Sunday, 23 April 2017

April 23, 2017

Emmaus Road

Emmaus Road

April 23, 2017

Luke 24:13-35


I was 10 years old and in fifth grade when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  It was a dark, dreary Friday.  We were in the classroom when the intercom came on and a radio broadcast was playing.  It took a while before we realized what it was all about.  President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas.


My teacher was Mr. Mueller.  He was quietly listening to the intercom, too.  Kids started asking questions and he answered them as best he could. When the school day ended, my brother, our neighbor Scott and I got on our bikes and rode to our homes.


All three TV stations had constant coverage, but the reality was still hard to accept. It didn’t seem real.  It didn’t seem possible that the President was dead.  I had a hard time sleeping that night.  I had received a kids’ newspaper at church the Sunday before.  On the front page was a picture of a some Lutheran boy receiving an award from President Kennedy. Now the President was gone.  None of what was happening made any sense.


I believe that many people must have felt like that when Jesus died.  He had seemed so full of life and his life seemed to bring so much hope.  Crowds had gathered to see him.  Crowds had cheered him when he entered Jerusalem only a week before.  They proclaimed him the “Son of David”.  They hoped that Jesus was not only the new King but the Messiah, the savior.


On Thursday he had been arrested.  On Friday he was dead; tortured and crucified.  It was over. He was gone. Hope was gone.  It didn’t make any sense, but life must go on.


It was Sunday, the first day of the week. Sunday was our Monday, the day when the day of rest was done and normal life was supposed to go on. Two men, one named Cleopas and the other unnamed were traveling to a place called Emmaus.  They were talking about the events of the weekend when a stranger joined them.


The stranger wanted to know what they were discussing.  It was a simple question.  The men responded as if they couldn’t believe the stranger wouldn’t know what they would be talking about.  Wasn’t everyone talking about Jesus and the events that had taken place?   And they shared some inside information with the stranger.  There were women followers of Jesus who said that they had gone to the tomb and it was empty.  They said that angels had told them that Jesus was alive.  Some of their friends had even gone to tomb and also found it empty. 


Then it was the stranger who expressed surprise, and perhaps some irritation.  Hadn’t they ever read the scriptures?  Didn’t they know what the prophets had said?  As they walked along, the stranger explained to them what had been foretold about the Messiah and how everything that had happened fit into the description of events the scriptures had shared.


They reached Emmaus.  The stranger was going to keep walking.  The men invited them to stay with them.  It was almost night.  Why not call it a day?  So they all settled in.


It was suppertime.  We don’t know where the bread came from, but it was the stranger who took the bread and asked God’s blessing on it.  He broke it and gave it to them.  The two men had not been with Jesus when he had done that in the upper room in Jerusalem, but maybe they had been told about that meal.  Perhaps they had been there when Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and fed five thousand people.  Surely they had been with him other times when Jesus took part in the daily act of sharing food.


Why they had not recognized him before, it’s hard to say.  The men both later agreed that their hearts had been burning while they walked with the stranger. They knew something special was happening. They finally recognized Jesus when he shared the bread with them.  Then he was gone, just like that.  Their joy was overwhelming.  They knew they would not sleep.  They had to tell their friends. So they went out into the night and returned to Jerusalem. They wanted others to know that JESUS IS ALIVE!


JESUS IS ALIVE!  It’s one week after Easter.  Last week the building was a little more full than today.  Last week there was a higher level of excitement.  Some things have changed, but the message is still the same. JESUS IS ALIVE!


Jesus had promised so much.  He said he was the way, the truth and the life.  Jesus was and is the way to forgiveness and freedom from the past.  He is the truth that sets us free from worry and fear.  He is the life, the eternal life.  Jesus is the life we have in God’s love that does not ever end.  Because he lives, we live, now and forever.


Who do you know who needs to find freedom from the burdens of the past?  Who do you know who needs to be set free from worry and fear? Who do you know who needs to know that they are loved and cared for, even by God himself?  We can share the good news that we all are set free and have new life because JESUS IS ALIVE!


Today we join Christians around the world as we share his meal once again. We join Christians throughout time as we share bread and wine, Jesus’ body and blood and the message of love and life in the meal.  Today Jesus is truly present with us in this special meal and we know that JESUS IS ALIVE!


When my wife was a little girl, Pastor Rueben Youngdahl of Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis had a ten minute TV show every morning on WCCO, channel 4 in Minneapolis. It was called, “Live Today”.  At the end of every show he said, “Yesterday, is gone ... Tomorrow, does not yet belong to you ... So live today, and know that you will never walk alone."


It was a statement meant to bring comfort and hope.  My wife however, took it to be a warning and a command.  She thought it was a warning that, when she walked down to the church or to the local country store that she should always go with one of her brothers or with a friend . . . never walk alone!


It’s nice to walk with a friend.  It’s nice to share our lives with others, even a nation or the world, especially in dark and uncertain times.  But when there seems to be no one else who can be with us in the difficult times, just like the two men who travelled to Emmaus, we know we never walk alone.  JESUS IS ALIVE and with us always. AMEN