Posts Tagged ‘Luke 24:13-40’

U-Turn on the Emmaus Road

Some of the saddest words in our English language begin with “D,” such as disappointment, doubt, difficult, disillusionment, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression, despair, downhearted, downcast and death. Have you been dealing with any of these words, these emotions, in the last month as we are in state lockdown because of the covid-19?

As we remain in our homes away from family, friends and church gatherings, do you struggle with these “D” words? It is only natural. This time has been very difficult for our country and for the world. We are all affected by it – from the youngest school child to the elderly. We are all walking on the same road.

Our scripture lesson today, from Luke 24, is about two people walking home on the road to Emmaus, on the same day of the resurrection of Jesus. It was a seven mile walk home from Jerusalem. One was named Cleopas and many believe he was walking with his wife Mary who was one of the women who went to the tomb early that morning and found it empty. Others believe it was a friend.

They walked home slowly because they were filled with disappointment, discouragement and despair facing the death of Jesus. They had left the downhearted and defeated disciples of Jesus and felt it was time to go home now. It was over. Their hope in Jesus was now filled with disillusionment and doubt. The one they had followed and loved had been put to death.

Suddenly, there was a third person walking with them on the road to Emmaus. It was Jesus, but they didn’t recognize him. Jesus asked them what they were talking about and Cleopas was surprised that this stranger didn’t know what had happened. It would be like going into a store now and someone asking you why everyone is wearing a face mask. You would think, “Where has this person been for the last month, under a rock or on another planet.”

So, Cleopas and his wife are shocked that this stranger doesn’t understand why they are so sad. “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

Jesus said to them, “What things?” Jesus wanted them to say what they were talking about in specific terms. Jesus always wants people to voice their needs and opinions.

So, they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth…” They continue on to tell Jesus what happened to him. He knew the story – he lived and died the story, but he wanted to hear their story from their perspective. They said, “We were hoping that it was he who was going to redeem Israel.”

 That was precisely the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross. He was redeeming all people. They were thinking of a different kind of redemption. Jesus Christ was redeeming them from sin, and all they were thinking of was a deliverance from Rome. They wanted an earthly king to help them. Jesus had died to redeem them and us from sin. That wasn’t what they were looking for then or now.

We all want freedom to pursue our own will without any hindrance. For Christ to redeem us from sin, we must acknowledge that we need a savior and forgiveness. We need to turn from our own ways and turn toward the ways of God.

Jesus began explaining to them the scriptures, beginning with Moses and the Prophets and how all that was being fulfilled that day. That walk on the road to Emmaus was a walk those two never forgot.

Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Their outward inability to recognize Jesus also reflected their inward unbelief of what the scriptures revealed about him. Jesus wanted to help them see, but before he opened their physical eyes, he wanted to open their hearts. As 2 Corinthians 5:7 states, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” When we doubt or walk in the dark, we may not recognize Jesus when he is walking with us.

Just like now, during this time of doubt, of despair, of fear, that is when we turn to Jesus and his Word, the scriptures, spend time with him as you talk walks, because then you will begin to see him more clearly.

For the rest of the walk on the road, the stranger explained all the references to the Christ in the scriptures. As he did, the fire of their faith that had died on Golgotha came back to life and burned within them. That familiar hope, the hope that Jesus was alive and what he said would happen, was really true. There was something about this stranger that was so familiar, so comforting, something that gave them hope in the midst of this despair.

As the three of them reached the village of Emmaus, the two pleaded with the stranger to stay with them for the night for it was evening. So, Jesus agreed to stay with them. He no longer seemed like a stranger but a friend. At the evening meal, Jesus “took bread and said the blessing; then he broke the bread and gave it to them.” Bread is a staple item to eat in many countries, so it wouldn’t be unusual to have bread and break it apart with your hands to share with those with you.

Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they knew who this stranger was, and Jesus disappeared from their sight. Jesus himself had ministered to them in their sadness. Now they knew why a change had come over them as they walked with him on the road to Emmaus. Their hearts had been opened, as well as their eyes, and they were now filled with hope and renewed faith. Jesus was alive and he had walked with them and talked with them, reviewing all he had said before his death. Cleopas and the other disciple were amazed, and now they knew why their hearts had burned within them when they were talking on the road.

The road to Emmaus is a road we are all on. This story is our story as well, There are times we are sad and downcast, doubting, depressed – maybe even now as we walk down this road with the pandemic in our world. But it is a story for us, about  meeting a stranger, hearing his words of comfort and peace. This stranger can change your life and give you hope in a world right now that seems full of despair and death. God has the final word and he does have victory over death.

When you are walking on the road to Emmaus, you aren’t walking alone. The unseen “stranger,” the Risen Jesus, is walking with us.

The disciples quickly got up and “made a U-turn” and walked back to Jerusalem to tell Jesus’ disciples. This time they weren’t walking slowly – this time they were running with good news and with hope. Sometimes, God wants us to “make a U-turn” in our lives. We are going one way and he wants us to go another way – his way.

The good news of Easter was how the disciples were able to make a U-turn and head in a new direction of life, hope and great joy. Emmaus U-turns still happen today. Nationally known Christian author and speaker, Tony Campolo, often tells the story of someone who made a U-turn in his life literally and spiritually.

Tony tells about the time he was asked to speak at a Pentecostal college. Before the service, eight men had him kneel so they could lay hands on his head and pray. Tony was glad to have the prayer, but one man started praying, not for Tony but for another man. He began to pray and said, “Dear Lord, you know Charlie Stoltzfus. He lives in that silver trailer. You know the trailer, Lord, just down the road on the right-hand side.”

Tony wanted to interrupt and tell him that God already knew where the guy lives and didn’t need directions. The prayer went on: “Lord, Charlie told me this morning that he was going to leave his wife and three kids. Step in and do something. Bring that family back together.” With that the prayer time ended and Tony want on to preach at the college chapel. Things went well and he got in his car and began to drive home. As he drove, he saw a hitchhiker an felt compelled to pick him up.

Tony said, “We drove a few minutes and I said, ‘Hi, my name is Tony Campolo. What’s yours?’ He said, ‘My name is Charlie Stoltzfus.’ I couldn’t believe it! I got off the next exit and headed back. He got a bit uneasy with that and after a few minutes he said, ‘Hey, where are you taking me?’ I said, ‘I’m taking you home.’ He narrowed his eyes and asked, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because you  just left your wife and children, right?’ That blew him away. ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s right.’ With shock written all over his face, he never took his eyes off me. Then he was really shocked when I took him right to his silver trailer. When I pulled up, his eyes seemed to bulge as he asked, ‘How did you know that I lived here?’ I said, ‘God told me.’

When he opened the trailer door, Charlie’s wife exclaimed, ‘You’re back! You’re back!’ He whispered in her ear and the more he talked, the bigger her eyes got. I said with real authority, ‘The two of you sit down. I’m going to talk and you two are going to listen.’ Man, did they listen all afternoon. I led those two young people to Jesus Christ. Charlie Stoltzfus experienced an Emmaus Road U-turn that day.”

God specializes in U-turns. The wonderful thing about Emmaus U-turns is that they appear all along our faith journey. Jesus is always present with us and invites us to walk with him and to follow him and to be transformed by the peace he breathes on us. Make a U-turn on the Emmaus Road and your life will be changed forever because you will encounter the Risen Christ through the power of his Holy  Spirit.

Luke is reminding us, in this story, that if we want to follow a new direction of faith, he doesn’t want us to walk alone. He wants us to walk with him and together as a community of faith. We are missing being together as the community of faith for that is what Jesus wants. We come together to worship, read the scriptures and breaking of the bread at communion, and our eyes are opened to see Jesus working in our lives.

During this pandemic, make a U-turn and have your eyes and heart opened to see Jesus, walking with you and loving you. He knows your pain and he knows your doubts. He knows your disappointments and he knows the sorrow of death.

Make a U-turn on your Emmaus Road and turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

Thank God for U-turns and new beginnings. May we recognize Jesus as we walk along this journey called life. Amen.

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