Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1345
April 8, 2018 Luke 24:13-35
Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
On the Road
This is one of my favorite stories of the Bible. I’ve revealed this to you every single time I’ve preached it. There are lots of reasons behind any of us having favorite stories or favorite verses. We gravitate to parts of the Bible because we have been blessed by those stories or verses. We gravitate to what strikes our hearts and sometimes even when we have been taught tough lessons. Perhaps the first reason I like this story is the metaphor that can be interpreted from it, being on the road, that is, we are on this journey with Jesus. Sometimes the journey is clear and well lit, other times we are not even sure if Jesus is with us. We may not immediately recognize Jesus on our journey. It is so often only when looking back upon a segment of our lives that we see where Jesus was touching every aspect of our walk. It’s like the old footprints in the sand when we see that Jesus has carried us along the way.
The metaphor bids us to trust that Jesus walks with us. He is opening the scripture to us. He is conversing with us through his word. He is breaking bread before our eyes that our eyes might be opened to the possibilities of kingdom living. We must pay close attention to the burning within our hearts. We must be intentional about looking for Jesus and listening for Jesus in our journey. One of the ways we do this is in sharing fellowship, sharing conversation with one another. These two disciples talked about the events of the day concerning Jesus. They did not remain silent.
Sharing the conversation of God’s kingdom is one of the great disciplines we can maintain. It is a part of what helps us become more and more comfortable sharing the gospel with both believers and non-believers. Our conversations are wroth with trivial matters more often than not. We are not used to talking about matters of faith in everyday conversation. But we converse all the time about other matters, of minimal importance and sometimes at the expense of faith and Jesus.
Of course, I recognize that these two disciples were conversing about the immediate events surrounding and including the death of Jesus. They were distraught and perhaps seeking to help one another make sense out of what seemed to be a senseless situation. That is what we do when we entertain serious conversation, we do so when something serious has happened. It is probably too much to ask that we strive to have a serious conversation every day! But there is one serious conversation we do have, hopefully every day, prayer. Talk to Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Walk with Jesus. It is in this conversation that we can grow stronger in having conversations with one another and with those outside these walls of the church.
Let’s look more closely at the conversation shared between Jesus and these two followers.
17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”
Today Jesus would probably phrase it like we do when we come up on a conversation, “What are ya’ll talking about?” What’s happening? We might phrase it another way we we greet one person, “What are you thinking about?” We sometimes start conversations with an inquiry, a question. We also sometimes answer that question in our prayers. “Lord, this has happened and I don’t know what to do about it. Help us.”
The irony of this Luke 24 encounter is how Cleopas answers Jesus, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” The irony is that Jesus is the only one who knows what has gone on and what great significance it is to these two and whom ever believes.
Jesus responds with another question, perhaps assessing what they do and do not know. He asks, What things? And they proceed to tell Jesus, whom they do not recognize, all about the crucifixion and the unlikely story about the women finding the tomb empty. They go through every detail of the events and yet they still do not know the significance or the meaning behind what has happened. They speak of the core of Christianity and yet do not understand it as the core. But, they are keeping the conversation alive. This is a key to faith.
It’s been said that, when raising teenagers, keeping the conversation going between parent and teen is key to making it through those years. Keep the conversation alive. The same might be said of theology, we seek to keep the conversation going. The same could be said in a lot of areas, like politics, where the conversation is now so polarized that nothing gets accomplished between those in the conversation.
It is one of our tasks in the church to keep the conversation of Christ crucified going. For the sake of the church, the government, the society, and the world.
Christ Revealed (Part 1)
“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.
Must have been Isaiah 53 included somewhere in there! Have you seen the YouTube videos of Jewish Christians who go around Israel and ask Jews if they have ever read Isaiah 53 or ever heard it read in the synagogue? It is something of a hidden text in Judaism.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Christ is revealed first in the Holy Scriptures. This is one of the most important elements of the Bible that we must understand, that God’s word reveals Christ to us. We hear of people who say that the Old Testament is of no use to Christianity because all we need is Jesus and the New Testament. This is crazy! Jesus himself taught everything we need to know from the Old Testament. Paul reinterprets various Old Testament passages in the New Testament partly so that we can see have valuable the Old Testament is to our understanding of the New! We read the Old Testament to get to know Jesus. We read the Old and New Testaments to get to know God and ourselves and all that we need for living out the Christian faith.
Christ Revealed (Part 2)
The second revelation of Christ comes in a common sharing of a meal. But what Jesus does is use verbs from the Passover meal and what we celebrate today in the Lord’s Supper: he took, he blessed, he broke, and he gave. If we look back to the stories of the Last Supper and even to the stories of the feeding of the 5,000, we see these verbs. Their eyes were opened when that memory flooded into their thoughts.
Christ is revealed in the word and Christ is revealed in the sacraments. This is one of the reasons why, in Presbyterian tradition, ministers are ministers of word and sacrament. These are the revelatory elements of Christ. We find Jesus Christ in the word and in the sacraments. We are joined with him in word and sacrament. We are identified with him in word and sacrament. You might say that this is one of the keys that sets us apart from the rest of the world. We listen to and follow his words and we eat and drink of his body and blood – spiritually, not physically.
Muslims have historically called Christians people of the book. I recall that scene from Gandhi when the Christian man climbs on top of the moving train and the Hindu atop ask if he is a Christian. Then the Hindu says he knows a Christian, she drinks blood. He then thinks for a moment and clarifies, the blood of Christ. Much of the world outside of Christianity knows us by our distinctions of word and sacrament. Unfortunately as well, we are not know that way much anymore, I suspect, because we have not lived up to the word or sacrament as the church universal and unified.
One of the ways the world can see again who we are and whose we are is for us to continue the Easter narrative as Luke does here. The road to Emmaus keeps Easter moving forward. It keeps it moving forward by doing things that also look back, back to an ancient text and ancient practices. The Church does not need to have another program to reinvent itself for a modern world. The Church needs to only get back to the book and live within the identifying marks of these words and sacraments. In this we keep the story moving and we keep ourselves living in the way of God.