In our Gospel passage today, Luke tells us a story about the disciples who were on their way to a small village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking about all the things that had been happening lately, and while they were talking a traveler came and began to walk with them. This is a fascinating story. The story not only applies to the early disciples, but it applies to all of us, both individually and together.
Some researchers agree that during Jesus three years of ministry from @ age of 30 to 33, he walked over 3,000 miles. In his lifetime, he walked over 21,000 miles. The distance around the world at the equator is 24,902 miles. So, Jesus walked almost the distance around the world in his lifetime. Emmaus is a little town about seven miles from Jerusalem, located it what is known now as the West Bank, an area claimed by both Israel and Palestine. The town itself had been destroyed by the Romans, and later by an earthquake. In the ruins were found both a Jewish synagogue and a Samaritan synagogue. It was probably the home of Cleopas, one of the disciples that walked with Jesus on his way from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
As they are walking together on the road, Jesus says to them “What are you discussing?” And they reply; “Are you the only one that does not know the things that are going on?” And the traveler says: “What things?” So, they tell the traveler the story. These two disciples were confused, and seemingly sorrowful. Then the traveler begins to talk to them about this messiah, explaining to them from the Old Testament how all these things are to come to pass. And, when they come to the village they invite him to their lodgings for the evening.
When he sits down to eat with them, he takes bread and breaks it and gives it to them, and their eyes are opened and they recognize Him.” And then he vanishes from their sight. Then they say to each other after Jesus leaves them: “Did you notice the fire that was burning in our hearts as he was talking to us as we walked down the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?” The Holy Spirit is confirming to them, the spoken Word of God.
Sometimes God comes to us at unexpected times and opens the eyes of our hearts. In the midst of our daily routine, our daily schedule and routines, at times God breaks in with an “Aha moment”, and says: “Here I am. I have not forgotten about you. I’m with you all the time, but I want to remind you of that from time to time.” And, we like the disciples traveling on the Emmaus road will respond as they did: “Wasn’t our hearts burning within when he was with us?”
There are times in our lives when we are confused, perhaps sorrowful and full of despair. And, then maybe someone walked beside you, to encourage you, to assist you on your way, to help you navigate out of your confusion, to improve your worldview. When we encounter others on our many walks on the Emmaus road, do we treat others like we would treat Jesus. Jesus says that the way we treat others is the way we treat Him. (Matthew 25:45)
In a few weeks, we will celebrate the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ. The church becomes infused with the Holy Spirit, and in this Spirit, we become the Body of Christ. Jesus modeled and speaks to us through the Gospels of how we are to carry on the ministry that he started so many years ago. He modeled an ethical, just and merciful way that we should treat one another and to treat all people. He gives a pretty good blueprint on how we should also model our lives, to influence and to care for others on this road to Emmaus. We become His hands, his feet and the mouthpiece to carry on this work.
We are the Church of Jesus Christ. We are the Body of Christ, and Jesus is our leader. I have had “Emmaus Road” times when situations in my life cased me grief, confusion and bewilderment. We all have those times. That’s why in Jesus prayer to the Father on our behalf was: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. (John 17:15-18)
Change is not always an easy thing to go through. It’s much easier to talk about change than it is to be in the middle of it. It’s much easier to read about difficult transitions in a book that it is to go through those difficult transitions. People need encouragement on this journey. All of us need someone to join us, to walk beside us on our road to Emmaus.
Two and a half years ago, our son was driving his motor bike home from work in the evening. He was hit by a drunk driver, and it changed his life. About 10 surgeries later, his journey is not over, but he is on the way to recovery. Fortunately, he has a loving wife that cared for him day and night on this confusing journey. It changed our lives, both mine, Naomi’s and our youngest son Joshua. A good thing is that it brought our family so much closer together.
And, it affected this church as well. There were programs I put on hold, onto the back burner, and I had to depend on other people here to help carry the load. For that I am grateful. I appreciate my Christian brothers and sisters that stood behind me, and walked with us on that long Emmaus Road, walked with our family, prayed for us, especially for Nate. Nate was here yesterday, helping me to adjust the sound system. He’s good at that. He used to manage his own band, wrote all the music, and always went ahead of the band to check out and tweak the sound systems before a concert. At least our microphones are in sync. There is more work to be done, but it’s a good start.
That was our road to Emmaus, and our hearts were warmed by the people that walked with us, that assisted and cared for us on that road. I pray that I can walk with you on your road to Emmaus. We can walk with each other and encourage one another while it is still day. In the Welcome Church, we walk with people that are going through tough times. We walk alongside of them, listen to their stories, and try to feel their pain. One man I recently talked to needs a new kidney. He has been given about six months to live. He’s on the list to get a new kidney, but the wait time is about a year and a half, too far off to help him.
Our message to others is this: This is not the end of the road for you. God loves you, and I love you. Let’s walk this road together on this road to Emmaus. I may not be able to fix whatever is broken, but I can walk beside you and accept you for who you are, a child of God. To the newcomers, the refugees who have escaped horrible settings, from places that were too dangerous for them to stay. Our message to them as a church is this: “Let us walk with you on this road to Emmaus. God loves you just the way you are, not for what you have done it the past or what you may do in the future, but right here, right now, God loves you. And, I love you. Let’s walk together”.
I ask you this morning that when you come to the altar, and after the communion is blessed, prayed over, broken and given to you…and when you receive it, allow the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and give you a glimpse, a better understanding of what communion at the Lord’s Table is all about. I pray that you too will have an Emmaus Road experience.
Oh God, whose blessed son made himself known to his disciples through the breaking of bread, open our eyes of faith.
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen