"Are You Jesus?"

Luke 24: 13 - 35 Are You Jesus? April 28, 2019

 

Last week on Easter, we heard Mary’s story of the resurrection. She went to the tomb when it was still dark. She isn’t connived of anything until she turns and hears Jesus say her name. Then, Mary runs to tell the disciples: “I have seen the Lord!”

This week, we learn the story of how Cleopas and a friend, experience the resurrected Christ. We don’t know anything about them. We only know they were in their own kind of darkness. They were among the many who followed Jesus around Galilee and they would become one of the hundreds who would experience him the days after the crucifixion.

 

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma′us, about seven miles[d] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cle′opas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, 29 but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us[e] while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

 

There are some stories in the Bible where we have to strain to understand what’s going on. But, we don’t have to here, do we? Two people are walking along and talking about the death of someone they love. This is something we know about it.

Three years ago, I was the Executive Presbyter in West Virginia. I had only been there a few weeks when I received news of 29 coal miners trapped in the Upper Big Branch Mine. I drove over to be with the families of the miners. I can remember when we finally got news that all 29 had perished in mines, I could hear the voices of the men walking to Emmaus, echoing in the voices in of the families. Just like the two disciples had prayed for a different outcome: “....we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.” When the sad news came in that none of them survived, we could’ve heard them say, “We had hoped....” So, some stories in the Bible we don’t understand. This one we do.

 

Luke says they don’t recognize Jesus at first, which makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean we the truth is we DON’T recognize God when we are disappointed. We see God in good things, the birth of a baby, a beautiful sunset, but when we are hurt, angry disappointed, we don’t see God. At least not until - afterwards, when we look back, maybe then we see how God was there.

Someone once said, “We live life forward, but we understand it looking back.” Has that happened to you? When it’s all over, we look back, and then we remember the people who supported us, the strangers who provided, the mysterious strength God seemed to give us. Maybe we didn’t know it then, but later, we understood.

Well, that’s what happened to the disciples. It wasn’t until AFTER Jesus was gone they said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn while he talked to us on the road?” Our grieving ears are deaf even when God is right there.

I remember a FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE newspaper cartoon. The cartoon is about a husband and wife and their three kids. One cartoon shows Mike, the teenage son, slumped over the kitchen table, looking sad. He is thinking to himself: “I feel so weird. I wish I could talk to someone who really knows me. Someone who could tell me it’s going to be OK. I wish someone would come up and say, “What’s wrong, Mike?” Then, I would tell them how I feel.”

About that time Mike’s mom walks into the room and says, “What’s wrong, Mike?” He says, “Oh, nothing.”

That’s how it is. The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. We probably wouldn’t either.

 

Here is where I want you to open your Bible. I believe if we look at this story long enough, we are going to see something very familiar.

You know how they used to have those pictures where if you looked at them long enough you could see something else in them? Maybe you would see the face of Jesus or something like that? Remember those? I don’t know what they were called but they used to be real popular. I hated them. I never could see the picture. I’d wonder, why have a picture where people would look at it and feel as dumb as I did? Or, maybe I didn’t want it there because all of them would see the picture of Jesus and since I didn’t, I would just feel like dumb!

In any case, something hidden here Luke wants us to see. Luke is trying to tell us something by the very structure of the story. So, open your Bible.

First off, Luke points out the specific day they are meeting. What day is it? Sunday. Hmm. Where do people go to on Sunday to talk about faith?

Next, we have these two people grousing about their disappointment. So, where might people go on a Sunday to confess their disappointment in life? I guess there are lots of places people could go, but there is one answer I am looking for. Yes, Sunday - Worship.

Reminds me of the time a visiting pastor was asked to lead the Children’s Time. Well, the kids are all up there by the pastor and he says to the kids, “What is little, gray, furry and like to collect nuts.” After a long silence, one little kid said, “Well, I know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”

So, yes, I believe Luke may be wanting us to think of Sunday and worship. Believers get together. We confess how we have failed in life or how life has failed us. We share our unmet expectations and our unhealed grief. Then, we have Communion. We break the bread, as Luke says, and, if we are blest, we might just recognize Jesus.

 

There are many ways to interpret this passage from Luke. The walk to Emmaus is a wonderful story, but one way is to hear the invitation from Luke to come together in worship.

There are going to be times when we will feel like these two disciples. Luke says they were walking AWAY from Jerusalem. And Jerusalem was the place of faith. It was like they were turning their backs on faith and walking away. They were leaving it all behind, leaving the temple, the presbytery meetings, the pot lucks, the committee work, the whole religious thing. They had had enough of it all. They had lived and breathed the faith and what had it gotten them? No sooner had they gotten to know and love Jesus, than he was taken away from them. No sooner had they begun to believe that God was in heaven and all’s right with the world - and then their hearts are broken.

 

I think the not-so-hidden message from Luke is about us on any given Sunday. The Emmaus story is the story of worship: we gather, we doubt, we cry, we pray, we sing, we even share, and, by God’s grace, we may just realize, Jesus is there.

Maybe, the truth is, worship will not always end with a personal conversation with Jesus, but then again, maybe it isn’t supposed to? I remember hearing about two members talking. The one said, “I can’t remember one sermon I have ever heard – if we can’t remember them, what good are they?!” The other fellow, “I can’t recall what I had for dinner last week and forget last week, but something tells me, I did eat something it was important, even if I don’t remember what it was!” Just because we do not have an earth-quaking experience, doesn’t mean our time here is unimportant.

There is an invitation here to join a church, go to worship. Walk with others. Share our hurts. Remember faith. Break the bread. Be vulnerable. Because if we do that, if we open ourselves to God, God may just come out of hiding.

I think that is part of worship, really. Worship is an invitation to us to come out of hiding long enough to be found by him or find him when he is near. And, who knows? Maybe we will be the ones to help someone else find Jesus?

 

I heard about four travelers who were rushing through an airport to catch their plane. As they were running, one of them knocked over a table on which a girl was selling pottery jars. Since they were already late, they kept running. Just as they were about to board the plane, one of them decided to go back and help the girl. When he got there the girl was on the ground looking confused. He discovered she was blind. Some of the jars were broken. He helped her clean up and then said to her, “Here’s $50 to cover the cost of whatever was broken.” As he walked away, the girl called to him, “Mister,” she said, “Are you Jesus?”

Journal For Preachers, Paul Scott Wilson, Easter, 1996, p.19

 

I pray as we leave here today, we may have a moment, which is so powerful, so sweet, so tender or moving, that we find ourselves wondering if Jesus just came near?

I pray as we leave here today, God may use us so others may wonder as well: “Are you Jesus?”

 

TO GOD BE THE GLORY. FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.

 

Rev. Dr. Stephen Melton