“How Would You Know?”
Luke 24:13-31, April 26th, 2020 – 10 AM
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now this incredible account from the gospel according to Luke, chapter twenty-four, verses thirteen thru thirty-one.”
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 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?” 19 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 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. 24 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.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
“Having listened to these ancient words, let us now consider how we see God as we walk the journey of Life.”
“How Would You Know?”
“How Would You Know?” “How would you recognize Jesus?” When you were first introduced to a story about Jesus, what image did he take? Children first hear about the Baby Jesus through our annual celebrations of his birth… The Christmas stories, accounts of the birth of a little baby whose parents were forced to make a very difficult trip to register for their taxes. As a child, we may first remember the manger in the barn with all the animals. “Where he was laid all wrapped in swaddling cloth” /Luke 2/. When we think of a newborn child, we think perhaps of their frailty, their innocence and how cute and loveable they are. As children we probably did not focus on the hardship which Joseph and Mother Mary endured, nor the prophesies that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior, our newborn King! Surely, most of our youthful memories were certainly centered around the gift giving! It is a birthday celebration and the three kings, the wise men who traveled so far, with their gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Only later in life did we learn that the myrrh was used in burial rituals, symbolizing the sacrifice he would one day make.
If we were raised in a Christian church, we had the opportunity to learn about the different occasions in which we hear of the life of the boy Jesus. One intriguing story found further on in the later verses of Luke chapter two, we hear about Jesus at age twelve in Jerusalem. His parents had traveled in a caravan with others and when they left, they went home the same way. Yet, somehow it took them three days before they realize the young lad Jesus was not with them. In the scriptures we learned that he was with the teachers and elders at the temple where he was dazzling them with his understanding of the scriptures. We then began to see Jesus as someone very gifted and special. Through continued studies we grow to learn about his baptism at the hands of John the Baptist, and in the gospel of Mark the clear sign that he is the beloved Son of God! As his heavenly Father prepared him for ministry in the desert, Jesus becomes ready to begin his journey. By this time in our own learnings, we begin to grasp the full story of who Jesus was.
As time moves on, we learn that Easter is not just about butterflies and Easter bunnies. We come of age and the Easter story begins to sink into our understanding of Jesus and his gift to humanity. Then all the mystical signs of Jesus being the Messiah, the Holy One, the incarnate God, born in the human flesh of the man Jesus, begins to take root in our budding faith journey. The miracles, the teachings, then the betrayal and death on a cruel cross adds to our understanding of the mystical aspects of the Son of God. Most of us still struggle with these teachings, albeit many want us to stay childlike and only view these accounts through ‘rose colored’ glasses. It is a harsh cruel and difficult account of a martyred leader we first think. Yet, then we are taught it is way more than that! The disciples of Jesus were the martyred ones, when they were executed for refusing to ‘stop’ calling Jesus their Messiah, the very Son of God! Jesus’ death was the “Passion” of our incarnate God, in the human flesh of Jesus, giving his life for the sake of our salvation! This is where most of us get stuck!
Today, we are stuck amid a pandemic world crisis which now overshadows all our lives! This is an event which has totally changed virtually everything about our daily lives and how we socialize with one another. Many of the things we saw as truths, back in mid-February of this calendar year, are now in question. It is at this moment, in history, when we have an opportunity to refresh our understanding of today’s scripture lesson! They had lost the man who they thought would free them from the oppression of the Romans, the conquering nation that ruled over them. We have lost our sense of control and our false understanding of humankind’s self-reliance, in the world order of things; these notions are being shattered! Furthermore, our foolish belief in humankind’s grasp and majesty over the material world, has been upended! We are in the same situation as the disciples were in! It is from this point in our lives where we need to come to a fresh understanding as to who Jesus was and who the Risen Christ is today, right here in the Twenty-First Century!
We, you and me, we are like the two disciples who are out getting some exercise walking, traveling to a little village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking, just as any of us would be talking, with a friend or a neighbor, at a time like this. Me and you, we might be debating the current ‘social distancing’ conflict and all its ramifications. Likewise, the disciples were surely talking about Jesus’ execution and the sightings of the Risen Christ and their ramifications and meaning. The parallelism here is clear. We need to clear our minds of the clutter of false notions and ponder what is and what it all means as we seek to move forward in this journey of life.
As the two disciples travel along the pathway to Emmaus, Jesus joins them, we are told; and they did not recognize him! They, like ourselves, we have a preconceived notion as to what it would be like to be in the presence of Christ, the Holy One, our incarnate God, risen from the grave. The question still stands: “How Would You Know?” “How would you recognize Jesus?” Surely, we are not still looking for the holy teacher in a white robe! We need a lot more than that to get out the dilemma we as a people are in! How will we recognize the ‘Word of God’ during such hardship!? How will the Holy One be perceived if we are still confused about the teachings which have been passed to us through the ages!?
The disciples had lost their teacher, their leader, how were they to continue on? When the stranger joined them, they engaged him in conversation, not recognizing him as the Risen Christ. The man (Jesus) unlocked their minds as he opened the scriptures to them, in a manner which apparently was new to them. Jesus was helping these grieving disciples to see that these happenings, the mock trail, the execution and then his resurrection, they were all part of a larger narrative which started long, long ago. By the time they got to Emmaus, their hearts were wide open, and they invited this stranger to dine with them. It was only when he broke the bread and blessed it did their eyes, their minds, open to the realization they were in the presence of the Risen Christ! Then Jesus was gone from their sight!
What is it that we have not seen or perceived in these weeks of isolation and quarantine! Are we not open to understanding how these current events shall play out in the larger narrative which history shall record? Alyce McKenzie asks us a question as well, as she reminds us that we are all on a pathway to somewhere. “Everybody is on a journey, though we don’t always recognize it. What kind of journey are you on?” Let us ask ourselves, “what is the nature of this event which has occurred, and where is it taking us?” Are we blinded to the presence of God in the midst the hardship and heartache of it all? If our journey of faith means anything… we must open our hearts to the presence of of the Risen Christ. What does that even mean at a time like this you ask? God did not promise us life would not have its struggles, its headships and grief. Yet, through Christ we are promised life everlasting. And we are reassured that the Living Spirit of our God is always with us! We, like the disciples, do not walk alone on this pathway!
I was chatting with some friends, on a virtual chat on my home computer, when I heard songbirds in the background. Was it coming from one or more of my friends’ microphone, I could not ascertain? It was beautiful. Our conversation turned to the many reports of others seeing more wildlife in the past weeks. Then the reports of less smog over the skies of larger cities. What is the message in all this? Surely, our God is here in the midst! Are we recognizing the hand, the voice of God, in the midst this world-pandemic? When all this passes, how shall we be changed? Our God walks with us along the byways and pathways of life. Are we listening carefully for the voice of God, for surely there is much that we need to learn as we move through this time in history?