There was once a little boy named Emmet who couldn’t see very well. The funny thing about it was that he didn’t know it. In fact, no one knew it — not his mother or father, his grandmother or grandfather, not even his closest friends knew that Emmet couldn’t see very well.
Emmet thought that everything in the world had fuzzy edges because that is the way things looked to him. He thought that all of the other children saw things just as he saw them. As he got older his mother began to wonder why Emmet always sat so close to the TV. His grandfather noticed that when he looked at a book, he held it very close to his face. When Emmet began school, he complained to the teacher that he couldn’t see the words on the chalk board clearly. Finally, everyone began to realize that Emmet needed glasses.
Emmet’s parents took him to an eye doctor and the doctor told them, “Emmet needs glasses.” In a few days, Emmet had a brand new pair of glasses. At first, he was afraid that the other kids would make fun of him because he had to wear glasses, but when he put the glasses on, he put his worries behind him. WOW! The world looked so different. Suddenly, Emmet discovered that everything in the world didn’t have fuzzy edges. He realized that a tree had leaves. He could read a book without holding it right up to his face. He could see his mother’s face clearly, even when she was all the way across the room. It was great.
We may not have trouble with our eyesight, but all of us have difficulty seeing and understanding things at times. The events in Luke 24:13-35 took place just three days after Jesus was crucified. They show how some of Jesus’ disciples had trouble understanding what they had seen.
When Jesus died, his followers thought that he was gone forever. They didn’t know what to do. They were very sad. They couldn’t see things clearly because they were so mixed up and upset. Two of Jesus’ friends were sadly walking back to their home in the village of Emmaus when another traveler joined them on the road. They didn’t recognize who it was, but they began to talk to him and tell him all about what had happened to Jesus and how sad they were. The two men revealed they still did not understand who Jesus was. They saw Him as a mighty prophet, not as the Messiah and Son of God. Luke carefully notes the difference in attitude toward Jesus between the people and the chief priests and rulers-a constant theme in Luke’s Gospel.
When it was evening they arrived at their home and invited the stranger to stay with them and have supper. They sat down to eat and when the traveler broke the bread and blessed it, something happened. It was as if they had put on little Emmet’s glasses. Suddenly they saw clearly what they hadn’t seen before even though they had been looking right at it most of the day. They realized that the stranger who had joined them on the road was really Jesus – alive and well. After Jesus left them, they ran back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.
These two men were disciples of Jesus, perhaps among the seventy that Jesus sent out. They had heard the message of Christ’s resurrection, but their hearts were broken, believing it was a fraud.
Sometimes we feel confused and don’t see things clearly. When that happens, we need help understanding our lives more clearly. Jesus is with us to help us to do that. He helps us to understand that God loves us and that there is nothing to be afraid of.
Many of us hope that there is a force out there that is trying to encourage us to improve our lives, and there is. It is the Christian faith. This might be the last place most of us think of finding this power. Christianity might seem to be very dull and boring, but that is because we’ve forgotten that the most powerful force in the universe is within us. That is the message of the Emmaus Road story. We must always remember that we have the ultimate source of power and love within us as we travel on our own Emmaus Roads.
For these two men, when Jesus died on the cross, all their hopes of rescue from Roman opposition had died with Him. Because their hope was gone, they discounted the testimony of the women at the empty tomb. They still saw Him as a prophet. The resurrected Jesus challenges our false assumptions. Without the resurrection, Jesus is just a martyr, a moral teacher, a dead hero, or even a liar. The resurrection of Jesus challenges the common false beliefs of our culture-that all religions are true, all truths are equal, and any attempt at morality will earn you a seat in heaven.
There is a sense of disappointment in this story. We tend to gloss over it. We tend to move too quickly toward some kind of resolution. We flee from the cross-like experiences of life for the promise of resurrection. This happens in both the church and in real life. We want to meet Jesus on the road of life. We want Him to help us make sense of everything that is going on in our world. We want to see Him around the Communion table and in the breaking of bread.
Jesus answered their doubts as He talked to them. Some people have the same doubts today, but Jesus can answer their doubts if they spend time with Him and study His Word. When He sees sincere seekers with confused hearts, He will do whatever it takes to help them see His will. That’s what He was doing on the road to Emmaus. Jesus gave the two disciples and us a new way of seeing the Scriptures we know with new eyes that were opened. We see the Scriptures from a completely different point of view.
Even if we have never walked a road to Emmaus, we have all walked with both men. Who among us does not carry the burden of grief, loss and guilt at the death of someone we love? Who does not feel some sense of sadness and bewilderment when we are confronted by death of any sort, whether it be the death of a spouse, lover, child or parent; the death of a marriage or a relationship; the death of a job or sense of self?
The words the disciples spoke on the road to Emmaus were words of pain, disappointment, bewilderment and yearning. They are the same words we say when we come to the end of our hopes, when our expectations have not been met, when our dreams are dead, when there is nothing left to do but leave, defeated and done.
When death comes to us, it comes in a haze of defeat, sadness and bewilderment. It comes to us in the midst of grief, guilt and loss; it comes to us in darkness and despair as night is approaching not just out there but in our hearts. The two men saw before them not a ghost or a vision but the reality of larger life that is possible in Jesus. We see that the grave and death are not the end but the gate and door to something much larger. Christ’s resurrection is a life of victory and joy and wonder. It is a life of hope that tells us that death in any form is not the end but the gate and door or something new.
Jesus’ rebuke to correct His followers’ misunderstanding in this instance is a good word to believers in every era to pay attention to all the Scriptures. While the Bible certainly portrays the Messiah as a ruling king, it also presents Him as a suffering servant. Both parts of the Scripture must be honoured and believed. Perhaps He expounded on the Messianic psalms or spoke of Abraham and Isaac, explaining that although God had spared Isaac, He had not spared His own Son. Or perhaps He quoted Isaiah 53:6, saying “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The events of Easter are not part of a creed or philosophy. We are asked to meet the Jesus who was raised from the dead. We move in faith from belief in the Resurrection to knowledge of a person. In His resurrection, Jesus moves our faith to the present tense from the past tense. In return, we are to be part of what He is doing in our world.
As the men drew near their destination, Christ did not force Himself into their home. He waited until they invited Him in, and then He became a crucial part of their lives. Jesus the guest quickly became Jesus the host. In an Eastern setting, bread was not sliced but came as an entire loaf. To serve the bread, the person broke off a piece and gave it to another. Apparently Jesus’ distinct way of doing this revealed His identity. Instantly Jesus vanished from their sight, having previously promised in Luke 22:16 that He would not eat with His disciples again until He was in the kingdom. Now the Kingdom had come!
Jesus comes and walks with us where we are. He walks with us amid challenges and grief, amid darkness and despair. He comes to us where we are, walking among us amid questions about death and darkness, loss and limits, questions about pain and wounds, fear and imperfection, questions about what just happened and how we will continue.
Jesus has come to open our eyes, ears and hearts so that we can truly see Him. How do we recognize Jesus? First, we recognize Him by knowing the Bible and spending time with Him. Second, we recognize Him when we spend time with fellow believers. Third, we need to have a heightened awareness. We need to expect that Jesus will reveal Himself to us.
Finally, we need to make time for Him in our lives. Jesus said in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in.” We must allow Him to enter into our lives. A good suggestion is to take a few minutes each day just to say, “Lord, I’m setting this time aside. I want you to come in and spend time with me.” If we don’t, He goes on without bothering us, for He does not intrude.
In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Stephen Covey wrote about a time when he was on a subway at the end of the day. He was tired. A man boarded the train with his two rambunctious boys. They were inconsiderate of other passengers. Stephen Covey was so bothered that he reached a boiling point and had to say something to the man. “Sir, aren’t you going to do something about these boys? They are bothering everyone.”
The man, almost as if he had awakened from a stupor, said, “Yes, I’m sorry. I’m not thinking straight. We’ve just left a hospital. Their mother died this morning and I just do not know what I am doing.” This changed Stephen Covey’s entire outlook. Suddenly he could honestly say, “They aren’t bothering me. I’m sorry. What can I do for you?” Seeing clearly made him feel totally different about the situation.
Are we like Jesus on the Emmaus Road? Do we look for opportunities to encourage and help others understand God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice for them? Do we look for opportunities to come alongside other Christians to encourage, support and help them understand and apply God’s Word? We often look for things in the wrong places. The right place is one where a deep, intimate, loving, caring, long term relationship can be found. This story gives us clues as to where to find the Risen Christ. We can find the Risen Christ in the Word, the Sacraments, and the friendship that Christ offers to us.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1434-1435)
- “Seeing Clearly.” Retrieved from www.sermons4kids.ccsend.com
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol.26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 347-352)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
- Bro. James Koester, “Believe in It? I’ve Seen It!” Retrieved from www.ssje.org
- “Helping Opportunities.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bro. Luke Dietwig, “Walk with Me.” Retrieved from www.ssje.org
- Alan Wright, “How the Spirit Heightens the Intellect (Part 2).” Retrieved from www.sharingthelight.org
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “The Truth Confirmed.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Fr. Lawrence Lew, “Broken Before Burning.” Retrieved form www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3188
- “The Economy of Resurrection.” Retrieved from www.onemansweb.org/theology/life-on-the-beach-matthew-24-36-44/the-economy-of-resurrection.html
- The Rev. Edward Markquart, “Looking in the Wrong Places.” Retrieved from www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_a_looking_in_the_wrong_places.htm
- The Rev. Janet Hunt, “Walking Towards Emmaus, Waling Towards Home…” Retrieved from http://dancingwiththeword.com/walking-towards-emmaus-walking-towards-home/
- Debi Thomas, “But We Had Hoped.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net
- Fritz Wendt, “The Politics of Burning Hearts.” Retrieved from https://politicaltheology.com/the-politics-of-burning-hearts.html