April 7, 2024


Luke 24:13-36

Rev. Shannon Jordan

As we read this scripture today, it is easy for us to get lost in the familiar words of this Easter afternoon. Many of us have heard this scripture countless times and it’s easy for us to tune it out—thinking we know what’s coming next.  But I want to invite you to put yourself in the scene. Imagine being the unnamed disciple of Jesus. Your leader and your friend was tortured and murdered. You and the other disciples have felt hunted by the authorities. Even Peter has denied Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus. Jesus, on whom you had hung all of your hopes for a better life, moving forward, was crucified, dead, and buried.

You are devastated as you walk to Emmaus. Here these words anew:

Luke 24: 13-36  Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 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?’ 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, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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. 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.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

Can you see it? Can you feel their grief? Their confusion? Their sense of giving up as they leave Jerusalem?  It is in this place of grief, of hopelessness, that Jesus comes to his disciples. In the midst of their grief, in the midst of their worry, and the midst of their confusion, and their questions that seem to have them arguing with one another, Jesus comes to them. I am going to start this sermon with this word of hope—Jesus comes to us in our pain!

Back to the road, one question people have is this: who was the unnamed disciple? Some commentators think the unnamed disciple was a woman, because a man would have been named – like Cleopas. Sharon Ringe, one of my New Testament Professors, supports this in her commentary on Luke.

We also don’t know why the disciples were kept from recognizing Jesus. Lots of people have guessed over the years, but we have no idea. Regardless of the reason, it gave these grieving disciples the opportunity to engage with, and welcome, a stranger. Even in the original language of Greek, we have no idea of the tone of voice that these disciples had when they asked Jesus how he had not heard the story of what had gone on in Jerusalem.

The disciples engage with the stranger. That is a choice worth our noting. This is a pattern throughout scripture. In Matthew 25 Jesus says “When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink.” The people responded in Matthew 25 that they didn’t know it was Jesus, and he replied that when they shared with the stranger, they shared with him.  Caring for the stranger, reaching out to the stranger is a key theme or pattern in scripture. Scripture lifts the value on the stranger or hospitality over and over again. This is a pattern that we can choose to take on for ourselves. For some of us that is about loving our neighbors at Saturday Sanctuary or another program that allows us to safely engage with strangers according to a plan. But the pattern that is lifted here in scripture is not that.

It is being aware of those around us and engaging with them. I won’t ask for a show of hands for who just cringed at that idea! I am guessing I am not the only one who often hides behind my phone so I don’t have to engage with strangers when waiting in line or at a coffee shop.  Engaging with the stranger is tough in this day and age. But what if these disciples hadn’t reached out? What if they had continued arguing—what if they did their version of being friendly but not connecting—not making time—not making him welcome to walk with them? What would they have missed? They would have missed Jesus. Who do we miss when we don’t engage?

Another pattern that we notice from scripture that is highlighted in this pericope is of sharing a meal. In Luke, many of the important passages happen around a meal. So many, as a matter of fact, that in Luke 7 we are told that Jesus is accused of being a drunk and a glutton. Meals were very important to Jesus. We hear about Jesus teaching crowds a few times, we hear about him sharing meals often.

It fascinates me to see how Jesus shifts from being the guest at the table to the host of the table where he blesses, breaks, and gives the bread to the disciples. It is in this action that Jesus is recognized. We see this not only here, but at the feeding of the 5000 and the Last Supper.

As I thought about these patterns—engaging with strangers and the ministry around a meal table—in light of recent weeks here at FPCA. Four recent memorial services have shown many of us what is really important—faith, family, and friends. In yesterday’s service the scriptures, poetry, and music chosen by the deceased lifted the values of loving others and keeping things in perspective. The memorial service yesterday lifted the value of staying connected with our loved ones. Phone calls, emails, texts, walks, hiking. What if we actually used our phones as a means to stay connected instead of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling?

What would you do with your time if you didn’t have your phone as immediate entertainment and distraction? What could we accomplish? What healthy habits could we foster?

I believe—and studies have shown—our exposure to nonstop news, the barrage of information, and time on social media are causing an epidemic of isolation, anger, and anxiety.

We can learn from this passage a new pattern that will make our lives better, and as we do it, make our wider community—make our neighborhoods and Asheville—better places as we go out and live this way.

What if we were more intentional at having a pattern in our lives that emphasized connection with others? What if we were more intentional around mealtime? There is something special that happens over a table and a meal. When my kids would complain that we ate meals together instead of watching TV or something, I would quip that studies show that if we ate family meals together regularly that they had a lowered chance of drug addiction and unwanted pregnancies. I checked, those stats apparently are still true!!!

Meals are so important throughout scripture. One of our two sacraments, Communion, is based on a meal. These disciples recognized Jesus in the act of serving the meal. One of the first things that Jesus asks the disciples when they see him just a few verses from these is to ask for something to eat. One of the last things that Jesus does for his disciples in the Gospel of John is to feed them a meal.

The importance of meals together continues into Act. Acts is the continuation of Luke—the same author. All through Acts they talk about the importance of meals that they share together. As early as Acts 1:4 we hear about a meal Jesus and the disciples shared together. In Acts 2, after Pentecost, the new believers formed a community with the disciples—and Acts 2:42 says that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing meals together, and to prayer.

Taking time for fellowship, for community, is a key part of our lives as Christians. Sharing meals together as a family, sharing meals together as a couple, sharing meals together as a friend group, with neighbors, with co-workers, sharing meals together as a church. It’s around the table that we get to know each other on a deeper level. It is in this space that lives are changed through meaningful relationships.

This is one reason for the critical work that our Congregational Life Team does and why these times of food and fellowship are an important part of what we do as a church. It is around table that we build relationships that lead to care and prayer and learning about the love of God felt through a friend.

It was interesting in a recent faith formation class where we did an exercise on introverts and extroverts, and there were significantly more introverts! I think it is safe to say that there are a lot of introverts in the Presbyterian world. Not to say that some of you aren’t extroverts, but there are a lot of introverts, and for those of us that are introverts we have to plan. We have to have a pattern. We do better with a routine. So how can we set that up so we can have the community, connection, support, and encouragement that we receive when we’re in regular community with one another as God‘s church?

This summer we will be once again having our summer social groups—sign ups will be in May. We will also be forming small groups in the fall. Making time for this pattern of intentional community is so important in our lives. I hope you will make time. Groups have made such an impact on my life.

I have shared with many of you the critical impact being in a group has made on my life.  I meet with one group via Zoom a couple of times a month—we have been meeting for 10 years. While we have done a variety of different studies, what hasn’t changed is our commitment to pray for one another and the pattern of asking one another where we have seen God at work in our lives. Just the pattern of reflecting on where my life is intersecting with God’s work in the world is a pattern for a different way of living. Praying for someone else is a shapes my life to a pattern created by God.

In closing, I had this vision of how the Road to Emmaus might go today. The disciples would have air buds in and be walking. One probably said that it was a stressful weekend and they just wanted to binge something on Netflix or scroll Instagram. Maybe watch cat videos. They would have had the opportunity to walk with, learn from, be fed by the risen Christ, and instead they are scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.

Church, let’s not miss what God has in front of us. Let’s not let our smart phones keep us so distracted that we miss the people God has for us to love. Let’s not miss the people God has put in our lives to love us because we don’t make the time for them. God is at work in our world. God is near us each day on our own roads to Emmaus—or Merrimon or Hendersonville Road. God is near us in the grocery store and in our neighborhoods and at work and at school. Recognize God and let it change your life!


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