2020-4-26 On the Road to Emmaus

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          April 26, 2020

“On the Road to Emmaus”
Luke 24:13-35

We continue, in this Lord’s Day within the Easter season, to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection—even as we endure this pandemic season.  Our joy in Jesus, however, trumps the difficulties inherent in this pandemic—not to mention the hardships that accompany any season in this earthly life.  May the Lord heighten our joy as we hear, whether for the first time or once again, the narrative of Jesus joining two men on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The first, and longest, section of our text relates the walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus (24:13-27).  Two men, and then a Third, walk and talk on Resurrection Sunday as they travel from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about seven miles, roughly westward (24:13-24).[1]  Cleopas and his unnamed friend, as they take their walk of two or two and a half hours that Sunday afternoon, discuss—perhaps debate—all that happened in Jerusalem that long weekend.  As they discuss these matters, Jesus joins them, but they are kept from recognizing Him.  Jesus asks his traveling companions some questions, and these disciples reveal their saddened hearts to him.

The two men, after Cleopas expresses incredulity at Jesus’ apparent ignorance, then tell their fellow traveler of Whom they speak.  They confess Jesus a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.  They lament that their own chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned and, hence, crucified.  They hoped Jesus would redeem His covenant people—His beloved Israel, all (in that day) who longed for a Savior to come.  Moreover, they note this day is the third day since these things happened.  Some women of their company testified earlier in the day that they found not Jesus’ body at the tomb.  These returning from the empty tomb further testified that they saw angels—angels declaring that He is alive.  Some of the ones hearing the testimony went to the tomb and found things as the women declared—but Him they saw not.  This ends the narrative of the two westbound disciples, and, though much of the narrative drips with irony, it has a pall overhanging it.

With the two disciples’ narrative ended, Jesus explains all concerning Himself (24:25-27).  He reproves them for their unbelief, calling them ones without understanding (so the Greek text) and ones slow of heart to believe the prophets.  With a question, Jesus implies the necessity of His suffering before entering His glory.  Then He explains, beginning with Moses, the things concerning Himself in all the Old Testament.  This explanation—likely an extended explanation—leads the three to the outskirts of Emmaus.

Luke next tells us how the three arrive together at an evening meal in that village (24:28-32).  Jesus would travel further, but the men urge Him to stay with them.  After all, it is toward evening and the day is far spent.  Hence, He goes to stay with them.  Presently they partake of the evening meal together.  As they recline at table together, Jesus blesses the meal, breaks bread, and gives it to them.  In the breaking of bread, the eyes of Cleopas and his friend were opened, and Jesus vanishes from their sight.  They know they beheld Jesus, though, because their hearts burned with them as He talked with them on the road.  Hence, they return to Jerusalem (24:33-35) that same hour.  They tread the seven miles they just traversed, after dark, likely in haste.  Perhaps in just under two hours they arrive again in the place where they met earlier.  They, on arrival, receive the testimony of the Eleven and those with them, “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon.”  They then testify to what happened on the road and how their eyes were opened to perceive Him in the breaking of the bread.  Though our passage ends here, the next declares that Jesus appears among them while the two disciples, fresh from Emmaus, testify to seeing Him.

There is much here for us to enjoy, and there is much for us to carry within us from this preaching event.  First, Jesus, once again, is risen from the dead.  This is an incontrovertible fact in any age—and it is the best-attested fact in the ancient age.  We have, in documents testifying to Jesus’s resurrection, the earliest attestation relative to the event itself in all antiquity—and we have the most copious attestation, or the most documents affirming His resurrection, in all antiquity.  Our culture accepts events and dates from antiquity, without blinking an eye, on much weaker attestation than that for Jesus’ resurrection.  He is risen, and He is alive, and this changes everything.

Second, Jesus suffered before entering His glory.  Most of God’s Old Covenant people were looking for a different kind of Savior than Jesus is.  They looked for a political and military deliverer.  What they, and we, got was One Who delivers from the shackles of sin and establishes His Kingdom within and among us.  Jesus’ atoning suffering unto death frees from sin’s dominion.  It simply had to happen this way.  Jesus suffered, and then entered His glory, primarily for His Father’s glory and honor and secondarily (while fulfilling the primary purpose) for our needy souls’ sakes.

Jesus’ suffering, furthermore, informs our culture in a most important way.  America, and the American church, has not had generally a robust theology of suffering.  Most everything in our culture, and in our church culture, prods us to insulate ourselves from suffering—with wealth, labor-saving devices, machines designed for our comfort, and the like.  Now, in this pandemic where we cannot flee discomfort, if not outright suffering, we gain a chance to develop one.  May we look to our suffering, victorious Savior as we endure the providential hardship that we must endure during this pandemic.

Third, do our hearts burn as the Spirit illumines Scripture for us?  Does the Word of God, and the truths it declares, kindle the coals of our souls into roaring flame—as occurred in the hearts of those two disciples with Jesus on the Emmaus Road?  Do our spirits soar as we contemplate how much God, in His passion for His own glory, is for us—as Scripture declares?  It is hard, naturally speaking, to maintain soaring spirits in crushing times—but the Spirit of God can make us to mount up with wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31).  Indeed, the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, by the Spirit’s work, engender hope within us.  Therefore, may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

AMEN.

[1] Herbert G. May, ed., Oxford Bible Atlas, Third Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 87.