Good morning. I hope you are safe and warm on this wintry Wednesday. There is no school here in Boone County, West Virginia, therefore there will not be Wednesday evening services tonight. This, of course, means that we will have to fix dinner at home. (We serve a Wednesday evening meal at church) Oh well, by this weekend they are predicting spring like weather. Today, we will conclude our study of the Gospel of Luke. *Which means tomorrow we begin John' Gospel. Yesterday, we looked at the crucifixion of Jesus. Now, obviously after the crucifixion came the resurrection. I wont spend a lot of time today looking at the resurrection, but I will throughout the remainder of the New Testament work that we do. (Especially Paul's first letter to the Corinthians) So, we will definitely talk about it a lot. We have already looked at the women who went to the tomb and found it to be empty. They, then, told the apostles. (As it is worded in Luke 24:10) John's account of the reaction of the men "they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense" (Luke 24:11) is very similar. John goes into more detail, however, therefore we will look more at the story in John's gospel.
Well, the men simply did not believe. We are told that when Peter looked into the empty tomb "he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wandering to himself what had happened." (Luke 24:12) The story then moves away from Peter and away from the women. Luke then gives us a scene that we do not find in any of the other gospels.
"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him." (Luke 24:13-16)
This is what is referred to as the Road to Emmaus. This is interesting in that they are kept from recognizing Jesus. Who were these two individuals? Well, we are eventually told that one of them is named Cleopas (verse 18). The verse almost without saying it, implies that God kept them from recognizing Jesus. Jesus asks them: "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" (Luke 24:17) Umm...how would you respond if you were talking to a friend and a stranger came up and asked you, "Hey, what are you two talking about?" We are told that "they stood still, their faces downcast." (verse 17b)
My sons used to watch a show called "Undercover Boss." In this program the CEO, or founder of a company would dress up in disguise and act like a new employee at his/her company. While attempting to work (they struggled to do the work) they got to know the employees. (Always a story where they were struggling financially, or with family, or....) (I always thought it would be interesting if they showed the employees spitting in the food, dealing with hateful customers, sleeping on the job, etc.) Anyhow, at the end the boss would reveal his/her self. This scene plays out like a scene from "Undercover Boss." The two individual proceed to tell Jesus what transpired in Jerusalem. Then, Jesus speaks (still without revealing his identity)
"He said to them, 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself." (Luke 24:25-27)
Wow! That must have been one long sermon! Jesus still did not reveal to these folks who he was. They eventually arrive at the village which was the destination of these two. But, "Jesus acted as if he were going farther." (Luke 24:28) Again, these two still do not know that this "stranger in town" is Jesus. I wonder, where was Jesus going? We are not told. Oh well, these two invite him to "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." (Luke 24:29b) Did they have any indication that this was Jesus? No! For all they knew, Jesus was dead. Who did they believe this man to be? We don't know. I can just hear them, however; "I don't know who he is, but he sure does know his Bible." "Yeah, but how can someone who knows scriptures that well have his head in the sand and not know what just happened in Jerusalem?"
The invitation to Jesus to spend the night is somewhat reminiscent of hospitality shown to strangers (especially prophets) in the Old Testament. Jesus, once inside sat at table with these individuals. "He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight." (Luke 24:30-31) Wow! Notice, Jesus never once told them who he was, he was revealed to them as their eyes were opened. Oh my! How does Jesus come to us? Does Jesus come to us during our brokenness declaring, "O.K., cheer up! I'm here! Problem solved!?" Or does Jesus come to us through the reading of scripture? The breaking of bread? The tender touch of a caring friend? The smile from a stranger? He comes to us in many ways. The challenge, often, is for us to discover him in the midst of it all. *This is one reason we United Methodists open the Lord's Table to all. This is the place where eyes can be opened and hearts touched.
O.K., Jesus is alive! He appears to the disciples. They think they have just seen a ghost. I'll say more about this experience in John. Luke's Gospel ends where it began; In Jerusalem, in the temple. Luke ends with the ascension of Jesus. The Book of Acts will pick up where Luke left off. (Again, Luke wrote Luke and Acts)
Tomorrow we will begin the Gospel of John. This gospel will be quite different than the three we have just discussed. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels. There are similarities that run throughout each. John stands alone. This study will be amazing. Join me tomorrow. -Pastor Rick