April 24, 2022

“Encountering Our Living Lord!”

(From Luke 24: 13-35)

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”  He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”  Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.  As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”  That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

          My earliest remembrance of learning about Jesus is of my brother and I sitting beside my mom as she read stories to us from this large children’s Bible.  It has some beautiful illustrations of many of the important characters and of the stories and events surrounding them.  The story of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus is among the stories I learned as a child sitting at my mother’s side.  I know that I am very fond of lilies at Easter because of my memory of this Bible’s beautiful illustration of Jesus emerging from the empty tomb.  Jesus was made known to me through the words and illustrations found in this Bible.

     I suspect that if I asked each of you to share how Jesus made himself known to you, we would all share some wonderful stories and fond memories of our personal experiences with our Lord, Jesus.  Each of us has encountered Jesus in different ways throughout our lives; yet the same love, kindness, mercy, grace, and peace of our Lord has touched and permeated all of our various experiences.  Jesus met each of us at our own individual point and place of need, and he graced us with his love, forgiveness, compassion, healing and understanding.  That is simply the way of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.  He is the same, today as yesterday, and he will be the same throughout all of our tomorrows, no matter how or when we encounter him.  On this second Sunday of Easter, let’s take a few minutes to explore how some other followers of Jesus encountered him on the Road to Emmaus that first Easter Day.

     Our scripture lesson for this morning, from Luke Chapter 24, takes us to two sad followers of Jesus who were walking home from Jerusalem to a town called Emmaus on that first Easter day.  The distance they were traveling on this journey was about seven miles.  As they walked along the road, they were discussing all of the events of the recent Passover they had spent in Jerusalem.  Jesus came among them, but these folks did not recognize him.  Jesus asked them what they were discussing as they were walking, and they told him they were discussing all that had happened to the great prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, in Jerusalem. They shared that he was their hope to be the redeemer of Israel, but instead he was delivered up to the chief priests and rulers, who condemned him and crucified him.  Some of the women among them said they had seen angels at his tomb who told them he was alive.  Some others of their group also went to the tomb, and they did find it was empty, but they did not see Jesus there.  Perplexed, these followers did not know what to make of all that they had experienced these last few days.

     Jesus was present with these weary, sad, and confused travelers on the road to Emmaus that day.  He could see that they were seeking to understand and to make some sense of all the events that had happened recently in Jerusalem.  So, beginning with Moses, Jesus shared with them all that the Holy Scriptures and the prophets revealed about him as the promised Messiah.  From the Commandments of the Law Moses received on Mt. Sinai, to the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets about Jesus.  They revealed that he would be the suffering servant of God.  Jesus shared the truth of how God’s plan of salvation was accomplished through his birth, his ministry of compassion and healing, his suffering death, and his final victorious resurrection from the grave.  Jesus’ words made sense of the mystery of recent events that the travelers could not unlock alone.  When they reached Emmaus they invited Jesus to dine with them.  At the table, Jesus blessed and broke bread, which he then gave to them.  In that act, Jesus made himself known to his companions, and he vanished from their sight.  Jesus had met them at their point of need to understand how God’s plan of salvation was accomplished through him, just as the prophets and scriptures had declared.

   Jesus meets each of us at different places, depending on our unique and individual needs.  You will recall from last week’s message, that Jesus met Mary on Easter morning at the empty tomb.  Mary was in deep grief and mourning; her immediate need was not greater knowledge and understanding of scripture regarding Jesus as the Messiah, but comfort.  So, Jesus met Mary right there at the tomb, speaking her name as he alone could.  Instantly, Mary’s deep sorrow turned into the joy of once again being in the presence of her risen and living Lord!  For the Apostle John, it was standing inside the empty tomb, recalling there all that Jesus had predicted about his impending death and resurrection that opened John’s eyes to see and truly believe in Jesus.  Saul the Jewish Pharisee encountered the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, and it changed his whole understanding about who Jesus truly was.  He became the Apostle Paul, and spent the rest of his life on a mission to share the good news about the living Lord, Jesus, with others.  

     Over the course of my time in pastoral ministry, I have witnessed how Jesus has met many people at the point and in the time of their need.  Marie encountered Jesus in her time of grief over her husband’s death.  Jesus told her that everything would be OK, and that she should begin to see her friends and live life among the living again.  After Patty’s divorce, she felt lost and needed new meaning in her life.  Jesus called Patty to follow him, and she studied to become a local pastor.  Whether it is knowledge, comfort, forgiveness, a sense of direction and belonging, or a kick in the pants to get us moving forward, Jesus is there both for us and with us. 

     So, church, on this second Sunday of Easter, how is Jesus meeting you at your place and point of need?  How is he teaching, healing, forgiving, comforting you or calling you out of your comfort zone to follow him and embrace new opportunities to build his kingdom here on earth?  Jesus said that if we are open, if we are asking, seeking and knocking upon the door of his mercy, love, and grace, we will encounter him.  He has not promised to meet our every want and creature comfort, but he has promised to be with us and care for us in our time of need.  He will never leave us, nor will he forsake us.  This Easter season, like Jesus’ followers walking on the road to Emmaus, like Mary and John at Jesus’ empty tomb, like Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus, and like a host of others throughout the ages who have encountered the living Lord, may we be open to new opportunities to encounter our living Lord as we walk along the road of our life’s faith journey. Amen.