The Road to Emmaus
Our gospel tells us today of two disciples on their way to Emmaus, roughly 7 miles from Jerusalem. They were discussing the death and resurrection of Jesus as they walked along, and for some reason they did not recognise the stranger who joined them on the road. It was Jesus himself.
When he asks them what they are discussing, they seem downhearted.
They had such high hopes that Jesus would redeem Israel, instead he was put to death, and now they were confused, because there were reports that he had been seen alive.
By their response it is clear that they can't understand how it is that this stranger doesn't know what's been going on.
Cf London visit next week, if I told someone I was hoping to meet the Queen mum, they would react with the very same question of amazement, "Where have you been that you don't know?"
Then Jesus himself explains the scriptures to them, how all was meant to be just as it happened.
He reproaches them for being so slow to believe all that the prophets had spoken. They persuade him to stay at the end of their journey and it is only when this stranger breaks bread, that they realise who it is!
Such is their excitement they hurry the seven miles back to Jerusalem.. rather a perilous journey as the darkness sets in.
They were spiritually blind and now they see!
They were empty and confused, and now they are wonderfully alive in their faith. Their hearts are on fire to tell the others!
In our first reading today, we also find people who have been spiritually blind, the first converts at Pentecost, being told by Peter that it was they who crucified Jesus, and they had not been able to see it at the time, and that they had killed the Messiah himself.
They too are amazed and confused. As the truth dawns upon them, they cry out to be saved, and three thousand that day repent and believe.
The wonderful message in these readings is that even though these people were wrong or spiritually blind or just confused, they were marvellously restored to sight…
not condemned for eternity for their ignorance or lack of faith.
In repenting or finally realising their mistake, they encounter an indescribable joy and a new relationship with their Lord.
Right sightedness and right action becomes their way out, once their errors are realised.
However the scary message in these passages is the fact that godly, sensible, logical, intelligent people were so short sighted, in the first place, so blind to what God was doing in their midst.
The disciples 'on the road to Emmaus were slow to believe claims that Jesus had risen, they were blind to God's eternal plan being worked out. They failed to see the prophecies coming true in front of their own eyes.
Perhaps they HADN'T known the ancient scriptures very well, who knows.
I wonder if prophecies were being fulfilled in our time about Jesus eventual return to earth, would we realise what was happening?
SECONDLY they were very preoccupied, their minds were very busy, so much so that they failed to recognise Jesus, when he was only
a few metres away.
Might it be that we don't recognise Christ in others, because busyness and preoccupation fills our minds too?
Then what about those people on the day of Pentecost?
These were Jewish who HAD known scripture very well.
They knew that God did not allow his people to work on the Sabbath day, and Jesus had broken the rules about the Sabbath time and again.
They knew that God did not allow the touching of the unclean or the dead, and Jesus had broken that rule.
They knew that God was the only one who could forgive sins. Jesus had gone against that law too!
AND their common sense, their gut feeling told them that a man crucified on the tree was cursed,God didn't save him. Therefore he had to be an imposter!
They lived by the letter of the law, and they rigidly and proudly stuck to the letter.
Yet… Jesus was raised and they had been wrong.
I must ask the question therefore, because it bothers me…
Is it possible today, that our interpretations of scripture are imperfect, and rather than live by the law of the Spirit, and the law of what we see the Spirit blessing in our day and age, that we too might be guilty of living by the letter of the law?
We can be so quick to condemn others, and judge them,
Look at the church's treatment of women; or homosexuals; or divorced people; coloured people…
There has been so much 'ungrace' in the history of the church.
Some of the early Fathers even taught that we should despise ourselves! Some spend a lifetime living in condemnation!
Might we, because we have not loved deeply enough, have got it wrong?
'What if' we are still getting it wrong?
So what do we do to make absolutely sure we're right sighted.
Let's go back to our bible readings this morning to find the answer.
The disciples at Emmaus
Invited Jesus in, to stay and sup with them.
They wanted to be further enlightened. They wanted more of his wisdom, more of that warmth they felt when he spoke to them.
Once he is inside the bodies we inhabit, there is no room for darkness, lack of love, resentment, ignorance..
He must take up residence in us.
By this will all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
And … love one another as yourself!
Do we hold up a mirror that reflects to others the depth of the love Jesus has for them?
Dwight L Moody once said,
Of 100 people, one will read the bible, the ninety nine will read the Christian!
Nicky Cruz conversion…. I ain't afraid of you no more, I can see you've got love man, I can see it in your eyes!
Secondly they recognised him in the breaking of the bread.
Do we at our Eucharistic really and truly recognise Jesus in our personal prayers, in our attitude to worship, in our appreciation of his sacrifice for us, or have we allowed this marvellous meal we attend to have become dulled by familiarity or routine?
Priest we once reassured his people that sometimes in the act of worship our minds might on occasion wonder… he said
"Don't worry, turn that thought into a prayer, and simply return to worship again."
I remember finding that really useful at the time, when I first began to attend the C of E.
Finally with hearts burning within them , they run rejoicing to tell the good news to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.
When was the last time our hearts burned within us?
I'd like you to listen to a piece of music that might have that effect on you…