January 27, 2020

Extending Hospitality

The Road to Emmaus, Duccio di Buoninsegna

Journey into New Life, part four
Extending Hospitality (Luke 24)

Our Gospel text for this Easter season is Luke 24:13-35, the story of the risen Lord’s encounter with his disciples on the road to Emmaus. In this passage Luke tells us what it means to walk with the living Lord Jesus Christ. It is more than a story of something that happened back then. It represents what newness of life is all about, how it works, and what it is like to experience the new creation. We are the disciples on the road, and Jesus comes to walk with us.

• • •

“They were by now approaching the village to which they were going. He gave the impression that he meant to go on further, but they stopped him with the words, ‘Do stay with us. It is nearly evening and soon the day will be over’” (Luke 24:28-29, JB Phillips)

It has been said that this is an example of how we should invite Jesus into our lives.

The two from Emmaus arrived at their home (they may have been husband and wife). An intriguing stranger had joined them on their journey and caused no end of curiosity by the words he had spoken. As the sun was setting, it was only proper for them to extend an offer for him to join them for the evening meal. So they did, even though he looked as though he would be traveling on.

This was kindness, yes. Hospitality, yes. Proper manners, certainly. Perhaps it was also an indication that they had become profoundly interested in this fellow pilgrim and were interested in hearing more of what he had to say.

However, it was not an invitation that they knowingly extended to Jesus.

The man who had met them on the road remained a stranger at the moment of invitation.

The only thing these two disciples knew when they arrived home was that they had met a remarkable individual on the road. This man had walked with them, had listened to their sad laments and spiritual questions, and had shared deep insights about the Messiah and his Kingdom from the Scriptures. They had made a friend, or so it seemed.

Therefore, they did what neighbors and friends do. They spoke words of simple kindness and invitation: “Do stay with us. It is nearly evening and soon the day will be over.” They offered hospitality: a place of welcome, a seat at the table, a warm meal and a refreshing drink, companionship, conversation, rest.

They really had no idea who the man was, but with typical Middle Eastern courtesy, they extended an offer of food and fellowship. Did not Abraham their father do the same when G-d came to him in the disguise of three strangers? Did he not run from the entrance of his tent to meet the strangers, bowing down to the ground before them? Did he not bring water and wash their feet? Did he not give them rest under the tree? Did he not bring bread to refresh them, that he might send them on their way rested and nourished?

These children of Abraham did the same, welcoming the stranger, unaware of his true identity.

We must not think of this story as an encouragement to invite Jesus into our lives and our homes. That would be jumping the gun. If it encourages anything, it recommends kindness to the stranger, the neighbor who comes alongside us on the journey, who converses with us, and who would pass out of our lives if we fail to invite him in. It exemplifies the possibilities of making connections out of casual contacts, of finding friends in folks with whom we may only have fleeting encounters. The author of Hebrews tells us that we may “entertain angels unaware” when we welcome unknown guests and show them hospitality. Luke in fact suggests it might be the risen Lord himself!

The Emmaus disciples would learn soon enough that the stranger was Jesus. That would happen at his initiative, not theirs.

However, by showing kindness to a fellow traveler, perhaps they made a little more room in their hearts for the moment of revelation.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt. 25:35).

Comments

  1. if ever things become too esoteric, it’s a good thing to remember these; ‘you fed me – you clothed me – you visited me – you welcomed me’. Without those we are just so many clanging bells aren’t we!

  2. The Christian life invites us to levels of transparency and intimacy that we often aren’t comfortable with. There are a lot of folks we encounter as we journey throughout our busy day, but very few that we actually invite into our homes; out of the few we invite into our homes, even fewer sit and eat with us. Eating is an intimate act, involving parts of our body that we normally don’t expose to others (hands and mouths); therefore, we don’t share the table with everyone. And even those who eat at our tables don’t often get invited to stay the night in our homes!

    Jesus challenges us beyond maintaining comfortable distance with those around us, and with Him. Nouwen wrote that the incredible thing about Christ is that when we invite Him in fully to our intimate, private lives, He becomes the host at the table…demonstrated just a couple of verses down the road, when Jesus breaks bread and serves those who invited Him in.

    What a remarkable God…

  3. How might our society be transformed if all of us took the time to regularly practice hospitality with those we already know, let alone strangers or new acquaintances? There is something about sharing a meal with someone that brings a new level of intimacy and bonding. Our church eats together every Sunday night, and just that simple act has made such a difference in our members’ lives already.

  4. I was amazed to discover that the Greek word translated as “hospitality” literally means “loving the stranger.” So-o-o, all the talk about extending hospitality to our fellow Christians doesn’t wash–we’re encouraged by Jesus to take into our homes the “Great Unwashed.” Wow, certainly gives new meaning to the Potluck for Us’ns!!

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    “They were by now approaching the village to which they were going. He gave the impression that he meant to go on further, but they stopped him with the words, ‘Do stay with us. It is nearly evening and soon the day will be over’” (Luke 24:28-29, JB Phillips)

    It has been said that this is an example of how we should invite Jesus into our lives.

    Again, the Evangelical tunnel-vision on “Soul-Winning” and Altar-Call Conversions. The natural result of a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

    • HUG, I have to disagree with you a little on this one. Like you, I don’t like the evangelical practice of “walk the aisle, pray the prayer, invite Jesus into your heart, and everything will be okay…” , but I didn’t read the post to imply “that kind of invitation”, so to speak.

      This piece speaks to a deeper level of commitment to the idea of “inviting Jesus in”…inviting him into our most personal and secret places, somewhere beyond the superficial exploitation of emotions that we so often see during altar calls. Inviting him into our homes, to our table, to stay with us an extended period…that requires us to be vulnerable and open to whatever it is he has to offer us, this mysterious stranger.

      I know we all read from different perspectives…I just took this particular piece in a different way than you did.

  6. Judy / Ca says

    It has been during those times of grief and loss that I have been most open to that voice or person who offers some light, some sense to my confussion. It is no wonder these pilgrims opened their door to the one who saw their pain, didn’t try to fix them yet offered them hope. Inviting in the stranger who was revealed as the Christ is so often a first step to faith (not a personal salvation kind) but a true and authentic trust in the Son who shows us the love of the Father. I don’t believe we are really able to offer that kind of hospitality until we have experienced it ourselves.

  7. JoanieD says

    I always feel guilty when I pass by hitch-hikers. Certainly most people will say, “It’s not safe to pick up hitch-hikers. Don’t even think of it!” But still, there it is, my feeling guilty with my big empty car and them needing a ride. I think if I REALLY took the things Jesus said to heart, I would not be fearful about doing a favor for these people in need. It would be the hospitable thing to do. But I don’t and I won’t, so I will go on being inhospitable

    • If you suspect it is not safe (and this would be true in most of the USA), your instincts are probably correct. Don’t feel guilty about protecting yourself.

    • Jesus said you will always have the poor with you. Help other poor and set the guilt free.

  8. David Cornwell says

    The last church where I was a pastor was in a small town. It was located on a national bicycle route, so in the summers riders often came riding through. During our first summer in that town, after nightfall, a boy about 19 years of age knocked on our door (the parsonage was next to the church). He was soaking wet, as it at been pouring the rain. He was cold, hungry, tired, and somewhat desperate. So, after some slight hesitation, I invited him in. After a few moments talking we directed him to the bathroom for a shower. He changed to dry clothing, and came back downstairs. Then we fed him, and gave him our guest bedroom.

    In the morning, after breakfast, he started on his way. I’ve never seen a person so grateful. We stayed in touch for many years, he calling us on the anniversary of his stay and updating us on his life. He even sent us a little bicycle suncatcher that still hangs in one of our windows.

    Sometimes these days it seems dangerous to be hospitable. But on the other hand it can be a blessing in many ways.

  9. I’ve always thought the church and individual Christians could do more in this area (me included). One way would be through a website like warmshowers.org, where you get access to a list of people willing to let travelers stay with them by being willing to do the same. It would be a step in the right direction.

    I’m also a bicyclists and read a lot of bike touring journals. A continuing theme in almost every one is the deep impressions and sometimes lasting relationships that come when they experience hospitality on the road. Hospitality is ultimately about letting people into your life. And that’s scary. I’m as guilty as anyone else of being ruled by fear rather than the kind of generosity I know I should have in this.

  10. Two things have always caused me trouble about this particular story. You really touched on one of them here. The first question I’ve had has always been about why they didn’t recognize Jesus; it seems to indicate that they were prevented from recognizing him rather than simply not recognizing who their companion was. This probably isn’t important to the story or even worth discussion, but it has always vexed me none-the-less. The second point in this story that really gets me, which I think you have really helped me with, is why the story appears here in the Gospel at all. Is it just another example of Jesus physically appearing to individuals to prove to us the Resurrection was a true event? Is it an allusion to the importance of the Eucharist in the lives of future Disciples? Right at the end you say, “by showing kindness to a fellow traveler, perhaps they made a little more room in their hearts for the moment of revelation” which really nails it for me. I think you could even argue here that it doesn’t matter if their travelling companion was literally Christ himself; in extending table fellowship with the road-weary traveler these two had begun living out the message of Jesus in they way that it seems that He had been asking us to from the very beginning. Find him in the poor, the hungry, the road-weary. Thanks so much for this post, it makes this story sing for me!

  11. JoanieD says

    Chris…I, too, have wondered about the post-resurrection stories where the disciples do not recognize Jesus at first. On one hand, we have him showing his disciples the marks on his hands and feet from when he was crucified. On the other hand, you have the stories where they don’t recognize him, including the scene where he was making fish breakfast for the disciples on the beach as they fished. We know his actual body resurrected, but we know it was different in some way. He could suddenly appear in locked rooms, for one thing. I guess this is just something I will have to ask Jesus when I see Him in the life to come!