Our lives are a journey to Emmaus. Along the way we meet a stranger and as we partake of the bread do we recognize who that stranger is and the good news he brings?
To introduce us to the stranger that accompanies us on our life’s journey.
We will look at Luke 24, the distraction on the road to Emmaus, the stranger who two disciples met, the sacrament of life and the good news on the road.
The Road to Emmaus
A road once led west out of Jerusalem for seven miles through an idyllic landscape of trees and fields to a warm spring and a town called Emmaus, pronounced ‘mmah-OOSS. Today a freeway takes us west of Jerusalem to a place called Emmaus Nicopolis. We take the exit called Latrun Interchange. The ruins of what Eusebius identified as Emmaus are right at the exit inside Canada Park, a national park maintained by a Canadian Jewish fund. Times have changed dramatically but many beautiful trees and fields still exist. It was along the ancient road that Jesus met with two disciples (Luke 24:13-35) and it was in that ancient town that he broke bread and their eyes were opened to recognize him. How can we recognize Jesus as we travel through life? How does Jesus challenge us on our journey?
Is Jesus a Stranger
When the two disciples met Jesus on the road to Emmaus at first they thought he was a stranger (Luke 24:13-49). Is Jesus a stranger to us? Even people who faithfully attend church every week can find that Jesus is a stranger to them. The two disciples walking to Emmaus were possibly a man and woman well-known to Jesus. Some have even speculated that they were related to Simeon the later bishop of Jerusalem and that they were also relatives of Jesus. Yet, as close as they may have been, they did not recognize Jesus. Sometimes, those who are closest to the Church also do not recognize Jesus. We are distracted by events and things that take our minds off Jesus. Yet, in the midst of it all, he is there gently teaching and reminding us of his resurrection.
Why is it that Jesus seems so secretive about his involvement in our lives? He speaks to us softly on the wind that rustles in the leaves. He talks with our hearts as hear the Holy Scriptures read. He discusses issues with our consciences as we go about our daily tasks. So much of the time, just like the two disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-49), we don’t recognize him. Why were those disciples kept from recognizing Jesus? Why are we kept from recognizing him today? Why does it seem as if he is an unrecognized Jesus? Perhaps the answer lies in the question of faith. Seeing is not believing. Believing is believing. Perhaps also Jesus is only fully perceived in communion with fellow believers. Perhaps until then all we have is a burning in our hearts.
Distracted, not Seeing Jesus
Have we ever been spoken to by a friend who simply does not recognize us? I was once served at a convenience store by a former colleague, who did not recognize me and simply addressed me as sir. We’ve all had similar experiences. A friend greeted us somewhere in public and yet one was totally oblivious to recognizing the other. Perhaps someone was distracted, deep in thought or simply did not focus enough. So, it was with Jesus’ two disciples on the way to the village of Warm Springs (Emmaus) in Luke 24:13-35. What could it be that distracts us so readily from acknowledging Jesus in our daily lives? Why do we so often miss the most important things of life, distracted by the mundane? God is always present even in our daily bread, yet we do not notice.
Our Emmaus Walk
How much of the time is our daily walk similar to the Emmaus walk of two of the disciples? Their journey is described in Luke 24:13-49. They walked the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus and Jesus walked with them part of the way, but they did not recognize him. He asked the disciples questions and challenged their lack of faith. As they walked their hearts burned but they did not know why until later. How much of the time is Jesus walking with us and we don’t perceive him? How often does he challenge our faith so that it will increase? Why do we not recognize him as he talks to us and opens the scriptures to our understanding? How often is it that we do not see Jesus in our lives until the communion bread is broken?
Enjoy Life's Journey
The journey to Emmaus could be seen as a metaphor for life between now and eternity with God (Luke 24:13-35). Just as Jesus was with those disciples, even though they didn’t know it, so is Jesus with us now. We don’t yet fully see him as we will then, but he is talking to us every day through his Creation, through his Word and through his Spirit. How foolish are we and slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken? Don’t our hearts burn within us as God speaks to us every day? Will Jesus not also say to us, Peace be with you? Can we take a moment on our journey to be aware of who is with us, to recognize that it is him speaking? Let’s relax and learn to experience the joy of the journey?
A Trail of Tears
The greed and injustice we see in Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Hitler’s annexation of countries in Europe and the division of Kashmir are not new to history. For native Americans the Trail of Tears recalls a dark time in American history, a time of nationally sanctioned ethnic cleansing and the theft of the territories of five sovereign nations: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole nations. Many died during that early 1800’s forced migration. Some of us have also lived lives or parts of lives that were a trail of tears. The road to heaven is not always a nice chat while strolling along the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Remember, that though the road to Emmaus may sometimes be a trail of tears, even through the valley of the shadow of death, he is with us (Psalm 23).
All of Life is a Sacrament
An original and ancient definition of the word sacrament was simple. It meant “a visible sign of an invisible grace" (Augustine of Hippo) or as Quakers still teach today, “all of life is a sacrament.” Western Christians tend to limit sacraments to seven or two rites of the church. Eastern Christians do not limit the number but refer to the seven as the major sacraments or mysteries of God’s grace in the church. When Protestants object to the seven of the Catholic Church, they are not objecting to the original definition but later, narrower definitions claiming that Jesus personally instituted all seven. If explained using the original definition, most Protestants would certainly not object. Unlike the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), let us pray to see God’s invisible grace in the visible things around us.
Good News on the Road
As two disciples of Jesus walked towards Emmaus there was good news that they at first did not recognize (Luke 24:13-35). They reasoned about a mighty prophet who had been killed and their heart burned within them as the scriptures were expounded but could not see the good news right in front of their eyes, that their own prophets had predicted for fifteen hundred years. It was prophesied long ago that the Messiah should suffer and die but then enter glory. The good news is that their eyes were opened at the breaking of bread. The good news also accompanies us on life’s journey, but we don’t always recognize it. The communion bread is more than a mere symbol. It is a sacrament, a visible sign of an invisible grace through which Jesus the Messiah is revealed to us.
Our lives are a journey to Emmaus. Along the way we meet a stranger who walks with us the rest of the way and then as we partake of the bread do we recognize who that stranger is and the good news he brings?