February 26, 2020

Journey into New Life (1)

It is Eastertide, the Great Fifty Days during which we celebrate the victory of the risen Christ, remember his appearances, prepare for his Ascension, and prayerfully wait for the power of the Spirit to come at Pentecost.

I have long thought that this was an especially good time for the Church to gather together in study. Our culture does not make that easy, however. For I have also found that, for those with families, April and May can be the busiest months. Schools are moving toward the end of the year, outdoor activities at home and in the community are springing up everywhere, and there are holidays and graduations and weddings and vacations to keep in mind. Here in the northern hemisphere at least, life in all its facets emerges with fresh energy in spring.

And yet this is also the time when the followers of Jesus are called to be most alive to the spiritual possibilities of life in Christ. We make a great deal of Holy Week, with its culmination on the Triduum of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Then we wake up Monday morning and go to work. But in the Church Year, like at Christmas, the Easter season actually begins, not ends, on the day we call Easter. It introduces us to the risen Christ, and the rest of year, beginning with the season immediately following, is the time we during which we are called to walk with him.

During these Fifty Days, we at Internet Monk want to encourage you to walk in newness of life with Jesus. So, for the next few weeks on Wednesday afternoons we will provide a meditation on a Gospel passage and on Friday mornings, we will direct our attention to a recent book on Ephesians that focuses on the great drama of Christ’s victory.

Our Gospel passage is Luke 24:13-35, the story of the risen Lord’s encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. I have chosen this text because it sets forth a Lukan paradigm of what it means to walk with the living Lord Jesus Christ. This story is more than a story of something that happened back then. It represents what newness of life is all about, how it works, what it is like to experience the new creation. We are the disciples on the road, and Jesus comes to walk with us. He encounters us personally, opens the written Word to us, comes into our lives, feeds us at his Table, and sends us forth renewed.

Today we will introduce this story and its main features.

Road to Emmaus, He Qi

My first observation is that this is a COMMUNITY story. It is not about one person’s “personal relationship” with Jesus. Two disciples walk the Emmaus Road. They are part of the bigger fellowship of disciples. Jesus comes to them together.

Perhaps Luke is highlighting a “witness” theme here – in the mouth of at least two witnesses, the truth is confirmed. It is fitting to note that whenever Jesus appears after his resurrection, it is in context of the community of his followers. True, he does sometimes come to individuals, but when he does, the command and the end result is always to go and tell the others and to give further instructions to the family of faith.

New life in Jesus is not mine to revel in alone, it is something I share with my sisters and brothers.

Second, I observe that this is a FULFILLMENT story. These two people were walking home sadly, their hopes dashed. What hopes? “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (v. 21) – those hopes. The hopes and dreams of God’s people, rooted in the Story of Israel. This story is told in the Tanakh, the Law/Prophets/Writings book that we call the “Old” or better, the “First” testament. This story had seemingly ground to a halt in their day. Israel had returned from Exile in Babylon but had never returned to her former glory. The Temple at which they worshiped was an architectural wonder, but they lived under the rule of pagans and infidels, and had for a long time. Their kingdom, captured in their memory as the glory of King David and King Solomon, had never been reestablished. They thought Jesus was the One who would take the throne back up again and deliver the people from their enemies, restoring Israel to her former greatness.

As it turns out, Jesus teaches them from the Tanakh that God’s promises were pointing to him (vv. 25-27), and that he had inaugurated God’s Kingdom rule. At that moment, however, it did not appear so.

My third observation is that this is a WORD AND SACRAMENT story. The scripture study Jesus gave them on the road must have been incredible. Later these two testified how it made their hearts “burn” with intense faith, hope, and joy (v. 32). The Word of the Gospel has the power to do that. In this story it turned disciples who were sad of heart and slow of heart into people with burning hearts. And yet the Word was not all they received from Jesus. In fact, they still did not recognize him, even after he had taught them directly. It was only after they came to their home, invited him in, and sat down with him at the table that their eyes were opened. There, at that table, he who was their invited guest took the place of the host. As the head of the household would do, he took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them. It was in the breaking of the bread that they saw it was Jesus.

And so we have Luke’s ecclesiology made clear in this climactic story in the Gospel –

God’s new community is made up of those who meet together with Jesus, the Risen One who fulfills the Story of Israel and inaugurates God’s Kingdom, in the Word and at the Table.

But there is one final observation. This is a MISSION story. In Luke’s paradigm of what it means to be the church, it could hardly be otherwise for the one who also penned the second part of this Gospel history– the Book of Acts, the ultimate missionary journal. The disciples arise immediately and go tell others. They tell THE story – the Lord has really risen! – and they tell THEIR story – how they came to know him in Word and Sacrament. Meeting together is not complete until the new community shares its new life in Christ with her neighbors.

Comments

  1. The story of Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus has always been one of my favorites. I can imagine and picture Jesus talking and walking with them and then eating with them….and then disappearing! How amazed the disciples must have been.

  2. I love the human-ness of the initial reaction to His questions on the road..”What turnip cart did You fall off of, brother? Having you been living under a rock to not know about what went ON last week?!”

    But my favorite line has always been the one that speaks to my heart every Sunday..

    “…and they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.”

  3. petrushka1611 says

    This was the passage that convinced me (even though it’s not stated propositionally) there is something more to the Lord’s Supper than mere remembrance. Their eyes weren’t opened when he pointed the scriptures to himself, but after that, when he broke the bread. This is one of the reasons I wish Evangelicalism would swap their altar calls for communion.

    • Christiane says

      they do the best they can . . . they don’t understand what they have not experienced and we need to accept them where they are at . . . which is ‘somewhere on the road to Emmaus with Our Lord’, but before the experience of the breaking of the bread . . . perhaps soon they will ‘get there’ too, in God’s time we know that they will 🙂

  4. David Cornwell says

    One might think that the story of the appearance of Jesus here on this road was something mystical, and maybe not quite real. But in the meal, the taking of food together, the story is very material and physical. How amazing this Jesus is.

    • David- the meeting on the road was mystical, and yet very real. The two are not opposed. Although it has taken on a more negative connotation, that which is mystical is indeed very real, just beyond the comprehension of normal human reason.

  5. Whenever two of us get together and our conversation centers on Christ, discussing His work in our lives and the lives of friends and family, He is truly in our midst! During times like that it is easy to not think of physical food but be totally satisfied, and have our eyes opened, by the Bread of Life and the Living Water Himself.

  6. That was supposed to go the later post on Ozzie G. ..sorry…

  7. Thanks CM. I’m preaching on mission this Sunday but feeling very disenchanted with church and Christians in general – you have just managed what I thought was impossible and inspired me. This is what I needed to read today.
    ‘Meeting together is not complete until the new community shares its new life in Christ with her neighbors.’ Oh yes to that!

  8. “New life in Jesus is not mine to revel in alone, it is something I share with my sisters and brothers.”

    I love that statement. Very well put, CM. The thing that has always interested me about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances is that many times people failed to recognize Him by His physical appearance. It was usually something He did that made them recognize Him.

  9. Highly recommend Henri Nouwen’s “With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life” as a read during this series. Nouwen does an excellent job of using this passage of scripture to teach us how the Eucharist relates to us, and we to the Eucharist; along with what our response to this intimacy with Christ should be.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series!