Third Sunday of Easter (Luke 24:13-35)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Third Sunday of Easter + April 30, 2017
Text: Luke 24:13-35

On the road to Emmaus is another scene after the Resurrection.  It’s another way that Jesus reveals Himself to His disciples that their hope is not in vain and that all He said during His previous ministry is true.  His aim in this appearance is to speak to their hearts rather than their eyes, and fill them with a confident faith that He is risen indeed.
Easter afternoon, two disciples of Jesus are on their way to Emmaus.  Yet as they walk, they were discussing, debating, mulling over—maybe even arguing about[1]—all that had happened to their Master.  Here are some of the things they’re wrestling with and trying to fit together:
Jesus of Nazareth was a mighty prophet before God and all the people,
But the chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned.
We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.
Besides all this, it’s now the third day since this took place.
But some of the women….and an angel said: He lives
And they found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see.
This is the information they have, and they’re trying to make it all fit.
Then a stranger walks up (they are prevented from recognizing Him) and in seeming ignorance asks them about the topic of their impassioned conversation.  This prompts one of them Cleopas, to sum it all up.
Then this stranger brings clarity to their dashed hopes and scattered experiences.  He brings a clarity that comes from the Word of God, beginning with Moses and the Prophets.  You believe this Jesus was to redeem Israel, but don’t you remember what God did to redeem Israel at the Red Sea, by putting to death the firstborn sons of Egypt?[2]  Do you suppose that freedom comes without a death?  And the prophets knew this well because they lived it.  Every true prophet preached the Word but at one time or another was rejected by the people and persecuted.  In fact, they were sharing in the sufferings of the Christ they proclaimed.  But as for the Christ Himself, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied,” for God’s Holy One did not see corruption, but destroyed the covering of death which is over all people.[3]
By then, they had arrived at Emmaus and the stranger said He had to be going on.  But they prevailed upon him: “Abide with us for it is toward evening and the day is far spent.”  In other words, don’t go, we want to hear more.  Your words lift us up out of hopelessness and make Moses and the Prophets clear to us.
So, the stranger stays with them for the evening meal.  Yet at the meal, He does something out of the ordinary, even for a pious Israelite two days after the Passover.  “He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.”  He acted as host, head of the household in the liturgy of the Passover now fulfilled.  This was not any common meal—it was the Lord’s Supper.  At this point, God opened their eyes and they recognized who this stranger was: it was Jesus, risen from the dead, the true Christ, and their Savior.
But at this point, He disappeared from their sight.  Why?  They no longer needed it to be with Jesus.  They were held back from recognizing Him while He spoke and up until the breaking of the bread.  But when God opened the way for faith to recognize Him, He took away the vision.
Their reaction to this is also one of faith.  They reflect on their experience on the road: Our hearts burned as He spoke to us and opened the Scriptures.  As He opened the Scriptures, we saw Him in a way that eyes could not.  When He took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to us, this was Him as well.  Then, they go and tell this to their brothers, so that they would also have reason to rejoice.
This is comforting news for us, His brothers today.
Last week we heard Jesus say to Thomas blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.  It would be troubling if that’s all Jesus said to future generations of Christians.  We believe in a God we haven’t seen.  Where is he?  I don’t know.  Can you hear his voice?  I’m not sure.  We would be left to search for where Jesus was and wonder if our “burning in the heart” was really Jesus or some bad pizza we had the night before.
This visit from Jesus to Cleopas and the other disciple is good for us to hear, because it shows us with certainty where Jesus is found.  Jesus comes to you in the Word of God, where God opens your heart to understand the Scriptures and all things concerning Christ.  This is different from having a just a head knowledge of the Bible.  You can know the Bible in this way and still go to hell.  Jesus said to the Jews, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”[4]  God gives His Holy Spirit so that you would know Christ through the Scriptures.  Even this is knowing more than the facts that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, etc.  It’s more than knowing that this was done for an abstract group of people—for us men and for our salvation.  The Holy Spirit brings you to know that all of this was for you, so that you can say “I believe.”  This is the Good News that causes our hearts to burn within us, that even when I was lost in blindness, perplexed about what God was doing, uncertain whether He cares, that He sent His Gospel to me that I might be His own and have something to cling to in this world of change and chance!
It’s doubly comforting for us disciples today that Jesus not only comes to us in the Word, but also with accompanying signs of His Good News (what we call the Sacraments).  In these, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, He takes the benefits of His birth, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension, and delivers it in physical means.  Baptism is a washing of rebirth because it is the water by which you are crucified with Christ and raised with Him, adopted as God’s child, and given the gift of His Holy Spirit.[5]  The Lord’s Supper is more than a ceremonial meal of remembrance because Jesus Himself says, “This is My Body given for you; this is My Blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”[6]  The Words of Institution make this Food one that brings forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
You are blessed this day, because Jesus is among us to bless us.  Though our eyes are kept from seeing Him resurrected and glorified, God has opened our hearts and revealed Him to us in the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread this day.  Therefore, let us pray:
Abide with us, Lord, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent. Abide with us and with Your whole Church. Abide with us at the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world. Abide with us with Your grace and goodness, with Your holy Word and Sacrament, with Your strength and blessing. Abide with us when the night of affliction and temptation comes upon us, the night of fear and despair, the night when death draws near. Abide with us and with all the faithful, now and forever. (LSB 257)  Amen.
[1] The verbs used for their discussion denote debate or passionate discussion.  Jesus perceives this too in verse 17 with a word that literally means “throwing back and forth” to describe their conversation.
[2] Exodus 11:4-7, Exodus 13:14-16
[3] Isaiah 25:6-9
[4] John 5:39
[5] Titus 3:5, Romans 6:3-5
[6] Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

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