Isaiah 35, Luke 24:13-35
April 7, 2013
Today we have the story of the Road to Emmaus. And I think this is arguably one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible! Its’ a story of hidden identity, of sudden unexpected revelation, and of miraculous disappearance!
Whenever I read this, it reminds me of the end of the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. Do you remember that? In Genesis 45, the brothers who sold Joseph into slavery, stood before him seeking food when he was now second in command of all Egypt. And they were kept from recognizing him! Read that story again sometime! Or at least see the movie! (The one with Donny Osmond!)
This story is like that! As I often like to say when I read this story, God has a great flair for the dramatic. Often in the Bible, God doesnt just act. He acts in a big way. Remember the praise words of the psalmist, declaring that God acts with a might hand and an outstretched arm. We find those words a lot in the Psalms! We also find throughout the Bible that God seems to like to choose unlikely people, and then do extraordinary things through them.
God has a wonderful flair for the dramatic! And I believe he does because he wants to show us his glory! But more than that, he doesnt want just to inspire our minds, he wants to touch our hearts. Is that not true? Faith is born in us, not when someone convinces us of the claims of Christ, but when our hearts are touched by him in some experience or event. Think back on your own life and see if that isnt true!
So here we have this wonderful, dramatic story. These travelers are met by the risen Christ. And the tradition here is that they were miraculously kept from recognizing him. And then they were miraculously made to recognize him at the end. But of course there are always those who want to downplay the miracle. You know. They say things like, Jesus didnt actually multiply the loaves and fishes, he simply brought out the generosity of the people in the crowd and they all shared the food they had. You know, that sort of thing.
Well here, those same people would say that these men were so weighed down with grief, so crushed with despair, that their emotional state somehow kept them from recognizing him. Of course that would also mean that, as Jesus spoke, and they became more and more amazed at all that he taught them, they still didnt come out of whatever that emotional state they were in and recognize him. That seems unlikely to me. And we know that what he said to them on the road did touch them. It did affect their frame of mind! Did not our hearts burn within us?! they said. I dont know about you, but I cant see any other way of looking at this other than it being a supernatural concealment of Jesus identity.
Of course I suppose he could have been disguised! Some disguises are pretty good, you know. Do you know what the greatest disguise of all times was? Clark Kents glasses! Am I right? Nobody ever knew, did they? Just once I wanted to see him take his glasses off to clean them, and somebody say, Hey, wait a minute! Youre Superman!!!
Alright, so I guess a disguise was probably not likely, either. Though its kind of fun. But! I have to say that there is little doubt to me that this was meant to be read as a miraculous event. And, theres no doubt in my mind that Jesus intended it to be just that. He kept them from recognizing him! He wanted this event to be dramatic, just as Joseph did in Genesis! Both wanted the impact of the moment to be powerful.
I hope you see that impact here. And I hope you see it in the context of the feelings of Easter day! And there were a lot of them! There was still fear that day lots of fear! There was still shock and horror. There was still anger! Remember, this was only three days after Jesus hung on that cross for all to see! And many did! It was only three days after the hopes, and dreams, and the expectations of many had been shattered. As the one of the travelers said, But we had hoped that he would be the one who would redeem Israel! We can only try to imagine what that was like! But then, there was more. He went on to say, Some of the women of our company amazed us. They came from the tomb saying they had seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
Do you get that big picture? There were a lot of wild emotions and stories flying all around that day! And I believe many people were caught up in all of it. He said, the women amazed us, and its likely that the word amazed had a lot more meanings that day. It probably meant perplexed us, confused us, upset us, possibly even angered us! Words like that in the New Testament often have lots of different meanings!
With all that in mind, these men had this encounter with Jesus. Here they were part of this a dramatic and a miraculous event. But let me say that there is some merit to the previous thought, that their emotional state kept them from recognizing Jesus. Because, as weve seen throughout Lent, many things including many expectations kept the people from recognizing the messiah when he came. Weve talked about that. And what if some of those things did keep these men from recognizing Jesus beside them? And could the same thing happen to us? Do we sometimes not see Gods hand in our lives because his actions are outside the realm of our expectations? Do we ever catch ourselves expecting God to act a certain way, and when he doesnt we miss seeing what he is doing? Think about it.
Which of those kinds of things might be keeping us from recognizing Jesus. Can sadness? Can some difficult event or situation make us forget about God or turn from him, maybe even because we blame him somehow? What about despair? Do things sometimes look so desperate in our lives that we forget Gods power? What about Anger? Can we become so angry at others, at ourselves, or even at God, that we cant see him in our lives any more? What about Confusion? There are many voices around us telling us so many things. Which are we to believe?
So then the operative question becomes, How do we avoid all that? How can be sure not to let those things keep us from seeing Jesus? I think the answer there is in the experience the drama of this story. Yes, Jesus showed them many things the scriptures. Yes, their hearts burned within them as he told them all the things about himself. But it was in the moment he revealed himself that he had them! They got up right away, and ran back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples what had happened. And as Luke relates this story, thats when Jesus himself stood among them. And yes, they were still scared! It was still beyond what they might have expected. And of course, it was still very dramatic!
Thats the kind of thing we need to be looking for in our lives. So let us strive to be spiritually aware. Let us remember the power of the Easter story. Remember the various ways Jesus revealed himself. Those people were not expecting any of them. Let us look for those times God may be touching our hearts. I believe thats what he did in these stories. I believe thats what he wants to do to us!
And finally, seek God. Seek him with all of your heart. And dont seek to see him as you expect to see him. Thats probably the one thing you wont see. But remember, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined no heart has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (I Cor. 2:9)
God opened they eyes of the men in Emmaus. May he open our eyes that we may see his glory all around us, and in our lives.
Eternal God, open the eyes of our hearts. Help us to know the times you are touching us, in ways we probably dont expect. May your fire burn within us, like those men on the road long ago. And may we have the desire to act as they did, telling others, giving you the glory and praise. For these things we pray in the name of our living Lord, Amen.