By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
April 26, 2020
Luke 24:13–35 (ESV)
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So, he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
This has been a time filled with the unexpected. When I have been at work, it is as if something has changed every day regarding how we will do things. At first, I got on well with these changes but eventually those changes began to weigh me down. I began to get frustrated, and soon found myself reacting in ways I normally would not. This is how life often is, and when there is a pandemic around us, it only intensifies the uncertainty.
Our lives can be described in many ways, if you read epic poetry, they might compare it to a quest to win some conquest or find some magical relic that will make all the struggle seem disappear. In musical lyrics it has been likened to a highway, well at least AC/DC said something about a highway leading somewhere. Life has been called a journey, an adventure, and many other artistic references. I think this is a good thing, even scripture makes references like this. Jesus would say that broad is the road to destruction and narrow is the pathway that leads to life. Life is a journey; it is a road that we must traverse. And just like any road, journey, pathway, or quest there are challenges along the way.
Today we meet some disciples along a road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are literally on a journey with a beginning and a destination off in the distance. They are walking along this pathway in a deep discussion. Then as they are walking along a third person joins them in the journey and joins in the conversation.
This is one of my favorite narratives during the season of Easter. And I think that is a favorite of many since there are entire ministries revolving around it called Walk to Emmaus. We can identify with this story because we have all been on a journey of some sort.
Maybe you have taken a road trip with the family. Some of my greatest memories have been made on the road, this is probably because I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so just going to the grocery store required the entire family to load up and drive for miles. But let us imagine we are on a trip. These men were walking seven miles, this does not sound like a great distance to us, but that is because we do not walk. The average person walking at a moderate pace generally walks at a speed of three miles per hour, so to travel seven miles it would take most people around two hours and twenty minutes to walk the distance from Jerusalem to Emmaus. There are other factors that would play into this of course, the terrain could cause a variance to this time, the weather, or even who you are walking with. They were talking as they walked, and I am sure they probably paused a few times as the discussion got deeper, so let us just say it took them three hours. How far do we travel in three hours? I currently live in Kansas City, so I wondered what interesting things we could do if we were to travel three hours.
Google is an amazing tool we have available to us. I searched, “3 hours from Kansas City” and the first thing that came up is an article, “19 Spontaneous day trips that are less than 3 hours away from Kansas City – Narcity”. Because I am curious and right now, I like everyone else have put travel on hold, I looked. The first on the list is Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. This is probably a great place to go at night because it has the lowest light pollution near the Kansas City Metro, so you can get a good look at the stars. Then just under 3 hours away we could see Coronado Heights Castle in Lindsborg, Kansas. This site is allegedly where Francisco de Coronado gave up his search for the seven cities of gold and returned to Mexico, they came to this conclusion because they found Spanish chain mail in the area around this hill, but the castle itself was built during the Great Depression as a WPA project. Also, within the 3 hour mark you could travel to Ha Ha Tonka State Park and check out rock formations and the Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins, or drive to the Mushroom Rock State Park in Kansas. But my favorite thing to see in this three-hour window of travel is the Konza Prairie. This native tallgrass preserve is filled with natural beauty and some of the best sunsets in the world. Why am I giving a travel report, maybe it is because want to get out and about, but its also to let us know that there is much to see in our area.
We do not often see the beauty around us because our journey through life is often filled with chaos. We work hard most of the week and then when we have a day off, we fill that day away from work with work that we were unable to get done around our houses due to work. Our lives are distracted by tasks that need to be finished, projects that we have put on hold, sporting events and school or church functions. We are busy most of the time. We move from one thing to the next with little time between, and because our schedules are so full, we blow up in fits of rage when someone drives too slow on the interstate. Have we ever wondered why someone driving the speed limit could set us off like a bomb?
The men in the story are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they are deep in conversation. They are distracted by the gossip and news. They were taking this journey and were unable to recognize the man they were walking with, because they were more concerned with spreading the latest headlines than getting to know the person. Can you see where we might be able to identify with these men?
We live in a culture that has been on the go for far too long. The drive thru restaurant is no longer a convenience or a luxury but a necessity. For many of us to stop what we are doing to cook a meal is often not something we can do. If we did not go to drive thru, we would not be able to eat as we go from job to job, or event to event. This says a great deal about our culture. We are too busy. As much as I dislike the various state issuing stay at home orders, these orders and this past month has taught us all some good lessons that I hope we will not forget as those orders are lifted.
We are busy. Our bodies are surviving on adrenaline and energy drinks. We have a constant barrage of news clips that we consume without end. We know more about what is going on in our world and yet we do not know our neighbors. And I am guilty of this more than anyone. I have three jobs. I am lucky to eat a meal with my family and often that meal was in the car as we drove to a practice or event. The orders to stay at home, have stopped many of those events and as a result we have eaten together more. We have not been rushing from one event to another but enjoying a board game together. This is good, not just relationally but physically. When our bodies are constantly running on high gear, our brains do not always function to the greatest capacity. We respond without thinking over things, and usually the decisions we make at that moment will have an unintended consequence in the future.
These men went from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They left after the women announced that Jesus had risen, and the tomb was empty. They did not take the time to process the idea or the reality because they were on the move. Your friend dies, you stay for the funeral, but when you hear that the tomb is empty you do not stay, but instead you go for a two-and-a-half-hour walk?
This story causes me to examine my own life. Jesus was right there walking with them. He was even interpreting the scripture with them, yet their minds were so caught up in everything else going on around them that they could not see what God was doing right there in front of them. I am right there. I am that guy. I hate to admit it but at times it is even hard for me to pray. This is why I, for the most part, have stopped watching the news or listening to the radio. People look at me like I am crazy. But it is true. I found that I was getting so worked up about everything that I was losing track of the most important things. I could not go for a drive with my wife for ten minutes before I started complaining about political subjects or worrying about how something would affect us. I realized that my arguments, my opinions in the larger scheme was often driving a wedge between the people I cared about, because I was not taking the time to listen to them. I could drive three hours and never once notice the sun set in front of me, because I was too busy.
Yet where is Jesus? They are focused on the news, they are hurrying to the next town for some reason, maybe fear, maybe they just could not justify staying with the disciples if their leader had been killed so they went back to work. We do not know why they went to Emmaus but something they perceived to be important took them there. They were on their way away from the gathering of the disciples, and where was Jesus?
We do not always know why people are doing the things they do. We do not know unless we walk with them and listen. We do not know what is going on when they get home, we do not know what bills they must pay, we do not even know if they are healthy or not. We may even ask how they are doing, but if we leave it there all we will know is that they are fine. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that nearly half the American population will struggle at some point in their lives with some form of mental illness, we are not fine. But where is Jesus?
Where is God when we are struggling to figure out how we will make rent? Where is God when a loved one is sick? Where is God when an act of violence occurs in our neighborhood? Where is God when people are starving in our communities and restaurants are throwing food in dumpsters? Where is God when we are moving so fast through life we cannot even laugh around the table?
Where was Jesus in this story? He was walking with the men to Emmaus. Let that just sit in your thoughts for a moment. Where was Jesus? There were countless other places where Jesus could have been at that moment. If it were up to me, I would have booked an appearance at the gates of the Temple, or maybe reserved a table to share a meal with the Chief priest and the Governor. But that is not where Jesus was. Jesus, just hours into his new glorified resurrected body decided that the place he needed to be was taking a three hour walk with some friends to Emmaus. It is almost absurd when you think about it.
It is absurd but it is important. Who are we? There are not many people that know who I am. Very few people really know what drives me or inspires me. If I am going to be honest, I would have to say that even my wife does not know what is causing anxiety in my life right now. And if I really want to be totally honest, I do not even know what is causing anxiety in my life. How could I and how could you because each of us is rapidly going from one place to another. We are just insignificant people in a population of billions. I am not influential, I am not famous, people do not even pay to read the things that I write. I am just a simple pastor in a small church, that works two other job to provide for my family.
These two men were not the apostles we read about in the book of Acts; they were not members of the twelve. They were friends, but they were down the list. They were invited to the events Jesus hosted, but it is like a general invitation like the one’s kids give at school. These two men were played a minor role in the ministry of Jesus. Yet, Jesus walked with them from Jerusalem to Emmaus. This shows us something about ourselves and God. It shows us that those that play minor roles are often more important than the ones in the spotlight.
We are each facing struggles in our journey through life. Maybe we are afraid that we might be infected by the virus and we would be the one that the hospital would not have room for. Maybe we are worried about our finances as our retirement savings shrink or our job was deemed non-essential. Maybe our only struggle is our schedule. We struggle through life, the pathways we travel are not easy. But Jesus walked with two minor disciples from Jerusalem to Emmaus, he walks with you as well. He listens as you ramble on about whatever is on your mind and he patiently waits until you are in a place to hear him speak and at that moment, he will reveal the wisdom of God to you. He walks with us through the struggle, he is right there with us even if we do not recognize him.
Everyone around us in on a journey, they are battling through their own personal quest. We do not know what it is, and we may even wonder why they are continue pursuing the life they have chosen. Maybe that person is a close friend, a child, or a coworker and we are looking at their lives as they struggle through wanting to help but not knowing how. Jesus is walking with them and he is walking with you. We do not need to provide an answer to every question they have, we do not need to defend every attack that they might make against us, just walk with them as Jesus walked with his friends. As we walk together, there might be a moment where we can share and they might listen, but that is not the reason we walk, we walk because we care.
These two men did not know who Jesus was as they journeyed down the road. They shared and they listened, and they shared a meal with this stranger that walked with them. It was only when Jesus shared a meal with these men that their eyes were open to the truth that was already before them.
We are called to make disciples. This be many things, but distilling it down to the purest form possible, we are called to walk with others through life showing them the life and lifestyle that Jesus has given and shown to us. We are called to worship with our community, withdraw to pray, and minister to the needs of those around us. We are called to love God, embrace the Holy Spirit and to live the love of Christ with others. How do we do that? We walk, we listen, we share, and we eat. We do all we can to give a bit of rest to those around us caught in the high-octane life of busyness, so that they can catch their breath and reenter their life’s journey with a fresh perspective.
As we enter this time of Holy Expectancy or communion in the manner of Friends, I encourage you to take some time to step away from the busyness you feel, take a break from scrolling through Facebook and reading about news of the world, take a break and just be silent. As you wait you might notice thought racing through your head, let them pass by. You might find yourself focused on one thing as you sit, is it something you fear pray that you will overcome, is it something you see as a need explore that with God. The silence is not just a space of emptiness, it is the place along our journey where we stop and allow Christ to speak as he walks along side us. Join us in this time of silence, listen to what is revealed in it, and then return to your journey. Those two disciples walked to Emmaus that day, they ate with Jesus that evening, and after they had at they ran seven miles back to Jerusalem because Jesus had given them a different journey to travel, they were called to act, they were called to share their story. Let us now embrace the Spirit in prayer so that we can live the love of Christ with those around us throughout this week.