Life-changing walk—The Road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-35
Have you ever had a surprising encounter with someone? Tell story of Eddie George—about a year ago, I was in the Chicago airport waiting to come home. It was a quiet Sunday evening, and I was sitting off to the side with one other woman. I was reading, but noticed out of the corner of my eye that a man had come to join us. After a while, the other woman pulled us into a conversation—the usual: where were we going, where had we been, etc. The man told us about a restaurant he owned in Columbus, and invited us to check it out if we were in the area. After about an hour, a college-aged girl came up to us, and she was really excited. She said, “Are you Eddie George?” (Show Pics of Eddie George) He said that he was, and then looked at us and smiled. The name, “Eddie George” didn’t mean anything to the lady and me, but the whole atmosphere in the airport lobby changed. People came up to get his autograph, and everyone was excited that they got to meet this important person. Apparently, Eddie George was a Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State. He played for the Tennessee Titans and even played in the Super Bowl.
My encounter with Eddie George was surprising, but not life-changing. Our scripture lesson for today is about a surprising encounter that actually changed lives. It’s found in Luke 24:13-35, and it takes place on Easter morning. Two of Christ’s followers were on their way home from Jerusalem. One man’s name was Cleopas, and the other may have been his wife or another relative. These two were on their way home to a town called Emmaus, which was about a 7 mile journey from Jerusalem. They were discussing the events that had taken place throughout the past few days— they were grieving the loss of Jesus, who was their friend, and they thought he was their Messiah. The crucifixion was horrific, and their grief as a follower of Christ must have been profound. And, that very morning, the women came back and told them that Jesus’ body wasn’t in the tomb. Angels had told them that he was alive! The fact that they were on their way home and not in Jerusalem looking for Jesus tells us that they were not sure what to believe. These two travelers were experiencing heartbreak and confusion!
The Heart Breaking Experience (Luke 24:13-24)
While they were caught up in their conversation and questions, Scripture tells us that Jesus came up and walked along with them. Verse 16 tells us that Cleopas and his friend were unable to recognize Jesus. We aren’t sure if they were too caught up in their circumstances or if there was some supernatural reason, but they thought it was a stranger. Jesus came along side of them and asked this question:
17-18He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"
They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"
It’s important to remember that Luke used a clever literary device called irony when he wrote this. He let us as readers know something that the people in the story didn’t—something very important! So, while we are surprised that Cleopas would talk to Jesus like this, we have to remember that he didn’t know. Cleopas was so upset and incredulous that this stranger didn’t know what had happened. Cleopas talked to Jesus like he was clueless, but it was because he was so caught up in his own grief that he thought everyone should have known! And, quite honestly, he acted like many of us when we face hard times. How often do we question how truly aware Christ is? When bad things happen, we wonder how this could be if Christ is really with us. We begin to question Christ’s presence and even his existence—and we often wonder how much he really knows or cares.
But, the truth is: Christ is with us on our journey—no matter what our circumstances are. Christ is present.
The Heart-Searching Experience (Luke 24:25-30)
Christ seemed to understand that the events of the past few days were hard to believe. So, Jesus mildly reprimanded Cleopas and his friend—he called them thick-headed and slow-hearted! But, then Jesus began to explain all that had happened. He reminded Cleopas and his friend in Verse 25, “the Messiah had to suffer and only then could he enter into his glory.” Jesus began to walk through the Scriptures—the whole Old Testament—pointing out how the Scriptures referred to him. Can you imagine hearing The Story of God through Christ’s perspective? That must have been quite a lesson! As Christ walked through the Scriptures, he pointed out how he was the fulfillment of the Scriptures!
We recognize Christ by knowing the Scriptures (knowledge) and by knowing the Author (relationship).
As Jewish people, these two knew the Scriptures—it was their story. But, it was not enough to know them. Christ needed them to believe the Scriptures and believe what they had seen and who he was. Recognizing Christ’s presence is both knowing about him and knowing Him through a relationship.
And so, their two-hour journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus must have seemed like five minutes, being so wrapped up in this absorbing conversation with the Lord they hadn’t yet recognized. Luke informs us that, "As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he was going further."
We need to stop here in the story for a moment. It’s important to note that Jesus was ready to keep walking. Jesus won’t force himself if he’s not really wanted. He awaited their invitation to come in. He waits for us to choose to invite him in. Each of us is given the opportunity to experience Christ’s presence, but we have to ask him in! Christ longs to be in relationship with us, but it is ultimately our choice.
Their hearts had been won over. They wanted to enter into a deeper relationship with Christ—this stranger. These two travelers urged Jesus strongly, “Stay with us. . “ So Jesus stayed.
A basic meal was quickly made ready. The bread is on the table and it was the moment for Jesus to make himself known: READ!
The Heart-Burning Experience (Luke 24:31-35)
31 And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.
"He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them." It was the action of the breaking of bread that caused them to recognize Jesus. What does that sound like? It would have reminded them of the Last Supper that they had either heard about or participated in with Jesus. But, I don’t think that is why they recognized Jesus.
It was a common practice for people to invite strangers into their homes. People shared meals with strangers and even invited them to stay overnight. However, Jesus as a stranger would have been a guest. So, when Jesus took the bread and gave thanks, Jesus moved from guest to leader at the table. It was when Christ took the lead role and broke the bread that his identity was revealed.
And in an instant, he’s gone.
READ 32Back and forth they talked. "Didn't we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?"
33-34They didn't waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: "It's really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!"
35Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.
I can imagine Cleopas and his friend standing in amazement; perhaps embracing in great joy, asking each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" Their world had come together again.
Recognizing Christ’s presence changed their circumstance! Their hearts felt on fire! And, even though they must have been tired from their 7 mile journey from Jerusalem, they “didn’t waste a minute” before they hurried back to tell the others—they couldn’t keep it to themselves! They ran back to tell the disciples who were hiding out. They shared how they had seen Christ and how their lives had been changed!
Dawson Object Lesson—My friend, Crystal Blume recently had a baby. I love to hold him, and I am reminded that we have so much to learn from these little people. As I hold my friend, Dawson, I am reminded how unaware he is of me (and all of us right now). Studies show that infants recognize the presence or lack of love, but they really aren’t aware. But, that doesn’t stop us from telling him how much we love him. And, we don’t just talk about it. We show him love by caring for him, feeding him, not sleeping when we want to—we make sacrifices because of our love for our children. There is a special day about 18 months when our little ones hear us say, “I love you” and they respond back with something that sounds like “I love you, too!” They are beginning to become aware of someone outside of themselves, and they follow our lead! But, the greatest joy comes at about age 3 or 4 when they offer the words, “I love you” with no prompting. They decide for themselves to own the love and give it to whom they choose.
The same is true for Christ. He is present and speaking love into our lives and showing us his love over and over again. Christ gave his life so that we can know love fully—and we don’t even notice him. Christ longs for us to open our eyes and notice him. He longs for us to say it back—to repeat back—and eventually to proclaim our love without being prompted.
My Story—I remember the day my eyes were opened and I recognized the presence of Christ in my life. I was a few months into the grief process from losing my sister in a car accident. I remember sitting in a church service feeling so overcome with grief that I wanted to scream. Even though I had been raised in the church and had been a follower of Christ, I was questioning how people could be worshipping the God that allowed these kinds of things to happen. I wondered if God really cared and if he was present at all. I remember coming to a place where I felt that I had to either choose Christ or walk away from it all.
Where are you in your journey? God deeply longs for each one of us to walk with Him in close fellowship. He longs for us to recognize him and to experience the life-change that comes from a relationship with him. The Emmaus Two no doubt had walked this way many times before. Yet this day would be different, for it was the time for a life-changing encounter with their Lord. Our eyes can be open at any time, and when they are, life will never be the same again!
As we close, let’s listen to this song and hear about the life change that some of our people have experienced through their relationship with Christ. You can use the questions in your worship folder to reflect, or you can pray in your seats or at the altars. Let’s use this time to find our place on the journey as we recognize Christ’s life-changing presence.