Third Sunday of Easter – Sunday, April 15, 2018

April 15, 2018  

Luke 24:13-35

The road to Emmaus. The village is as mysterious as the story. In modern times, no less than four communities outside of Jerusalem claim to be the original Emmaus. Each village has its own proof, its own religious relics, and its own religious scholars verifying its claims. But, truth be told, no one knows for sure where Emmaus actually was. All we know is that two disciples of Jesus were journeying to Emmaus, when they encountered a stranger.

Which is another point of interest. The two disciples. No one really knows who the two disciples were. Who has heard of Cleopas, outside this particular story? No one, prior to the telling of the story. Who will ever hear of Cleopas again? No one. This was his moment. And note: his companion was never even named.

Our gospel story is a mystery, shrouded in grief. Or is it a story of grief, shrouded in mystery?

Two followers of Jesus were walking to Emmaus. A lot had happened to them in prior days, so they were doing what anyone might have done: talking about it. The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The last supper with Jesus. The arrest of Jesus. The shuffling back and forth between religious and civil courts of Jesus. The unruly crowds, the mob, demanding the death of Jesus. Jesus hanging on the cross.

People were grieving. In Luke’s version of the story, when the story of the resurrection was told to a small group of women, they went and told others what they had heard. No one believed them. Only Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself if it was empty. It was.

Next thing you know two unknown disciples were walking to Emmaus. The two of them were so busy talking about Jesus, they did not realize Jesus had joined them on their journey. We as the readers of the story know Jesus walked with them. They didn’t. In their hearts and lives, Jesus was dead. As was their hope. Even though the man they had hoped in walked with them—they didn’t know him.

The two disciples were so absorbed in their grief, they didn’t recognize the presence of the person they were grieving.

Think about this: if the two disciples hadn’t invited Jesus to stay with them once they reached Emmaus, if they hadn’t invited him to share a meal with them, and if he hadn’t taken the bread, blessing it and breaking it—they never would have known who he was. Even as it happened, as soon as they recognized Jesus he disappeared…

Where does Jesus meet us?

The most obvious answer is through Word and Sacrament. Jesus speaks to us in and through the Word. Jesus appears to us in the breaking of the bread each week.

Where else might we find him?

In the gospel of Matthew it is written that Jesus said to some righteous people

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (25:35-36)

Then the righteous people asked “When did we do these things?” (25:37-39)

And Jesus said

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (25:40)

This is our mystery: having the faith to BELIEVE that we see Jesus when we see those who are hungry. Having the faith to believe that we see Jesus when we see those needing clothes and shelter. Having the faith to believe that we see Jesus when we see the homeless, we see Jesus when we see the sick, or see those in prison.

How often do we look at those who are suffering and see—really see who they are? How often do we see Jesus?

How often are we so caught up in our own stuff, our own thoughts and feelings, that we forget to hear the needs of others?

What is interesting to me about this story is that Jesus never let on to the disciples who he was, he simply stayed with them until they figured it out for themselves.

Jesus didn’t go “Hey! It’s me! I’m the guy you are talking about!”

The same can be said for us, now. Folks who need us don’t jump up and down yelling “help me!” They don’t say “Hello! I need you right now. I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. I need a home I hurt.” Some people do. Others don’t. Others languish until someone notices their need.

This could happen to us. Jesus could be walking with us. Jesus could be that guy sitting on the corner asking for some money. Jesus could be the guy sitting on the sidewalk with his back up against a cold brick building. Jesus could be the person walking into the church office, asking for a gas voucher. Jesus is those people—according to him.

How will we treat him?

What will we say?

Will he vanish before we’ve had a chance to help?

Or, if we are the one needing assistance, if we are the one who is hungry, who is hurt, who thirsts… how do we see Jesus mirrored in our own need? How do we respect ourselves, maintaining our own dignity? How do we ask others for help?

These are important questions to answer. Before answering we need to listen, we need to open our hearts and minds. We need to open our eyes to see, to really see Jesus.