November 26, 2020

The Guest Who Is Host

Supper at Emmaus, Simmons

Journey into New Life, part five
The Guest Who Is Host

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.

• • •

“While he was sitting at table with them he took the loaf, gave thanks, broke it and passed it to them” (Luke 24:30).

Strangers who are shown kindness, who enter a home by invitation and are treated to gracious hospitality usually defer to their hosts, wait for direction, and quietly, gratefully receive what is set before them.

This is no ordinary guest!

Welcomed in as a guest, this stranger takes the host’s seat.

(By the way, I don’t see that he asked their permission.)

Instead of waiting for the host’s direction, this stranger takes initiative and begins serving the meal.

And it all seemed so familiar — the taking…the blessing…the breaking…the giving.

Even before their eyes were opened, before their perception caught up with their observations, this behavior must have caught their attention. The actions of the stranger marked yet another significant moment in the journey of these believers from Emmaus. They were not yet given the gift of recognition, but in this moment they must have felt a bit of disorientation, and perhaps a sense of heightened anticipation.

Things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser.

An important turning point in our journey of new life comes when Jesus takes the lead, and roles shift.

We may not be aware of what is happening. But suddenly we are sitting at our own table in a different seat and observing puzzling things from an unfamiliar vantage point.

I remember watching a BBC adaptation of “Shadowlands,” the story of C.S. Lewis and the love of his life, Joy Davidman Gresham. I’ll never forget the way Lewis described his conversion in that dramatic production. As he was conversing with a friend, he said, “And then I realized I was a Christian.”

It wasn’t a “decision” he made, but a realization that came to him. The stranger had commandeered Lewis’s seat and was now hosting the meal at Lewis’s own table, serving him, feeding him.

This is the turning point in Christian worship. When we enter the sanctuary, we begin by giving thanks and praise. We imagine that worship is what we are doing for God. We invite him to be among us through the invocation, we confess our sins to him, we sing hymns acknowledging and proclaiming him Lord and King. By sacred actions and words we perform our “liturgy” — the work of the people. We worship. We welcome God into our house of praise.

And then, he begins speaking. Before we know it, the pastor is behind the table representing Jesus himself, taking the bread, blessing it, breaking it, and holding it out to us. He invites us to come forward. We hold out empty hands and acknowledge that we are nothing but receivers. He feeds us with his own body and blood, and we return to our seats realizing Who the true Host of this gathering has been.

Realization will come. But first there is this shift, this transition, this changing of seats, this transfer of roles.

Guest takes the place of Host. The room has changed.


  1. Love this post!

    A perfect picture of what Christ does in the simple act of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving….He upsets the natural order of things, presents new possibilities that perhaps we hadn’t considered before, and changes us as a result.

    Good way to kick off the day, CM…

  2. Rev Dave says

    The sermon at our wedding pointed out that at the Last Supper, Jesus plays both host and guest. Giving the blessing over the bread is the part of the host in the Seder, the blessing over the wine is the role of the guest. Jesus takes on both roles. Our friend then did a lovely job of connecting this to marriage, where we both have to be host (giving) and guest (recieving) to each other.

    • David Cornwell says

      I really like this. A true sacramental approach to marriage, such as you are describing, and as we are willing to embrace, would change our conception of marriage. A lot of fruitless arguments that can last for hours would disappear into the dustbin of legalism.

      • Beautiful….and true.

        We got some of the same advice 30+ years ago, and have tried to keep Christ the center of our marriage, with varying degress of success.

        It has to come down to what is loving and fruitul, not who is “right”.

  3. This story is a great picture of our walk with Christ; Of the strange mix of His sovereign grace and our willful decisions. He sets it up, He joins them on the road. He tantalizes them with truth. If the relationship is to continue they have to beg Him to stay, they have to invite Him into the house. Then He takes his position at the head of our table. A beautiful devotional. Thanks.

  4. How many times have I read/heard this story and not picked up on these details? Great post! I had two knee-jerk reactions in my head when I read it, though. First, it blows my mind how so many can read this story and fail to see the direct allusion to the Lord’s supper in it. Really, they were just having a snack? Then why was that detail included? This must be a picture of Christ’s presence in our lives as the community of believers. My second thought was: Perhaps this is what John Wesley was trying to get at with his doctrine of Christian Perfection. Though, in his revivalist context, he attributes this “assuming of the host” that Jesus does in our lives as the fruit of some crisis experience, which probably does happen for a good many disciples. But this take on the story leaves room for those of us who do not hold any memory of a single defining subjective emotional “moment” where we truly made Jesus the Lord of our life. I like the word “commandeer” much better. It leaves room for those of us who see this reorienting shift in our lives as more of a gradual process.

  5. Thank you for this refreshing spiritual walk today as well as other days. As I was allowing this to enter my rather dull mind, I sensed that this is what I must envision in my everyday experiences. I must confess, however, that I need to practise this much more than I do. Blessings

  6. I’m so enjoying this series, CM. Thank you!

  7. JoanieD says

    Excellent words, Chaplain Mike. And I like your bulletin board post, too. (For those of you who missed it, it is near the top right.) Since I am beginning gardening season again, I am doing a lot of thinking about the “organic muck and stench” you mention in the bulletin board post. It is amazing to me how I can start out with a stinky mess and end up with a sweet-smelling, black concoction which helps my garden to grow well.

    And I love how Jesus often talked about gardening. He knew his stuff. In Matthew 13:24-30, in the story/parable about the weeds and wheat growing together, Jesus responded to the question about pulling out the weeds, “‘No,because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.” There is so much wisdom there. And sometimes what you think is a weed may turn out to be a beautiful wildflower. You will have missed the joy of seeing that wildflower if you pulled it out with the rest of the weeds. God knows what needs to be destroyed, but often, we don’t.

    So, weed very carefully, folks (in more ways than one).

  8. “An important turning point in our journey of new life comes when Jesus takes the lead, and roles shift.”
    Astute observation. God has many names and many facets to His nature. Our relationship with Him morphs and changes and we must be sensitive to that reality or else risk worshipping an idol; namely the old image which we continue to grasp as if it were the living Christ. Meanwhile He has moved to another room in the house.

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