Sermon on Luke 24:13-35, 3rd Sunday of Easter 2020, "Emmaus Road"

Grace, mercy, and shalom to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 
Last week we heard how Jesus re-entered the lives of His disciples in their fear and uncertainty, by bringing His peace or shalom to them by His presence. Today, we walk the Emmaus Road with two disciples, outside the inner group of 11, but clearly recognized and welcomed by the 11 whom they ran to after this encounter. 
Jesus finds the Emmaus disciples, Cleopas and an anonymous disciple on a sorrowful journey home. Disillusionment and confusion filled the air as they talked about the events of that weekend. Heaviness filled their hearts. Have you been on a journey like that? Maybe recently? With that choking feeling in your throat or a heaviness in your heart? You know that familiar place down Emmaus Road. And it’s so perfect that God hid Jesus’ identity from them, while He walked along with them. Jesus listened and talked to them unnoticed, before the “big reveal” in the breaking of the bread, which we’ll talk about later. But it gave them a chance to explore this all with Jesus. 
Teachers often do a “check on learning” with their class, to review and see where the students are missing something in new instruction. Jesus does a check on learning on the Emmaus Road, when He asks them what happened. It’s worth a side note to say that the disciples were amazed that ANYONE in Jerusalem could possibly NOT KNOW what had happened. These very public events were the talk of the town. I mean, who hasn’t heard there’s a global coronavirus epidemic going on? Where have you been? But for this check on learning, Jesus pretends not to know what everybody in Jerusalem knows, so He (or really we) can see where the gaps in their learning are. 
As it turns out, like earlier times when Jesus asked about who people said He was, the answer again was--”Jesus was a mighty prophet--mighty in deed and word.” But Jesus was so much more than just a prophet, miracle worker, and teacher! Peter had gotten the right answer on one key occasion: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Last week we heard Thomas reach the same correct conclusion after seeing Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” So for the Emmaus disciples, their ‘god’ was still too small. Their Jesus was still too small. Seems like a perpetual problem for disciples--we are continually underestimating God, and we fill our hearts with doubts and worries, when God is working silently behind the scenes. Sometimes we fear God has gone AWOL! Where is He? Unbeknownst to us, God is doing more than we can ask or imagine--God gives us His Word on that!
Bigger than their plans or hopes for the prophet Jesus, the “real size” Jesus had gone and redeemed Israel AND the world, just as the prophet Isaiah had promised. The Emmaus disciples didn’t get the full picture yet, but Jesus was beginning to show them. How would the Christ reach His glory? They seemed to fear that the shooting star of Jesus’ glory had sputtered and faded out. They did not see that He was the Bright Morning Star, Risen from the dead to His full glory! They did not see (yet) that the Christ FIRST had to SUFFER all these things, and THEN come into His glory. 
Don’t we have similar fears, when our ‘god’ is too small, and we forget the power, the glory, and the wisdom of Jesus? But we equally forget that Christ first had to suffer and then come into His glory. We often want to skip right past suffering in our life, and get straight to the glory. But there’s a cross, a journey, and suffering between here and glory. But we’re not walking the Emmaus Road alone. 
As they retell the story, the disciples can’t believe the women’s story about the empty tomb and the vision of the angels that Jesus was alive. Why was it so hard to believe? Was it again because their god was too small? How often do we disbelieve the message of joy? We find reason in our circumstances to doubt God’s message of joy. And of course the Bible doesn’t teach a careless “I’ll believe anything I’m told” attitude. The Bible is hard on foolishness or gullibility. It stresses discernment--testing and examining our ideas and beliefs against God’s Word, and rejecting what is false. True belief walks the solid middle ground between absolute skepticism and blind gullibility. True belief is grounded in Jesus, the Risen Lord. True belief goes where the evidence and God’s Word points. 
So Jesus points out the record, long before written in the prophets, detailing all He would endure. For many centuries these prophecies had been written, but no one could have been said to fulfill them all. And Jesus led the Emmaus disciples on an epic Bible study, going through old familiar scriptures with them, from Moses to the prophets (meaning the whole OT) and showing them how it all spotlighted and shone forth Jesus, the promised Messiah! Since He took a special focus on the necessity of Christ’s sufferings, He must have crossed through Isaiah 53 at least, and maybe Psalm 22 and parts of Zechariah. But wherever He took them in the Old Testament, it always pointed to Jesus. This is hugely important to how we read the Bible. Jesus shows that the Scripture is all about Him! He is the central figure in whom the whole story finds it’s reference, it’s climax, theme and resolution! 
So when we open the Bible, we should be expecting to find what He showed them--that all the Scriptures testify of Him (John 5:39). And we will never fully understand the Scriptures if we don’t see Him at the heart and center.  
2 Corinthians 3 comments on this. In 3:14ff, Paul talks about how those who read the old covenant without the knowledge of Christ, read it like they have a veil over their eyes. With a gauzy piece of fabric over your eyes, true appearances are disguised, but you may be able to detect shapes and outlines. So Paul says that only through Christ is the veil lifted or taken away. “Yes, to this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” (15-16). So, without Christ the Old Testament is a mystery to those who would try to interpret it. But in Christ, our eyes are opened, the image is clear, and we begin to see how all of Scripture is interpreted in Christ. 
That doesn’t make you instantly into a perfect interpreter of the Bible--nothing worth achieving comes without study or practice and challenge--but you have the interpretative key that makes sense of everything. You have the “puzzle-box-top” to see the image of the suffering and glorious Jesus, the King Christ, center of Scripture’s story. Without Christ, you have handfuls of puzzle pieces, or partial pictures, but you miss the essence of the message. And with Christ, you can see and know the main message, even while some things may still remain puzzling to you. Thank God we’re not saved by our perfect recall of Scripture or knowing every detail or mystery. Yet all Scripture is profitable for us, because it’s all God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But Christ is always the heart and message of the Word.
The second part of the story happens at a meal in their home. There, in a signature action of Jesus, He takes bread, blesses it and breaks it--and immediately in this action, their eyes are opened. God chose THAT as the point to reveal Jesus’ identity to them. This is one of many reasons why we make so much of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus Himself joined His Supper to His death on the cross, and said that by receiving the bread, we receive His body--by receiving the wine, we receive His blood. 1 Corinthians 10:16 gets even more explicit than that: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”  “Participation” here  is the greek word “koinonia”. The word “communion.” To participate, to share in, to have in common with each other. We participate in the body and blood of Jesus--placed in our hands and mouths--a mystery too deep to explain, but a mystery Jesus teaches and gives to us. Our God is not too small to do this miracle and bring forward to us, gift-wrapped in the sacrament, His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins and the comfort of our bodies and souls.
 The world can’t understand the Lord’s Supper. It was mocked by the ancients as cannibalism, and by moderns as juice and crackers. Who can measure or comprehend the sin that Jesus’ bore on the cross? The price He paid? But in this meal, without pomp or pride or pretense, He wraps up and brings forward to us His gift--His life lived and died and risen for you. His life to bridge the gap and restore the relationship from God to you. His presence to cross the boundary from heaven to earth so you taste His life, so that He dwells in you! You become partakers, participants, communicants in His body. 
The same scriptures warn us that it can go good or bad for us when we take the Lord’s Supper, depending on whether we come prepared by faith, preparation, and self-examination or not. It is not safe for the unbeliever, the unrepentant, those holding grudges and unforgiveness, or those who simply don’t understand yet. And so we make the effort to prepare each recipient to receive it for their own good. And that’s not a one time preparation at your confirmation--it should be an ongoing life of self-examination and discipleship. But it is given for our blessing, for all who are ready to receive it in faith, it is a great gift. 
Stepping back, we see two main things coming out of this Road to Emmaus encounter--One is Jesus as the Key and Center of all the Scriptures. Two is Jesus made known in the breaking of the Bread. It’s no accident that “Word and Sacrament” are practically a Lutheran motto, we talk about them so much. Those two features jump out of the Emmaus Road story. And Christian worship has hinged on Word and Sacrament all the way back to Acts 2. Obviously we have a special situation these days. A corona special. We’re temporarily forced online for worship. But remember what I said last week, it’s ultimately Jesus’ word and promise that unites us, not technology. Technology is a means, but our unity is in Jesus’ Name. For a while we are holding off on Communion, which I regret, but hopefully soon we may be able to figure out a way to safely bring to your doors, with minimal, safe interaction, or by some other method. But until we can celebrate again in person--may we grow in our hunger for the good things that Christ has given to the church, and long for them and love them more. Meanwhile, we do not forsake gathering together, but join our hearts, our voices, and our prayers in worship of the Risen Lord Jesus. In Him, we are the body of Christ! Amen

Sermon Talking Points:
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  1. Since Cleopas and the other Emmaus disciple were not among the twelve, who might they have been? Luke 10:1. 
  2. What purpose(s) did Jesus have for joining them on this walk, and keeping His identity hidden from them (at first)? As they told Him about the events, what were the gaps in their knowledge? What was insufficient about how they understood Jesus so far? Cf. Matthew 16:16; Isaiah 49:6; 1 John 2:2. What do their remarks indicate about the public nature of the events of Good Friday, and the extent to which news about it had already gone out? Cf. Acts 26:26 and 1:3. 
  3. True faith needs a reliable and solid object to trust in--not a rumor or legend, but the truly Risen Lord Jesus. How does faith walk between the two opposite “ditches” of absolute skepticism (I won’t believe anything unless I see it for myself) and a blind gullibility (I will believe anything, even without any evidence for it)? What evidence did Jesus provide that He was not a ghost, and was the same Risen Lord that they had known before? Luke 24, John 20. 
  4. Jesus taught the Emmaus disciples that the prophets taught the Messiah must suffer. Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and Zechariah 11-12 are perhaps the most obvious passages that teach this, but Jesus walked them from “Moses and all the prophets...interpret[ing] to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27). THIS IS AN ABSOLUTELY VITAL VERSE: It shows that Christ is the center and message of all the Bible!!! What was the impact on the disciples, having Jesus open the Scriptures to them in this new way? Luke 24:32, 44-45. What happens when we read the Scriptures, with or without Christ as the KEY to understanding? 2 Corinthians 3:14-18. 
  5. The two disciples’ invitation to Jesus brings them into their home for a meal. What was it (do you think) about this moment, that revealed to them who Jesus was? Why did they later reflect that “He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread?” (Luke 24:35). What could God be teaching us through this? 
  6. What does Jesus bring to us in the Lord’s Supper, in terms of spiritual benefits, and also what is physically taking place? 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:23-32. What does this tell us about taking it properly (for our benefit) or warnings about taking it for our harm? How should we properly prepare?
  7. Luke 24:13-35 emphasizes Jesus at the center of God’s Word and also the Sacrament (the Lord’s Supper). How are those twin foci the heart of Christian worship, dating back to the earliest days of the church? Acts 2:42-47.

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