Luke 24:13-23 (click to display NIV text)
April 7, 2013: Eastertide
Pastor Dwight A. Nelson
“When he was at table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”
The Gospels tell of disciples going back to what was familiar to them after the events of the cross and resurrection. In John we read of Peter, who decides to go fishing. Here in Luke we find two disciples walking on a road, about seven miles, to a village called Emmaus. It does not say why they were going on such a long walk, but perhaps they were going home, going back to a familiar life. And Jesus interrupted them on their journey and redirected their lives. He brought them both to faith and to a commission. “Repentance and forgiveness will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Peter was also redirected from his fishing. Jesus spent time with him and said, “Do you love me?” and “Feed my sheep.”
Paul ends his defense of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15 with these words, which also redirects the church back into its calling: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Steve Matthewson writes about the effect of the resurrection of Jesus upon our lives. “Instead of believing in an empty way by failing to stand in the gospel and to hold firm to it, we can give everything we have to the gospel, confident that it will produce lasting effects in or lives and in the lives of others who stand firm.”
Our human tendency is to prepare for a big event, have a grand celebration, and then walk away exhausted, maybe even depressed. We hurry back to the normal routine. Sometimes Easter is like that. One grand celebration, and then we feel worn out and want to rest. It is hard for us to connect Easter worship with renewed motivation for ministry and obedience to Christ. This can be especially true for pastors, who just want to rest after Easter. I know that was true of me last Monday. But it was our day to pick up bread for the food pantry, and when we got there we found the crew busy at work, getting everything ready for Tuesday morning. The furniture and starter kit teams also were getting organized for Saturday. On Wednesday evening, so many came that for the first time we ran out of food at dinner. People were ready to sing and learn and teach and grow in Christ. The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus seems to have motivated a greater response to serve him and do his will.
What do we do after Easter? Steve Matthewson writes, “Keep on sharing the love of Christ by volunteering at a soup kitchen or battered women’s shelter. Keep on teaching the ladies Bible study or a Sunday School class for a group of third graders. Keep on praying for the sick. Keep on mentoring a new generation of leaders. Keep on serving as an elder or deacon in your church. Stand firm in the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose on the third day.”
Two disciples took a long walk on the Sunday afternoon when Jesus rose. They did not know he had risen, although they had heard the women speak of the empty tomb. They talked all about the events of the last few days as they walked. They were confused and grieving and headed away from Jerusalem, to a more familiar territory, to a life they knew before they met Jesus.
In our Wednesday evening prayer group this year we have been practicing several types of prayer. One type we have learned is called a “Prayer of Examen.” I must admit I did not like this one at first, but I have come to see its benefit. In this prayer, you think over the events of your day, maybe of several days, until you fix in your memory a very concise and clear list of what your experience has been. This is what the disciples were doing on the road. Then you add to the list the emotions of the day. When did you feel peaceful or joyful? When did you feel discouraged or burdened? When did God seem closest to you? When did he seem distant? This becomes the basis for prayer and discernment. It is a way of discovering the presence of God in your life and listening for his call.
Jesus joined the disciples on their walk, and entered into their conversation. When he asked them to talk about the things that had happened, they answered with a very concise statement, sticking to the important facts of the days. They had done their Examen well.
But they needed something more to bring their story to faith and renewal. So Jesus adds to the list of events the story of scripture and then his risen presence at their meal. When we pray we need to bring the scripture to our life experience. We need to bring our lives into the presence of the Risen Lord. David Teide writes, “The empty tomb is followed by the revelation of Jesus in scripture and presence, so that the disciples ‘see and hear’ the truth and are commissioned as witnesses to all nations of this Messiah.”
Sometimes a verse or passage comes to mind as we pray about our experience of the day. Sometimes we discover a passage that speaks to our hearts as we read the Word. It is often when we are prayerfully aware of our lives that Scripture speaks directly into our lives. So, for instance, my awareness of the wonderful fellowship time we had on Good Friday after the service that lasted until 10 o’clock and the gracious Easter dinner we were invited to share in, and the experience of loading the van with items given through the great generosity of the Jewel store for the Food Pantry all spoke to me of the Gospel of John where the risen Lord provides this grand breakfast of fish and bread for Peter and the disciples and talks to Peter about his love. So the scripture speaks to our hearts of the risen Lord and touches our attitudes and our commitments.
The last thing that Jesus did was to bring his presence to the disciples on the road. This was through the breaking of the bread. He takes the place of the host at the table, and shares the bread as he did in feeding the 5,000 and the Last Supper. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him. It is the presence of Christ that leads to new direction. The presence of Christ brings to us a new hope, a new heart, and a new commitment. The presence of Christ brings to us an encouraged view of our current service and ministry. We see the people we serve in a new way. We are filled with the love of Christ. We are encouraged because we serve the Risen Lord. Jesus redirects our wandering, our confusion, and our discouragement. We feel weary and try to make our way back to the familiar, to what is safe, to the old in our lives, and the Risen Lord meets us and shows us a new way.
At the table, Jesus is present to us. He invites us to experience his grace, to be renewed in our faith and hope, to follow him in newness of life and into obedience to his calling in our lives.