On The Road with Jesus: Looking for The Wrong Jesus - May 1, 2022

Luke 24:13-35To view, this service you can follow the link to our YouTube page: Worship Service for Sunday, May 1

On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him.

He said to them, "What are you talking about as you walk along?" They stopped, their faces downcast.

The one named Cleopas replied, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last

few days?"

He said to them, "What things?"

They said to him, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there's more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn't find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn't see him."

Then Jesus said to them, "You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn't it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, "Stay with us. It's nearly evening, and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, "Weren't our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?"

They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, "The Lord has risen! He appeared to Simon!" Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.
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It is later on the Day of Resurrection, what we call Easter, that two friends, probably followers but not any of the immediate circle of disciples are walking the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Since it is not a long walk and they are probably quite familiar with the road these two are chatting away about all of the confusing and confounding events of the past days. These men were oblivious to a third man who had joined them on the journey.
"Hey, guys! What's up? Mind if I join you?"
Luke says their faces were downcast. They were sad and confused, maybe fearful.
"Sure, glad to have the company."
"So, why the long faces, guys?"
"Are you the ONLY one coming from Jerusalem who is unaware of all that took place back there over the last few days?"
"What things? Tell me more."

And they did. They recounted the events of Friday and Saturday and Sunday morning. Their words and the tone of voice were probably a bit like Eeyore – gloom, and doom in their words and demeanor.

After they told their version of the story, Jesus, who is still not recognized, begins to try to convince them that this was all part of a master plan. "Evidently you for some reason are not connecting the dots between the words of the prophets and the events of today. Let's start at the beginning." And he goes on to point out from the prophecies these men should have heard in the synagogue and in Hebrew School as children and young men, bit by bit how the events match up to the prophecy. It is easy to believe that they might be catching on to what he is saying.

He is still explaining all of this when they get close to Emmaus and Jesus begins to say his goodbyes planning to continue further down the road. But these guys want to hear more and want others to hear as well. "Come on to our house for dinner. It might not be much but there is always enough and the company is good for our souls." Jesus accepts.

It seems odd, doesn't it, that everyone is looking for Jesus, from the people in the early morning garden to this evening dinner invitation. But no one sees him. But then, what does someone look like after the resurrection – after being in burial clothes and mildly incensed with spices for three days? After being in the dark hole in the wall used as a tomb?

When Jesus stood outside of the tomb of Lazarus and called him forth after burial one of the bystanders is reported to have said (King James Version) "Surely, Lord he stinketh!"

While people may have been looking for Jesus, according to the last glimpse they had of him alive, that is not the Jesus of the resurrection morning. This isn't the body of a man who was beaten, whipped, or had a crown of thorns pushed down on his head. In the first two accounts from the Gospel of John, he showed the disciples and then Thomas the nail prints on his hands and feet and the place on his side where the spear had been pushed. But he had to show them to others, so these wounds are not as gruesome in appearance as one might expect.

I have thought for many years now that these men on the Emmaus Road didn't recognize Jesus because they were looking for the wrong Jesus. They were assuming he would look defeated – scarred, bruised, bleeding. But it was not Jesus or God that was defeated in the resurrection. That is the message of Easter.

No, in fact, the resurrected Jesus picked right up where he left off . . . teaching people using the words of the prophets they knew, the words that were a part of their history.

I think that is such a powerful picture of what happens so often today. Often people describe Jesus as they want him to be. Meek and mild, the lover of children. The one who healed the lame, restored sight to the blind, and speech to the mute. And yes, those are the descriptors of the actions of the Messiah that we read in the prophets. But he wasn't all that meek and mild.

If we believe the teachings of Jesus, the really difficult, hard teachings of Jesus we find that we are called to do the really hard work of righting the wrongs that we or our ancestors or even our communities have cast out onto others. We are called to do better and to be better. And we are called to commit our lives to the teachings of Jesus, not just the promise of life after death and forgiveness of sins. Those are important. But there is no free ride in following this resurrected Jesus.

If the Kingdom of God, the kin-dom of our brothers and sisters in Christ is to come on earth as it is in heaven, then we must get on board with the resurrected Jesus and work to bring the kingdom to fruition. Jesus rose to continue the saving work of God in the world around us. And on the road to Emmaus, he is teaching that again to the new friends he met on that journey.

If we are not careful, like these two men, along with the disciples in the garden will keep looking for the wrong Jesus, the one who we assume we will encounter. Dropping all assumptions while we walk on this road with Jesus we will find that the Jesus we are called to follow is one who speaks justice and peace, the forgiveness of sins and transgressions for those who have transgressed against us and others, as well as our own sins. This Jesus is one that is not weak and defeated but rather is strong and defeating.

If we study and live by the teachings of Jesus, if we take the risk of living by those very hard calls to follow the resurrected Jesus we will follow Jesus along the path of a new life available for all persons.

It's supper time, and at the table, a very simple thing occurs: Jesus breaks the bread. And in that simple act, he is recognized.

The bread – the broken body of Jesus in a symbolic form – given to us and for us as we gather at this table today is the visible symbol of an invisible gift of grace. It is ours to receive freely, with no strings attached.

But with it comes the call to respond to the love and grace of God given to everyone. That response from us is to look for Jesus in all we do – at work, in our homes, in the community, in the world. When we leave this service today, we will once again have the chance to walk with Jesus on the journey of our lives. We can walk with him. We can talk with him. But look for the Jesus that was not defeated on the cross, but defeated all this world could throw at him on that cross. That is the Jesus that we follow today.