ON THE ROAD
Over the last two weeks, we talked about two post-resurrection stories where Jesus showed up. The first one happened on the evening of the resurrection. The disciples were in a room locked behind closed doors for fear of the Jewish authorities. Despite the fact that they had been told that Jesus was risen, they didn’t believe. But Jesus appeared to them, showed them his hands and his side and they believed. Their fear was turned to joy.
If you recall, however, Thomas was in the room that evening. When he returned, the other disciples told him about Jesus’ appearance but he was skeptical. He was filled with doubt and said that he would not believe until he too saw the scars on Jesus hands and side. The next week, the disciples were in the same room, locked behind the same closed doors but Thomas was with them. Jesus appeared again and showed Thomas his hands and side. Thomas’ doubt was replaced by faith and he believed. We discovered that when Jesus shows up, he changes everything.
Today is our third and final story of the Jesus showing up. The first two stories came from the Gospel of John. If you’d like to open your Bibles, today’s story is found in Luke 24:13-35. In this story, we back up to the day of the resurrection. Two of the disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus. Emmaus is about twelve kilometers northwest of Jerusalem.
Beginning in verse 14 it says that these two men are talking with each other about the things that had happened in Jerusalem, about the crucifiction and the empty tomb. Then guess what happens? You guessed it. Just like in the last two weeks, Jesus shows up. But this time there is an interesting wrinkle to the story. It says in verse 16 that, for some reason, the two men do not recognize him. I have read various explanations about this, why they did not recognize Jesus. Maybe they didn’t recognize him because he was out of context and they simply didn’t expect to see him there. You know how that works sometimes? You see someone who you’re not expecting to see and there is a hint of recognition but you really don’t know why? That happened to me a few months ago. There was a new couple coming to our church and they always came dressed nicely for Sunday morning. Shortly after they started attending, I saw the husband at the gym and he said, “Hi,” to me. And while I knew that I should know him, I could place him. It’s just that people look different in gym clothes. Then he told me who he was and I was so embarrassed but he was most gracious. And they have grown to be part of our church and I am so grateful. But I suspect that all of us have had that experience at one time or another.
My other thought is that they are just too distraught. After all, we read in verse 17 that they stood still with their faces downcast. This is description of people who have no hope. They witnessed the crucifiction, still do not believe the resurrection and have no idea where things are going from here. All of their dreams are shattered and they are weighed down with hopeless despair. Maybe that’s why they didn’t recognize him. We’re not sure why. We just know that they didn’t.
Then Jesus does something interesting. He asks them what happened, why they are filled with such despair and hopelessness. So, in verse 19, they start to tell Jesus about all of the things that had happened, from his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, through the crucifiction and up to the reports from those who had been to the empty tomb.
And then in verse 25 and 26, rather than comforting them, Jesus challenges them. That’s a surprise. He says, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explains to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself and how he would fulfill God’s purpose for creation. And still they do not recognize him.
As they approach the village of Emmaus, they ask Jesus to stay with them for the evening. After all, it’s getting late and everyone is hungry. Jesus agrees. But something has to happen before these disciples will recognize him.
That happens during supper when Jesus does something. He takes some bread, give thanks, breaks it and gives it to them. At that moment, in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus.
What’s that all about? Clearly, this is a reference to what we call communion or the Lord’s supper that the disciples share with Jesus on Thursday evening before he was arrested, the day before the crucifiction. In Luke 22:19 (NIV), almost the same words are used. It says, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them.” This is something familiar. This has happened before and when Jesus does that which is familiar and known and expected, the two disciples recognize him.
And then Jesus leaves them. Luke says that he disappears but the disciples reflect upon their experience on the road and in hindsight, in verse 32, say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” In retrospect, they don’t understand why they did not recognize him in the first place. Now it all seems so clear.
The main thing, however, is the result of their recognition. Although it is late, after supper, they get up at once and make the twelve kilometer journey back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples the good news that they had seen the risen Lord.
The important thing for us to note today is that these two disciples, whose faces were downcast, who had been so filled with despair and hopelessness are now excited. They get up immediately, and take that two or three hour journey back to Jerusalem in the dark to tell the others what they have seen and heard. Their despair is turned to hope.
JESUS STILL SHOWS UP
In the days in which we now live, it can be pretty easy to feel the same hopelessness and despair that was experienced by the disciples. There are just so many things going on in the world that we are not used to and also so many things that we can’t do that are familiar. As an extrovert, I know that I sometimes find it difficult. I have not have any physical contact with anyone now for six weeks except my wife Ruth. I feel for those who are on their own and don’t have even one person to give them a hug. As I call around to people, I’m also becoming increasingly aware of how difficult it is for people with mental illnesses who rely upon certain routines to keep them mentally healthy. But they can’t do some of those things right now and so they struggle. There are lots of stories about people who are living with a measure of despair for all kinds of reasons.
In the midst of all that, let’s remember that two weeks ago, Jesus showed up and turned fear into joy. Last week, Jesus showed up and turned doubt into faith. This week Jesus shows up and turns despair into hope. What’s going in your life? What is weighing you down? Is it fear? Is it doubt? Is it despair? What do you need Jesus to turn around in your life? Whatever it is, he can do it. I’m not saying that it’s always going to be easy. I’m not saying that in the snap of a finger, all of your troubles will just disappear and life will be a bowl of cherries. I’m not saying that Jesus doesn’t do that because I believe that miracles still happen and that people are healed and delivered from all sorts of things. But I also know that it doesn’t always work that way. More often than not, I’ve discovered in my life that Jesus doesn’t lift us above our struggles. Rather he walks with us through them giving us the joy and the faith and the hope to persevere and overcome.
That’s not just about something that happens in the afterlife. It begins right here, right now. Jesus shows up and, through his Spirit, guides us, strengthens us and walks with us through difficult times so that we can come to a place of wholeness and peace. I know that’s true of my life and it’s true of the lives of countless other people who have called on his name. Let him walk with you on whatever road you are traveling. Let him turn your fear into joy, your doubt into faith and your despair into hope.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving God, we come from our busyness and the stresses of everyday life to find refreshment for our spirits. You, O God, offer us what we can find no where else. You nourish us and nurture us. You give us peace and security. You protect us from the powers that would harm us. You lift us above the difficulties of life and enable us to deal with whatever is thrown our way. Thank you for staying with us. Thank you for walking beside us and never leaving us alone. Even when we forget about you, you do not forget about us. How great and awesome you are.
We offer our thanks for the coming spring. It’s been wet but pray for some drier weather that the farmers may get onto their land to get the seeding done. We also pray for the bees that pollinate our fruit trees in the various orchards in the county. We pray even now for a good harvest this fall, thankful that you hear our prayers.
We also give thanks for the beginning of a new journey with Linda Lord as our Family Minister. We look forward, O God, to what you will do in us and through us together. Bless her ministry in this place we pray.
We pray for those who are ill this past week. Bless them with healing and wholeness. Be with their families and calm their fears. Soothe their anxieties and give them the peace that only you can offer.
Once again, we remember the front line health care workers who are doing so much to keep us safe. We pray also for those who stock the store shelves and keep the supply lines open so that we are able to get the things that we need.
God of Heaven and Earth, hear our prayers and the prayers of all those who, in faith, seek you. Feed our hungry souls and lead us onto your path of peace. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
May 3, 2020 / Easter 5
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; John 14:1-14; Acts 7:55-60;1 Peter 2:2-10
CALL TO WORSHIP
God is our Rock; the stronghold of our lives.
God is our Rock; the foundation of our salvation.
Come, let us worship him in Spirit and in truth.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We come to you, O God of Life, as newborns awaiting your spiritual milk. Come and quench our thirst. Feed us with your Spirit. Refresh us by your streams of living water. We need your hand to hold us and your light to lead us if we are grow and mature in faith, hope and love. Enter our worship. Enter our hearts. Renew our lives by your Holy and Indwelling Presence. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We seek your presence, even in the midst of our own sinfulness. Like our ancestors, we turn away from your prophets when they say those things that we do not want to hear. Our resistance to change leads us to ridicule those who call us to holiness. We prefer the familiar and the comfortable even if they are not your ways. Forgive us, O God of Mercy, when we stumble and fall. Pick us up and set our feet back upon the way of life. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The Glory of Christ is like a shining star in the dark skies of night. It twinkles and glows and gives us reason for hope. Be assured that that glory is able to overcome even the greatest sin. In Jesus, we have forgiveness and reconciliation with God, with one another and with all Creation.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Your gifts, O God, are greater than our imagination. We cannot begin to comprehend what you have given and done for us. Our desire is that you would take what we have and use it for your purpose. May your love and your compassion be shown in our gifts and our lives. Amen.
God’s love is everlasting. God’s mercy is eternal. God calls us to live our lives with love and mercy for all people. Be born again as new creations in Christ, not only today but everyday. Live the lives that God has called us to live.