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May 4, 2014 - Luke 24.13-35

“On the Road Again”

Luke 24:13-35

May 4, 2014

 

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

 

I saw where a restaurant manager in Philadelphia on the Discovery Channel got arrested by the “fitness police.”  She needed to learn how to “take care of herself and her needs.”

Our culture is not short on things targeted to meet our needs – even if we don’t really need them.  Any good salesman – especially those that sell high-ticket items – intentionally try to sympathize with your needs – and you need their product.  Any good car salesman can get you licking the paint off of the bumper of a new Toyota 4 Runner, but it takes a little bit extra skill to close the deal.  “So what do you do for a living?  You look like you run your own business.  Oh really?  I have a cousin that does that.  Well, I’ll tell you, someone like you that works as hard as you do deserves a little bit of comfort, you think?  You want something that says you are a person that deserves to be noticed. Frankly, you deserve this vehicle just as much as anybody else in the world.  Here, take it for a drive.”  There is a truck commercial out now that says “It’s not more than you need, just more than your used to.”  In order to sell us something, Madison Avenue creates our needs for us, and we are convinced that we NEED THINGS, things that humans never even heard of 100 years ago, much less needed.

The Search for Self-Fulfillment is a seductive one.  It’s what we really want.  Every person has this built in tension between themselves and those around them.  But as Christians we are told to deny ourselves and follow Christ, but we have this human need to put ourselves first.  It’s easy for the church to fall into the same trap of being self-centered.  Its called being Egocentric.  But we are called to be not Egocentric, or self-centered, but Theo-Centric – God centered.  If our religion is to have any validity at all, then the search for self-fulfillment is nonsense. 

The thing about the search for self fulfillment is this: the search for self-fulfillment will never find anything greater than yourself.  If you want to find something greater than yourself, then you need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In our text today, we find two disciples walking down the road to Emmaus.  It is the Sunday of Jesus’ resurrection, except they don’t know that Jesus has risen from the dead.  They are completed wrapped up in their own little worlds, their sorrow, their grief, and their dashed dreams.  They do not even notice when Jesus calmly walked up beside them and asked what they were talking about.  This is downright comical.  Well, of course they saw him – they talked to him – but they did not recognize that it was Jesus. 

Hold on.  They didn’t recognize it was he?  How is that?  Well, the disciples are often accused of being dim, but they weren’t that dim.  They were blinded.  Maybe by the hand of God, but more likely God used their own self-centeredness to blind them.  They were so wrapped up in their own concerns, they failed to notice their Lord standing in their midst.  They were on their way to Emmaus, to get some things off of their mind, to collect their thoughts. 

Fred Buechner says that Emmaus for us is anything we do to escape from our task at hand.  He writes,

“Emmaus may be buying a new suit, a new pair of shoes, going to church, reading a second rate novel or even writing one.  Emmaus for us is anything we do to or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred: that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that men have had – ideas about love and freedom and justice – have always in time been twisted out of shape by selfish men for selfish deeds.”

The biggest obstacle to finding God is that we always seem to resort to finding ourselves instead.

The disciples were on their road to Emmaus, and their hearts were so heavy God was standing next to them and they didn’t notice.  We read this and think that it impossible, but remember that we have the benefit of living AFTER the resurrection.  Sure, they knew the tomb was empty, but that’s not proof of his resurrection.  We see it as proof because we know the truth, but an empty tomb is not proof – the living presence of Christ IS. 

Jesus asks them what they have been talking about.  He had to be snickering to himself in a loving sort of way.  “O really?  Wow.  So you fellows followed him all over Judea?  And Samaria?  Ouch, crucifixion, that’s bad.”  Then they tell him, “we thought he was the one to redeem Israel (meaning the Messiah), but now I guess it will never happen.”

You have to love what Jesus does here.  He says to them, “Well, what did you expect?  If he is the Messiah then he had to be brought down by man in order to be exalted to glory by God.  Don’t you read your Bibles?”  Then he proceeds to take them on a whirlwind tour through the scriptures beginning with the books of Moses and all the way through the prophets, showing them how each act in the history of humanity had led up to God’s action in the Messiah.  All of scripture is a record of how God was bringing his Messiah into this world. 

Their eyes were opened as never before.  They had never understood the scriptures like this before.  It took the risen Christ to open the scriptures to them this way.  The same thing is true today and bears repeating.  Scripture tells us that the Risen Christ is the sole criterion by which the Bible can be interpreted.  It takes the risen Christ to interpret the meaning of scripture.  Without Christ, this divine story does not make sense.

You see they knew all about the scriptures, by they didn’t know the scriptures.  In the same way, you can know about Jesus and not know Jesus.  He can be standing right beside you and you never know he is there, even if your head is buried in your Bible.  Jesus is a living God that is no longer in his grave.  His empty tomb is not proof that he is Alive.  HE is proof that he is alive.  The question is not “Why is the tomb empty?”  The question is “Where is He?”  If you want to prove to someone that Jesus is alive, don’t show them the empty tomb; show them that Jesus is alive in you!  Show them the impact that Jesus has had on your life.  If you have a relationship, you don’t need to see the empty tomb – He’s standing right here!  You have to be able to move beyond this traditional distant approach to Jesus to a personal experience with Him.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that the people she worked with were all Jesus to her.  She would say that this person is hungry Jesus.  This person is leper Jesus.  This person is sick Jesus.  This person is homeless Jesus.  She was right.  Refer to Matthew 25 “Whatever you have done to the least of these in my name you have done to me.”

In the same way, the people around us are Jesus.  Do you know a homeless Jesus?  Do you know an addicted Jesus?  Do you know a hurting and emotionally scarred Jesus?  Do you know a cynical and jaded Jesus?  If we don’t give them our love, then we do not love Jesus.  We can say we love Jesus, but our actions prove us wrong.  An ounce of action is worth a ton of words.

I don’t mean that as some cloying, sappy metaphor about all of us being together in this thing called life.  That’s a bunch of self-help hooey.  I am talking about the real Jesus and his own words.  He can be right next to us and we not see him.  Jesus takes it personally if we don’t treat the people he died for like we would him.  They are his children, if he gets his way, and he expects us to treat his children with love.  If you want to show me that you love me, then love my children.  It’s the same thing with Jesus.

How can we get to have that personal experience with the Risen Christ?  Look at to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.  Only his disciples get to have those moments.  He didn’t appear to anyone else.  He didn’t go to the Jerusalem Times and ask for an interview.  He didn’t come back and go up to everyone that doubted and rubs his or her nose in it.  That would have coerced or overwhelmed them into faith, and God doesn’t do that.  The ones that answered his call to discipleship were the ones that got the reward of looking up and seeing Jesus standing there.  He went to those whom He loved, to those whom had followed Him. 

If we follow Christ, If we seek first the Kingdom of God, then we get those moments of revelation where we look up and see Jesus right there the whole time.

NICU story. – First time I ever baptized someone.  I was a Chaplain Resident at University Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida.  I was called to the NICU to baptize a baby.  The parents, who were of a different Christian denomination, were on their way to the hospital.  They wanted the baby baptized because he was dying and wouldn’t last the night.  It was especially emotional for me because Becky was pregnant with Ben.  Even on the way up to the NICU, I was overwhelmed with concern for my emotional state, asking God to help me.  I got to the unit, and with help from the nurse, I got scrubbed up and gowned up in accordance with the NICU rules.  They brought me in and led me to the child.  He was about the size of half a grapefruit. His eyes were bandaged because they were not fully formed yet.  I stared at this child in the warmer.  I was overwhelmed at my responsibility for this child now at the hour of his death.  I baptized him by dipping my thumb in the water and crossing his forehead in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then I stared at him a little more.

God help this child.  I was weeping.  I was praying.  Then, as I lifted up my head and turned around – and every nurse in that unit had made a circle around the bed.  I didn’t even know they were there!  They were there the whole time and I had missed it.  All the time I am praying for God to help this baby, and ME, and there they were, gathered together for the sole purpose of baptizing this baby.  There is a word for whenever two or more people are gathered together in His name – it’s called Church – the body of Christ.  Jesus was right there with that baby – and me - the whole time.  Take a good look around you.  Is someone here that you aren’t noticing?