Sermon for Third Sunday of Easter, May 4, 2014
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 24:13-35
Sermon Theme: “When You’re on the Road to Emmaus”
(Sources: Anderson’s Cycle A Preaching Workbook; SermonSuite and Emphasis Online Illustrations; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 24, Part 2, March 9 – June 8, 2014; original ideas and illustrations; Online Blog, Just a Closer Walk with Me; John Burley, www.tfcanglican.org.)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Has this ever happened to you? You are in a grocery store, the mall, the Post Office, or even in a hotel in another town, and someone comes up to you all smiles and beaming eyes. They say, “Hey, how have you been? It’s been a long time. You look great!” You look deep into their eyes, you think for a second and the truth begins to sink in . . . . . . . .you have no idea who this person is!
Something like that happened to me when we were staying in the Ant Street Inn in Brenham. All the rooms open out into the Grand Parlor which is a huge Victorian style living room.
I walked out of our room into the parlor, and there was this church group having a social gathering. I passed this elderly man who smiled at me and said, “Hey, how are you?” I mumbled “Aw-right, you?,” and kept walking. ‘That man acts like he knows me, but I don’t know any old geezer like that,’ I thought to myself.
When I came back up to our room, the group was still there, and I was able to watch him at a distance unseen. An eye abnormality and his gestures made me realize that he was a dear friend who had taught in the same high school with me when we were in our twenties.
This is the case in the story in our sermon text for today. In our story from Luke, two men are walking from Jerusalem to the nearby village of Emmaus. These two men are not part of the eleven remaining disciples that Jesus had picked, but they, too, were his close followers, and were probably getting out of Jerusalem because of the danger all of Jesus’ disciples faced there.
As they were walking, another person began to walk with them the seven miles to Emmaus, and something prevented them from recognizing the “stranger” as Jesus. These were not exactly joyful times for the two disciples of Jesus, and perhaps being in such deep discussion about the recent tragic events caused them not to recognize the Lord until He stayed for supper and served them Holy Communion.
Along with the sadness of their teacher and friend dying on the cross were the heavy doubts and questions many faithful followers had, — ‘Was Jesus the Messiah, or should we now look for another? We thought He was the Messiah, but now we don’t know.’ No doubt they wondered like many folks today still wonder, ‘Why did Jesus have to be crucified?’ When you have to walk seven miles on foot, a lot of discussion can take place.
Here’s the reason why Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins. On the road our Lord had explained the Old Testament to them, but whether they understood it or not, you and I can understand it fully as it is fulfilled in the New Testament.
You see, as the priests were making sin offerings in the temple square, God was making the conclusive sin offering on the cross. As blood was shed to avenge the Angel of Death of the firstborn, blood was now shed for the ultimate deliverance of all God’s children. Jesus was being executed at exactly the same time as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the temple. The priests who haughtily enforced the death of the Lamb of God went to the temple to make the legalistic sacrifice of the paschal lambs.
Beyond question, the symbolism is that Jesus is God’s Passover Lamb, sacrificed for the deliverance of God’s people. Jesus is the culmination of the sacrificial system, never to be repeated, only to be remembered and revered. That’s why Peter could confess in today’s epistle that we were ransomed from our sins as the new revelation. It is the reason why two men, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple, on the way to Emmaus finally recognized the stranger among them.
Jesus’ encounter with these two along the road to Emmaus presents us with the challenge to transform events in our lives which appear to be burdened with problems, filled with pain, and heavy with defeat into opportunities for growth and even victory. The road we take is largely determined by the attitude we have and where we go with it.
Luke’s account of the walk along the road to Emmaus, in essence, is a story of how Jesus was able to bring victory and joy to the pain and defeat that His disciples felt when Jesus died. He opened not only their eyes but their hearts to what was possible for those who believe in and witness to the power of the risen Christ in their lives.
We are very much like Cleopas and the other disciple in that we often walk or even run to our own Emmaus; we do whatever is necessary to escape from the disappointments and hurts of life. We cannot see, but we must believe, that despite the pain we share and even carry for others, the triumph of resurrection will be ours if we persevere. Our methods of escape are many. We crawl inside ourselves and keep the rest of the world that threatens us at bay. Often we ignore others who reach out to us, ignore possibilities and opportunities that come our way, and reject the affection of others, thinking that that would only deepen our pain. Often, we don’t walk, we run away from our problems, and we have no idea where we are going. We live in our own little world and convince ourselves that everything is fine.
Thomas Henry Huxley was an evolutionist, a disciple of Charles Darwin, and he delivered blistering attacks on Christianity. The next morning after he delivered a lecture arguing that the resurrection of Christ did not happen, needing to catch a train, he took a horse-drawn taxi in front of his hotel. He assumed that the hotel doorman had told the driver of the horse drawn cab his destination, so all he said to him was, “Hurry. I’m almost late! Drive fast!”
The horses galloped across the city of Dublin at a vigorous pace. Before long, Huxley glanced out the window and noticed he was going away from the sun, west, and away from the train station. Leaning forward, he shouted to the cabby, “Do you know where you are going?”
Without looking back, the driver yelled a reply not meant to be humorous, “No, your Honor! But I’m driving very fast!”
This story describes many of us today – great speed, much motion, rapid movement, but an unknown destination. A psychologist once said, “It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.”
No doubt it is what Cleopas and his companion were doing on that first Easter afternoon. They were walking from Jerusalem, more accurately, running, from the events that had turned their expectations inside out. Perhaps that describes some of us, too.
Like the two disciples, we are deeply wounded and feel defeated. We do not recognize Christ in our lives. We do not experience Him in His Word and in His Sacrament, or in our hearts. But like Cleopas and his partner on the road, when we come to the realization that Christ is present, we come to know that He will relieve the pain, heal the wounds, and transform our sadness to joy, our defeat into victory.
You see, when the two didn’t recognize the stranger walking with them, they were going in the wrong direction, running away. But, guess what, when they recognized it was Jesus among them, those two, after this long walk out of the city, ran back to Jerusalem as fast as their legs would take them!
Escape is not the answer to life’s challenges and problems. Walking away from a big problem does not solve anything! Rather, we need to honestly evaluate our lives, seek positive solutions to the questions that we hold and the problems that plague us, and know His presence is in His Word that we read and hear preached, in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and in our hearts. He is the one who died to set us free; He is the one whose resurrection will bring us to eternal life. So, stop, turn around, and head toward Jesus! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.