The Walk to Emmaus
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 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?” 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, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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. 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.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.LUKE 24:13-35 (NRSV)
Friends, many times when we read scripture, it is easy to see how different life was back in Jesus’ day. And because it was not the same as today, we sometimes make excuses and try to justify our actions, because well, “life is different now,” and we can’t say and do things the same way as the disciples did. We have running water, electricity, technology, and cars. Our news comes via printed newspapers. or over the radio. or the internet, or on television. When we want to stay in touch with our friends and family, we call them on the phone, or text them, or even hold virtual zoom gatherings. Folks, today you’re even worshiping at home! You don’t need to travel in to town to the temple or climb up a mountainside to hear a traveling preacher. I guess we just have a better handle on things today, or at least we think we do.
I’ve always loved the story of the road to Emmaus because it’s one of those stories that you could actually imagine happening in our lives, even today. Even though we think we are so different than the disciples, and we think that we live in a society that is so much more advanced than the disciples who lived long ago and far away, we forget that we are disciples snd that Jesus still walks with us every single day, just in a little different way.
But friends, this year, as I read and reflected on today’s scripture, I felt an immediate pit in my stomach because it became very obvious to me that some things never change. Friends, we may have the technology and all kinds of scientific and societal advances, but we still lose sight of what really matters. And that’s what Jesus has been trying to teach us for more than two thousand years, but unfortunately, his message keeps falling on deaf ears, or we hear the message but for some reason, we have trouble making it a part of who we are.
Well, today we hear of Jesus joining two disciples as they walk the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus appears as a stranger, because as Scripture says: “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him and as they walked, Jesus asks them, ‘What are you talking about?’ Cleopas, one of the disciples says ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’” You can almost hear the attitude and the judgment in his voice, can’t you? Jesus asks, “What things?” Cleopas then goes on to share with “this stranger” the story of Jesus and all that happened from the parade on Palm Sunday through the resurrection on Easter.
Now you would think that Jesus would be happy to hear Cleopas sharing the Good News with someone that he didn’t know. But on the contrary, Jesus was frustrated because Cleopas seemed unsure of the story that he was telling. Cleopas obviously didn’t truly believe, and though he had reported the list of facts as he had heard, his doubt and judgment gave little credibility to the source.
The disciples had listened to the hype of the story. They knew the “hot off the presses” news — the headlines that call for attention and the sense of panic and excitement that got everyone all riled up — but they never listened to their hearts, so they weren’t able to see who and what was right in front of them.
Friends, we are in the same exact situation today. Many of us sit at home listening to the minute-by-minute updates of what is happening in our world. We listen to the hype. We hear the arguments between leaders. We see people protesting on both sides. We worry about a virus and vaccines. We are overcome by stories of fear and uncertainty and the things that we cannot do.
But friends, rather than listening to the hype, what if we took time to listen to our hearts instead? Then we would find that right in front of us, in our very own homes, we have time to spend with our families. We have time to read books and work on projects we never dreamed we would get to. Right outside our windows, we have bulbs emerging from the ground, and buds bursting open on trees, sharing with us the story of new life and the beauty of Creation.
Folks, we have the ability, right now, to take a deep breath and to rest and to take care of ourselves. We have the time to spend in worship and in prayer and to see Jesus, right here in our midst. But, like the disciples on that road to Emmaus that day, our eyes are kept from seeing him. We are blinded by the hype and unable to see the good that is all around us.
Friends, I know that we miss hugging each other and having coffee together. I know that it is hard to be out of work or working from home. I know it’s hard to homeschool and to cook meals day after day. I know that we worry about washing our hands and wearing masks and getting our groceries. But friends, it was only two weeks ago — just two weeks ago! — that we celebrated Holy Week. It was only two weeks ago that, from the cross on Good Friday, God showed us that death never has the last word, that evil never wins, that hype and control are misguided, that difficulty and fear are temporary, and that love always wins! Have we forgotten?
Today’s scripture goes on to say, “As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him;” and then, scripture says, “he vanished from their sight.”
Friends, in the days and weeks ahead, may our eyes be opened to the good that is all around us. May we listen with our hearts as we remember God’s love for us. And may we truly appreciate the sacred moments that have been given to us, before they too vanish. Jesus is always in our midst, and blessings are all around us. We just need to open the eyes of our hearts and look for them.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, please turn off your TVs and your minute-to-minute news updates. Don’t be so blinded by the news that you can’t see the good all around you. Sure, you need to stay updated, but remember to listen to your heart and not the hype. Because if and when you do, you just might begin to realize that as you’ve been walking this crazy journey, Jesus has been right by your side, the whole way.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!