From St Paul's Lutheran Church, Sugar City, CO
Road to Emmaus
In todayís gospel reading, Luke shares with us the walk to Emmaus (eh MAY uhs), a town within a dayís walking distance of Jerusalem. Two disciples have left the city, and they're on their way home. They're talking as they go, and suddenly someone joins them, and they don't recognize him. And as they move toward home, they find that the stranger who has joined them doesn't seem to know about what happened in the city that day. And, yet, as they move along, this stranger reveals to them the absolute necessity for what has happened.
"Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" he asked them.
And then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interprets to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
They near the village and heís going to walk on, but one of them asks him to stay and have supper, and here begins that wonderful experience where these two disciples are honored by the presence of the risen Lord.
As he breaks bread for them, they celebrate his presence.
This story is especially significant for people like you and me. You see, these two disciples were not a part of the original 12 apostles... the inner core of Jesus' followers. Yet they are central characters in what may be the most heart warming of all the resurrection accounts. It does not matter that these two disciples were not a part of the "inner circle", what mattered was that Jesus loved them and they needed his presence. They had been broken hearted and shattered by his death on a cross three days earlier.
The Lord has risen indeed and he has appeared to them. They go back to the city and tell the other disciples what they experienced.
So the Good News of Jesus Christ is not about who we are, but about who God is. Weíre not even sure of the names of these two disciples, though some readings, like todays reading in Luke, say that one of them was named Cleopas (klee aw puss).
It makes me wonder how many countless hundreds of thousand of nameless disciples across the ages are unknown to anyone but the Lord? It is so very significant that Jesus cared for each and every person who came to him. Whether they were leaders or followers, rich or the poor, significant or insignificant, he cared.
One of the things the story of the disciples on the Emmaus Road teaches is that Jesus cares for your hopes and your dreams. Everyone who speaks his name in prayer is the object of his affection and devotion. If we will open our spirits to him, he will join us along the way. He desires to bring healing in those times of heartbreak that are inevitable as long as we are on the journey.
Perhaps some of you were required to take Latin when you were in high school or college. I didnít, but I learned some from a friend. He said that Latin is the root language for all other languages, and if he mastered that ancient tongue, all other languages, including English, would fall into place. Many years have passed since high school, and for the life of me, about all I can remember is Veni, Vidi, Vici (vayni, vedee, vechi) -- I came, I saw, I conquered.
Now you might be wondering what this has to do with our scripture for today. Let me explain. Have you ever thought about all the people who came into the presence of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and when they saw who he truly was, they were conquered by his love, his teachings, his forgiveness?
Shepherds who came to Bethlehem and were won over by a tiny, newborn baby -- Luke tells us they returned to their flocks praising God and saying wonderful things about him. Wise men came to Bethlehem, following the light of the star, and they were so overwhelmed when they saw him, they risked their lives. They returned home a different way to avoid King Herod's evil intentions.
Herod didn't want to worship the child; he wanted to conquer him with death.
Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord, and Simeon (Sim-ee-on) and Anna were there serving God. And when they saw the Christ child, they were conquered by the sight. Simeon couldn't keep from singing, "Oh, with my own eyes I have seen what you have done to save your people."
If you read all of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you will discover thousands of people who came, who truly saw and were spiritually conquered in the positive surrender of one's self by the presence of Jesus Christ.
Veni, Vidi, Vici.
I wish there had been a Paul Harvey type of reporter around when Jesus physically walked the earth. I would love to know the rest of the story.
What did the Wise Men do after they returned home?
What did Simeon do after he sang?
What did the blind man do with his life after Jesus restored his sight, and why didn't Luke tell us the rest of the story of Zacchaeus (zăkē-us) and his family after they had eaten dinner with Jesus?
We could go on and on with their names or their circumstances in life, but the point I wish to make is that for over 2,000 years now people have come to Jesus, truly seeing him and being conquered by the realization of who he is. Conquered in a holy way, of course.
The Webster dictionary defines the word conquer as both: "1. To gain by force of arms" but also "2. To get the better of." Jesus certainly does that. And a little play on words here. We are better human beings when we are conquered by the Lord.
In the lesson today, the two men had been in Jerusalem for the Passover for this time together. They came and they saw. They were disciples of Jesus, Luke tells us, and what they saw had sent them back to home in Emmaus full of sorrow. They had experienced a conquered Lord, dead on a cross outside the city wall on a hill called Calvary. You can only imagine all of their conversation as they walked home that evening.
Can you see them? Can you think of a time in your own life when you have gone away from a place or an experience that filled you with hope and expectation only to be brokenhearted and disappointed by the outcome? Surely, these two disciples were in the crowd as he entered the city a week earlier. We call it the triumphal entry. Did they sense the triumph?
Veni. They came, they saw. They heard the crowd shouting, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" Did any of them spread their garments on the road like a red carpet rolled out for an approaching dignitary? Were they there when he cleansed the temple of the money changers? Did they hear him teach that week that we now call holy? Did they secretly cheer when he turned the tables on the Pharisees as they tried to trick him with a question about taxes?
We are left to wonder how much of that last week of his earthly life these two Emmaus-walk disciples were a part of. Now, they're on their way home, conquered in spirit by what they experienced in Jerusalem. Suddenly, a stranger joins them as they walk and talk. They don't recognize him. After all, he's the last person they expected to see.
Vidi. They saw.
"What are you talking about?" the stranger inquires. They stop walking, their faces reflecting their sadness. "Are you the only person from Jerusalem who missed the happenings in the holy city this last few days?" they ask. "What do you mean?" the stranger inquires. "Oh, we had a dream. We hoped he would be the one to set Israel free, but, the freedom we sought was denied us. They arrested him, tried him, convicted him, and they executed him."
Vici --They conquered.
"Oh, this morning some of the women went out to the cemetery to care for his dead body. They returned all shaken and saying he wasn't there. Some wild tale about angels declaring that he was alive again. A few of the men went out to see, but they couldn't find Jesus."
Now the stranger speaks. He opens the scriptures to them, a lesson in Old Testament theology from the Law of Moses through the prophets. As they near their home, the stranger seems to be passing on by when they invite him to dinner. "Stay with us. It's already late, and the sun is going down." In the midst of the meal, the guest becomes the host. He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. At once, they know who he is, but he disappears from their sight. And they said to each other, "When he talked with us along the road and explained the scriptures to us, didn't it warm our hearts?" So they got up and returned to Jerusalem. And the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, can be found in the Book of Acts, in the letters of Paul and the volumes of books written for the past 2,000 years about the stranger who comes and walks with us and talks with us along life's narrow way. Because he lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
Wherever your road to Emmaus might be, maybe itís in your home or your place of work, the blessed assurance that we all can have is that he will come and walk with us. The first Last Supper shared with the risen Lord happened in a place called Emmaus, a location that historians tell us has never been positively identified. That very fact opens the possibilities for us of an Emmaus experience wherever we are. You see, it's not a place; it's an encounter with the risen Lord and a meal that warms your heart.
Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, would have addressed Jesus in Latin. "Are you the King of the Jews?" he demanded. Poor Pilate.
Veni, Vidi, Vici. He came, he saw, and he chickened out and gave him over to the crowd.
I'm filled with sorrow for Pilate and Herod and the crowd. They never caught on. The one they crucified might have known a little Latin himself. He added a word to the phrase I remember from my high school days.
Vidi-I saw your needs.
And Vici mortis. I conquered death!
"Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace," we sing at Christmas time. "Hail the Son of righteousness. Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King."
And now you have the rest of the story. He came. He saw. He conquered death!
Perhaps there is no more significant time to reflect on this, than in the prayerful moments of Holy Communion to relive once again the time when Christ broke bread for the disciples of the Emmaus Road. Just as they did, you have the opportunity to reach out and invite him in. May you know him once again in the breaking of the bread.
Let us pray.
God, your decisions always overwhelm us. When you knew what we needed, you sent your son into the world. He didn't come speaking Latin; he came speaking Aramaic, but his language is one we understand and his message is timeless. He came because you sent him. He saw us as we are, and he saw in us what we could become, and offering himself, he conquered death. So, Lord, as we look at this walk to Emmaus, help us to get up and follow. Help us to be willing to walk on those places that are familiar and have him come and lift the ordinary into that which is holy. If we invite him into our homes, he will break bread with us; if we invite him into our hearts, he will conquer our fears, our misgivings, our sins, and even death. For this, Almighty God, we give you thanks as we remember the walk to Emmaus.
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Into Remembrance (Luke 24:13-35)
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Emmaus Experience - Devotional Thoughts for 4th Sunday after Easter
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Devotional Thoughts for 3rd Sunday after New Sunday
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Sermon on Luke 24: 13-35
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Joy for the Journey: Reflections on the Walk to Emmaus
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