Saturday, May 07, 2011

A, Easter 3 – Luke 24:13-35 “The Emmaus Twist”

The Emmaus Twist
A sermon on Luke 24:13-35
The Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)08/05/11
Pastor Heath Pukallus Katanning-Narrogin Lutheran Parish

The Emmaus resurrection account is a most fascinating resurrection account in the literary sense and also because of Jesus' mysterious interaction amongst his disciples. Added to this no one can say with certainty where this town of Emmaus was located.

Meditating on this text we hear two of the seventy-two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem with downcast faces, and in disbelief. As the two walk along the road to Emmaus they burn with hopelessness and despair. Whereas after Jesus' resurrection revelation through the breaking of bread, there is an immediate return of the disciples' hope as they urgently return to Jerusalem.

However, we first hear their mood is low. Their walk to Emmaus is lethargic, melancholy, and short-sighted. They're on the road to "nowhere special" in particular; staggering along recounting the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday completely confused and impassioned with remorse. Jesus meets these men on their Emmaus walk and they don't even have the ability to recognise he is the Risen Lord.

In fact we're told in Luke 24:16, their eyes were held back from seeing him. Either they didn't see him because they were so self-absorbed in their sinful nature to be able to recognise him. Or, they were held back from seeing by God himself, so the hidden risen Lord had an opportunity to teach them in their brokenness. Then again it could have been a combination of both. But either way Jesus was with them in all his risen power and glory, and they failed to notice this — they were completely powerless as they looked into themselves.

So as these two unimportant disciples walked towards the nowhere in particular town, as hopeless and powerless nobodies, discussing events that gave them no answers, they are met by a man who they thought to be a stranger or a 'nobody'. Jesus is this supposed nobody and he asks them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" (Luke 24:17)

Cleopas, one of the two disciples reacts abruptly to the question saying, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" (Luke 24:18)

Unknowingly, his snapping reply is also a testimony to Jesus' status as a heavenly visitor who was seeing these events through very different eyes! However, we know Cleopas was speaking to he who was cast out of Jerusalem and crucified, but now stood raised by God the Father in all his glory.

Jesus walks with them on the road, although hidden from sight, and he encourages them to look out of themselves by asking them to talk about these things that had just happened. So with hearts burning within they tell this "stranger" about Jesus of Nazareth.

Notice what they say. They don't understand Jesus is the Christ, so they say he was Jesus of Nazareth, and that he came to be a prophet or a man with great power before God and humanity. Ironically Jesus of Nazareth stood before them in the flesh bearing all the power of the Risen Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ. Here the glorified risen Son of God stood before them veiled in the body of a seemingly ignorant stranger.

After the two disciples report the mysterious events of the crucifixion and the vacant tomb, Jesus begins to turn them from their downheartedness. He does it with some very straight words too. We heard Cleopas' snapping reply to Jesus' question, now Jesus mirrors his action with some stern chastising words too.

He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" (Luke 24:25-26)

Notice here that Jesus doesn't speak of the man, Jesus of Nazareth, as a person in the past! But in fact builds on the disciples' testimony, focusing them on the scriptures pointing forward to the messianic title and work of Christ.

If before the disciples thought he was an ignorant stranger, they must have now known otherwise in the wake of his sudden rebuke and authoritative teaching from God's word. Yet still they did not see their Lord, even though they were looking right at him as he taught.

They walk along the road and on reaching Emmaus Jesus acted as if he was going further. However, the two disciples encouraged him to stay with them. We notice here these two disciples who had been so caught up in themselves are now actually looking outward. Such is the power of God's word, which Jesus had just opened up to them. The two disciples had received Jesus' rebuke and teaching well and now they invited their mysterious teacher to keep company with them.

Once in doors, this visitor took his place at the table. But in the same way he opened God's word with all authority, he also took the bread gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them.

Guests typically received the bread from the host who distributed it, not the other way around. But now having heard the word and on seeing this mysterious visitor break the bread in the way he had done before his death, the veil falls from their eyes and they see the Lord Jesus Christ.

They don't just see a foreign visitor, they don't just see Jesus of Nazareth, they don't just see their teacher, but they see the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, who had been before them the whole time. How their hearts must have jumped! Perhaps with joy but also with shame too, at not recognising him!

Now the fascinating twist occurs. They had Jesus with them the whole time, they could have touched him as he walked with them, yet they didn't see it was him. Now they see him for who he is and in an instant he disappeared from their sight.

In a moment they went from not knowing he was there, although they could see him, to knowing he was there, although his physical presence disappeared. At one minute they thought the crucifixion meant there was no Lord and hence no peace. Then in the next minute, having heard the word and seeing him break bread, they did know the Lord had overcome death, and they did know of peace. Peace beyond all human understanding, transforming their hearts from downheartedness back to hope in Christ.

They immediately leave Emmaus and return to Jerusalem, hurrying along with hope and joy to tell the others the great news.

From this point on the whole church would proclaim the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday with joyful uplifted hearts, trusting that the Lord is risen.

Unlike the downhearted recollection of these events in Jesus' hidden presence on the road to Emmaus, we now stand with boldness and proclaimed our hope in he who is raised and is faithfully present with us, although hidden in his Word and in the Sacraments.

How wonderful it is for you and me when the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus Christ to us, even when we burn with downheartedness or hardheartedness, so much so, we have no power of our own to recognise him.

What a fantastic sense of relief and peace it is that settles on us when we realise, our Lord has been there, faithfully walking with us, the whole time.

What a privilege we have as bearers of this peace when we point others to Jesus in his Word and the Sacraments.

Do you realise when you declare to others, "It is true! Jesus Christ is risen!" Not only are you declaring this truth, you are also bearing the Risen Lord himself before others, and giving them access to the peace that passes all human understanding which can keep every person's heart and mind in him — Christ Jesus our Lord — Amen.