Reading: Luke 24. 13-35 (on the road to Emmaus)
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. 29 But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread. (vs. 28-35)
The gospel reading this week may be one of the beautiful stories in the gospel, and the finest picture Luke ever painted in his books. It is a brilliant stuff which provides us so many lessons in our faith journey.
Firstly, we can think of their walk down to a village called Emmaus, about 7 miles away from Jerusalem, westward, where the sun set. Although I haven’t got any superstition about direction, it looks a bit doom and gloomy as they walked towards west, where the sun set, as if something’s wrong. And, actually, what’s wrong was their direction.
Here, we need to remember that in the O.T, the book of Numbers 21:11, the Israelites were told to journey towards the sunrise in the desert, not to the sunset. Of course, it is a symbolic message, but the one they should bear in mind, in whatever situation they are. In this sense, they were in a wrong direction, mixed with sorrow and disappointment.
We may understand their feelings, their loss, their shock and bewilderment. But, we know how important it is to keep the right direction in a journey, in any journey. A wrong direction not only leads us to a disaster, but also to a serious danger. Think of driving in a wrong direction. That must be the end. That is why Jesus was walking along with them to correct their direction.
But, we see human beings are so stubborn, and it is very hard to change their mindset. We just accept as much as we understand. Even our imagination doesn’t go over our understanding. In their trapped mindset, therefore, they couldn’t recognise Jesus in his appearance and voice.
In a wrong direction, they couldn’t see the truth, and they couldn’t hear the truth.
Nevertheless, the great thing is that we see Jesus finding them, walking along with them, listening to them, and teaching them again and again through the Scripture, and making their hearts warm, so that they might understand what happened to Jesus and realise the presence of the risen Christ, who was actually with them.
Here, what’s interesting is that although their hearts were warmed, they still didn’t recognise Jesus, the risen Lord.
It seems that they might have understood through their heads what Jesus had taught them, but they didn’t and couldn’t accept it in their hearts. Their hearts were not opened wide enough to receive the risen Christ. It wasn’t until they invited him to their home, and invited him to their table that they could recognise the risen Jesus. The invitation, their hospitality, saying ‘Stay with us, and come to our table’ was crucial, because he had been waiting for this invitation. Then, we are to see the guest become a host, the host of the table, as he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. This action of breaking and sharing bread is actually a simple but powerful action which enables us to recognise Jesus, the risen Lord.
And, we need to notice that this amazing experience of encountering the risen Christ doesn’t end at this point. We see, when their eyes were opened, they found themselves in a wrong direction, and immediately got up and went back to Jerusalem, to share with their friends, the good news, the news that Jesus is risen!
This is an amazing story, a beautiful picture, and a wonderful testimony of encountering the risen Christ. Amen.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, when things happen that we find hard to deal with, when our head goes down and our eyes see no further than our own feet, help us to be honest with you even if it’s through tears or rage. Help us to trust that you are there even when we cannot see or feel you. Help us to look into you to find there limitless compassion, endless understanding and patience and the courage we need to begin again. We bring to you those who carry forever in their hearts, the pain of losing their loved ones… we bring to you those who are struggling to cope with loneliness at this time of isolation. Lord, we pray that you may grant us strength and courage and re-kindle the flame of hope. In the name of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, we pray. Amen.