from their minds. Walking away from Jerusalem was good for their safety as well as their psyches. And while they didn’t expect this seven-mile walk to get their hearts racing, they did think it would be good for their souls. They would talk as they walked, and try to make sense of it all.
A stranger approaches. We know that it’s Jesus, but Luke tells us “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” They summarize the events of Holy Week for him, still trying to grasp it all themselves. And he surprised them by responding, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe…”
Ouch! That hurt, but it was true. These two disciples couldn’t and we cannot explain the divine using only human concepts. Words are never adequate. Mystery is always part of the equation because God is more complex than we can understand. They were aiming at royalty (rather than divinity) and came up short.
And so, as he had done in the past, Jesus taught them about how historical events – the ones before their time as well as the ones they had experienced – fit together like a puzzle that would change the world for all time.
Now THAT got their hearts racing! They didn’t want Jesus to stop talking. They invited him to stay with them. At that point, they still didn’t know that he was Jesus, but their eyes and ears and minds and hearts were hungry for more.
As Lutherans, we believe that it is no small thing that Christ’s identity was finally revealed to these two disciples in the breaking of the bread. Communion gave the disciples a palpable experience of Christ. His words had stirred them, but sharing a meal opened their eyes. Two thousand years later, if we asked people what part of worship makes them feel closest to Christ, many will say that it’s Communion because we hear the words, “for you” as we touch and taste the bread and wine.
As Luke tells the story, once the disciples identify the stranger as Jesus, he disappears. In other words, once the disciples saw that it was Jesus, he disappeared.
And these two disciples, who had planned to spend the night in Emmaus, suddenly had an adrenaline rush of epic proportions, and they ran all the way back to Jerusalem (that’s more than 10K, by the way). But before they could tell the group that Jesus had appeared to them, they heard that Jesus had appeared to the others in the upper room.
With hearts racing and eyes opened, we welcome our resurrected Savior! Amen