James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Scripture text is Luke 24:13-35. It can be found here.
Will you pray with me? Lord Jesus, open for us the scriptures today. Kindle in us the fire of your Holy Spirit that our hearts might burn within us as you speak to us. Give us a special sense of your presence that we might you that you are real and alive and here now. Amen.
How is Jesus present in the world? In what ways is Jesus present with us now? These are the questions I would like to have you think with me about for a little while. Do you find it hard to recognize Jesus?
It should be all that surprising if you answered, “yes.” It can be hard enough sometimes for us to recognize each other. We get used to seeing someone in a certain context, and then see them in another and it can take us awhile. Like seeing your teacher at a in the grocery store, or a casual co-worker at a ball game, or your dentist at the grocery store.
It gets even worse when time passes since you last saw a person. Our minds can play tricks on us. Time passes, situations and circumstances change. Sometimes it can be embarrassing. I went a high school class re-union recently. Some people hadn’t changed all that much. They were easy to recognize. Others had changed a lot – so much so that I didn’t recognize them at all.
Here are a couple of celebrity high school pictures of them then and now I found on Pinterest.
If you had gone to high school with these people and they weren’t celebrities would you have recognized them at a reunion?
How about this guy?
If we have trouble recognizing each other it shouldn’t be surprising that we have trouble recognizing Jesus. The disciples had trouble recognizing who Jesus was and seeing God’s presence with them. In John 14, Philip tells Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” To which Jesus responds, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”?
Well, we can say it Jesus, because recognizing you and the Father’s presence in our lives is not so easy to do. In his humanness, Jesus also experienced this. Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” In the midst of pain, suffering, loss, from the torture of the cross, Jesus too had trouble seeing God’s presence.
So, we shouldn’t be too hard on the two disciples as they start out Easter evening to go to Emmaus talking about all things that have happened. They are just trying to make sense of it. Ever have something traumatic happen? It takes time to process it – to make sense of it. And so, they talk as they walk.
We are told Jesus joins them, but they do not recognize him. They are disheartened, discouraged and sad. They are skeptical. They don’t know what to make of the reports of the women seeing Jesus and Peter finding the tomb empty like the women said. As they walk, they begin to tell Jesus all the things that have happened. At this point, they are thinking of Jesus as a prophet was doing mighty works of God, but was handed over by the chief priests and leaders to be crucified. Their disillusionment and discouragement is summed up as they say: “…We had hoped…”
Have you ever found your hopes dashed? My father had hoped that I would be gifted in mechanics and that I would be a farmer. I had hoped to be the one to successfully develop a new congregation in West Des Moines, IA. My wife had hope I would take her dancing more often.
When have you found yourself saying, “We had hoped?” Had you hoped for a larger scholarship? A better test result? Have you ever found yourself having hoped for a different medical diagnosis? A better resolution to a conflict? Had you hope you would never have to find yourself trying to come to terms with the reality of a life cut short and gone too soon?
Sometimes dashed hopes are crushing. Now what? At such times, words are not enough. It seems that is true even for Jesus. Confronted with their disillusionment and despair, Jesus goes to the scriptures. Starting with Moses and then to all the prophets he shows them that the Messiah must suffer these things and then enter into his glory. As he explains their hearts burn within them. But, it is a slow burn. It takes time for the words to sink in – for understanding to emerge. It doesn’t happen immediately, but unfolds within the context of relationship and conversation. It is within the intimacy of human connection of sharing a meal together that full recognition happens. Then they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What are the places where Jesus have become especially real for you? Was it in the comforting word of a friend? The uplifting experience of music? The energy and excitement of camp?
While it is true that Jesus can meet us anywhere, there is comfort in knowing that there are a couple of places where we can count on Jesus meeting us. Martin Luther drawing upon this story and others throughout the Bible, underscored the fact that God promises to meet us in word and sacrament – through the Bible, the spoken word, and in the bread and wine.
By John Snyder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Jesus can come to us in many ways, but Jesus has promised that we can count on meeting him in the Bible and in bread and wine. Just as Jesus met the men on the road in tangible concrete ways, discussion and teaching of the bible, and in sharing a meal: in the breaking of the bread, in the same way Jesus also comes to us. As Jesus meets us – as we encounter the crucified Christ – in bread and wine, Jesus also transforms and justifies us. Justified is a “churchy word”. But, it simply means God invites us to see ourselves the way God see us: as a forgiven and beloved child.
Having encountered Jesus – and now seeing him – the men cannot contain themselves. They rush back to Jerusalem – despite the significant danger of traveling at night – to tell the other disciples – “we have seen the Lord!”
Did you notice?
There isn’t anything that the men do – they are simply the recipients of God coming to them – first on the road, and then in the meal. Both times God’s grace breaks in upon them – with a burning in their hearts, recognition of Jesus, and then having their disappointment, disillusionment, and despair turned to joy.
Do you want to see Jesus? Do you want him to be more real in your life? Then believe his promise and hear anew his invitation. The risen Christ is here! He comes to meet you in bread and wine – offering you his body and blood so that you also may be transformed and justified.
Come, taste and see. Come, discover again the forgiveness Jesus offers. Feeling skeptical? Disheartened? Discouraged? So were the men on the road. It’s Okay. Come as you are. Come, have your disillusionment and despair turned to joy. Come, have your eyes opened to recognize Jesus is alive.
He is risen. He meets you in the midst of life – he seeks to meet you on the road – walk with you this week. Come. Jesus is here. He has promised.