Easter 3A, 4/10/05
n today's continuing saga, related to the events surrounding that first Easter and the confusion it initially caused, we catch up with two Wrong Way Walkers headed home to Emmaus, with their dashed dreams. It was only a seven mile journey, at about a three hour leisurely pace. Perhaps they had plans to go back up to Jerusalem to check on their friends later; but, from their conversation it appears that they had given up any hope. They, like everyone else, were expecting Jesus to become a military messiah.
When all hope seemed lost, another walker joined them on their journey. It was Jesus Himself, but their eyes were “prevented from recognizing Him.” (v. 16, NASV) What does this mean? If they were prevented from perceiving Jesus' identity by some outside force then we could not hold them accountable for their spiritual blindness?
You may have heard of the little girl who asked the new Methodist minister if he wanted to buy a newborn puppy which was so newly born that his eyes were not yet opened. The minister asked where she attended church and she said that she was a Baptist; so he was off the hook. However, that afternoon he walked by her house going home and the little girl announced to the minister that her puppies' eyes are now opened. “My,” said the minister, “how did that happen so quickly?” The little girl responded with glee: “They have all become Methodists!”
Now back to the Emmaus Road and the spiritually blind wrong way walkers. >From the context it seems that they were simply “faithless,” as were all the other Apostles and disciples. One could assume that their ears were full of peanut butter, as the Citizens Band Radio Truckers used to describe Four Wheelers who had their C.B. Radios turned off. Yet, if this is the reason for their slowness then why would Jesus attempt to get through to them at all? Evidently, Jesus picked these two guys out because He thought they could be redeemed. Or, their opportunity to respond with faith was similar to the chance we have each time we worship and are able to hear and believe the Word. But sometimes we are seemingly walking the wrong way with our eyes closed, and have our radios and cell phones turned off.
So, Jesus gave them another chance. He began to explain why the Messiah would have to suffer and be killed in order to fulfill God's plan of redemption for lost humanity. Indeed, Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament, showing how the Divine Atonement required the shed blood of the Lamb of the New Covenant. If Christ was going to be the sacrifice for our sins He would have to be led to slaughter. However, the New Testament Good News was that Christ would be Resurrected after three days dead. Jesus had told his followers these same things during His preaching ministry; however, it was too extraordinary for them to get it.
In verse 26 Jesus begins to explain the core of redemption, The Atonement, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things…?” He must have sparked their hope because they encouraged the stranger to spend the night with them in Emmaus. We could say that their understanding began when they opened their minds spiritually to know more of what they could not catch on to intellectually.
When they went into the house for supper and reclined on cushions, with a central short table in the middle, Jesus took bread, broke it and gave it to them. In that event, “Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.” Rembrandt captured this moment of startling expressions of recognition and amazement. We have all seen copies of “Supper at Emmaus,” painted by the Dutch Master in 1648. I hope to see it up close and in person at the ‘Musee du Louvre' in Paris , later this month. I might just have to stand there a while staring at this beloved scene of the event that has opened a new viaduct for spiritual fervency in our souls.
The clear reason for inclusion of this favorite Post-Resurrection text in Luke's Gospel is that it is the precursor of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was extended to the entire Church. The Apostles received the fresh Breath of the Holy Spirit, from the Resurrected Savior, in the Locked Room, later on that first Easter evening. Now we hear that Cleopas and his unnamed friend exchanged the same feeling of how their “hearts were burning within them during the time that Jesus was with them.” (v. 32) This same feeling is normal for believers everywhere whenever they feel the Holy Spirit's presence. Our Founder, John Wesley, the Oxford Fellow in New Testament and a Priest of the Anglican Church, finally came to an inward experience of the Spirit's presence after a long search that had led him as a missionary to Georgia where he befriended a group of pietistic Germans who consequently led him to an assurance of salvation. Many of us have memorized his vivid words,
“I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust Christ and that He had forgiven my sin, even mine.” On a good day, we Methodists are called, “The People of the Religion of the Heart Strangely Warmed!”
This Atonement that Jesus was attempting to explain to the “Two Wrong Way Walkers,” can really only be understood after it has been experienced. They now knew that Christ had died for them and that vicariously his shed blood had already atoned for their estrangement from God.
That third person who joined them on their journey has caught up with us too. Note that the first thing they did was walk back to Jerusalem . Jesus, quite literally, turned their lives around. Their new direction came from the new fire in their souls, not so much from the information about the atonement; they just knew that Christ was alive and living in their hearts. Is this story not similar to our stories too? “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is ‘Ours, O what a foretaste of Glory Divine!”
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor