The Walk to EmamausPentecost
The walk to Emmaus is the culmination of the scriptural account of the first day of the resurrection.
Luke’s account of the first day of the resurrection begins with women who had come to the tomb with spices to prepare the body of Christ. It describes their encounter with “two men in dazzling clothes” who tell them that Jesus has risen (24:4). They tell this to the others but (verse 9) “they did not believe them”. We’re told (verse 11) It seemed to them an idle tale. But Peter went immediately to check out the tomb, and though amazed that it was empty, he didn’t see Jesus… and ‘he went home’ (verse 13).
But the culmination of that day, says Luke, was the walk to Emmaus and the disciples’ encounter with the risen Christ.
The Emmaus journey is sometimes called “the journey of every Christian.” It has all the elements of the Christian life.
-The 2 travellers experienced discouragement and disappointment: they were ‘looking sad’ (v.17); they experienced doubt” they were ‘slow to believe’ (v25); the travelers took a risk: of getting taken in – and taking in – by a stranger: they urged him to stay with them (v29). They were found by – and followed- the risen Christ… first by faith, then by sight In the warmth of companionship, in hearing the scriptures; in the breaking of the bread; in sharing their faith with the others. These were the first steps of the first journey taken by the first companions of Christ… in the first day of the New Creation.
The gospel of Luke was written about 80AD, now referred to as CE(Common era ….how ironic!?) But this journey narrative from Jerusalem to Emmaus seems to address followers of Christ in every generation — from the first who heard the story to those of us who hear at St. Andrews this morning it this year 2023 in the common era of the Risen Christ… the dawn of the world without end.
This is a familiar account to most of us I expect, yet we know how in revisiting scripture – like the breaking of the bread – we, like the 2 disciples on the road – can see Christ afresh… and experience our own hearts burn within us.
Let’s look again this morning at this ‘journey of every Christian’ and allow God to spark a fresh fire of faith within us.
“Now on that same day”-the first day of the week – is how Luke begins his account of the Emmaus Rd journey. Beginning that way, Luke connects us to the two great events of human history as understood by Christians. In Genesis 1: 1-5 we read: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And it was the first day.(This is the only use and reference to ‘the first day’ in the Old Testament) Light into the darkness, night and day… the beginning of time… creating from the Unseen heart of God all this that is seen – these were the activities of God on the first day of Creation.
Luke – indeed all 4 gospels – refer to the day of resurrection as the first day.
On the first day of the New Creation… day 1 of anno domino the year of our Lord, the first thing recorded that the resurrected Jesus can be seen doing is walking a dusty road to Emmaus, a town that no scripture mentions anywhere else, to join a couple of downcast travelers referred to nowhere else in scripture …. listening in while they are walk ‘discussing the things that happened that day’ (verse 13). One of them is not even named. The other, Cleopas, is not mentioned anywhere else among the disciples. The anonymity of the travelers seems intentional. It is reminiscent of “the women” at the empty tomb, not named but referred to simply as “they.” They were among those who were with Jesus in Galilee and came to Jerusalem with him.
These two travelers belong to this same group. They could be any disciple — even you or me. The first day of the new Creation is all about Jesus presence on the journey itself. Like the ‘first day’, we awoke to it today – its new every morning.
Luke introduces irony when Jesus joins the two travelers, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (verse 16, italics mine). Luke is not being obtuse. They do not recognize Jesus because they are prevented from recognizing him. There is the ultimate irony, when Cleopas suggests that Jesus is the “only person in Jerusalem” who doesn’t know what has happened there on this day. (verse 18).
While some commentators seek to answer the question: Why did they not recognize him?” In practical terms, it is postulated that he had been tortured to death on a cross, and the grave for 3 days. What change would a body incur in those circumstances, and how unlikely would grieving despondent disciples care even to discern the distressing features of that stranger walking on their trail of despair. Perhaps that explains it.
But Luke tells us they were kept from seeing him. And that holy reasoning is clearer when we hear what they expected to see in Christ: “the one a1one who would redeem Israel.” Had their eyes not been kept from seeing him, would they have seized upon the persistent, nationalistic and diminished Messianic view of Jesus as the redeemer of Israel?
Their imposed blindness and the irony of their reference to Jesus’ ignorance of the impactful, fateful consequences of the day…allow us to hear those events from the experience of the disciples… who do not yet know what we know. They tell their story: of Jesus, the prophet before God and all the people; their sense of betrayal by some of their leaders; the crucifixion; and their own devastated hopes. They tell the stranger the astonishing story the women told: the body gone, and the news the angels told that he was alive. The women did not see him, however. Peter saw the empty tomb as well… but he didn’t see the risen Lord either.
Jesus, the stranger becomes their companion… proceeds to interpret the scriptures for them (verse 27). He teaches them that the news the women told should not be surprising. Jesus repetition and reminder of what they were taught may cause us to wonder how they could forget so quickly. Or it might provoke our own awareness of the need to hear what we have heard again and again. The repetition may be for us… who may be slow to see and believe the wonder of it all!
On this first day of the resurrection, Jesus’ presence would not only transform the heart of these ordinary disciples (like us), but also re-shaped their earthly values and lifestyle. That was apparent in the things they did that very day.
We are often observers of the gospel stories as a record of events that happened to people long ago. This week we are invited to use our imaginations and hear the walk to Emmaus as a prototype of our own faith journey. Where will we enter the story and how can we see own journey resonate with the travelers on the walk to Emmaus? 1)It happens here at St. Andrew’s when we recognize that in serving others, we are serving and being blessed by Christ. I’ve mentioned before how I as a young paper boy was welcomed into the church as I dropped off the paper to Dr. McLean. A cookie and a kind welcome were gifts of God I enjoyed at the time, but only recognized as such on reflection.
In the persistent presence, patience and everyday kindnesses of so many of the members of this church to members of my family and to others I have know over the years, in all walks of life, some believers… some not yet, you are as Christ to them. If we are discouraged and despairing about the challenges we face together at St. Andrew’s… we can remember the experience of the 2 travellers… who ever after realized the possibility of seeing the face of Christ in every stranger they met. We might consider the risk of extending hospitality in new ways here, even when the cost to us might seem great and the lifestyles or experiences of those in need or those nearby seem unlike our own. What have we to offer them? Taking the example of our risen Lord: our presence! Jesus just showed up! By gifting our time – listening to others, sharing our faith in actions and in our words, we imitate Christ.
2) We can recognize that in our worship, we see the risen Christ. The 2 disciples were the first to experience ‘where 2 or more are met together, there am I among you!” Our worship this morning is an imitation of that first day of the resurrection: our invocation and hymns and prayers are our conversation with God, the scriptures read and interpreted are the words of God… and the breaking of bread is our heart and soul-meeting with the Risen Lord.
3) We can imitate the first day activities of those Jesus and those 2 travelers: Pray for each other; show up at the events listed this week in TWASA – walk with Christ’s beloved coming and going from this church building/those coming and going from your life this week How ordinary… but how basic to the enjoyment of the new life, to friends of Jesus, sisters and brothers – together in the family of God. Taking a risk of walking with stranger… listening, offering yourself and sharing your joys and struggles … discovering the presence of Christ, being imitators of Christ to those we see. That’s how Christ spent the first day of the resurrection… and every day thereafter. Today is the first day of resurrection for us. What we need more than anything is the joy of seeing Christ in the face of one another, and spending time together growing in love, being as Christ wherever, and with whomever, our journey leads us today!
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!