Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed! Alleluia!
There is a subtle, but very persistent theme in the events of the Resurrection as told in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It shows up in the announcement that the angels make to the women at the tomb. Listen to the angel’s words and you will hear a common thread. In Matthew’s account, the angel said, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” (Matthew 28:6) In Mark, the angel said, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7) Luke’s account is the longest. In his account, the angel said, “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:6–7) Did you notice the small, but very important idea that each angel had in their message? Each of these accounts made it clear that an important part of the angel’s message of the Resurrection was a reminder that Jesus had regularly told His disciples that He would rise from the dead. They all included an emphasis on the Word of Jesus. And, since Jesus is God, this is an emphasis on the Word of God.
Jesus Himself made this very clear in the reading we just heard. Jesus joined two of His disciples who were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. 13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13–16) Notice that Jesus did not immediately reveal Himself to them. Instead, He first taught them from the Word of God. The opening words of their conversation show how much they need this instruction.
Jesus greeted them by asking a perfectly natural question. “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24:17) This gave the two travelers the opportunity to express their grief at Jesus’ death. In their grief, the two travelers stood still, looking sad. 18Then 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?” (Luke 24:17–18) From these words, we learn that the news of Jesus’ crucifixion had spread throughout Jerusalem. Cleopas assumed that anyone who had been in Jerusalem would know all about it.
Then Jesus asked one of those open-ended questions that gave Cleopas and his friend an opportunity to talk. 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, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But 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. 22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and 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. 24Some 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.” (Luke 24:19–24)
This is a very good summary of Jesus’ ministry. It even speaks of the resurrection. The words, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” even proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah. The only problem is that they didn’t believe that it was true. Their words showed that they knew everything they needed to believe in Jesus. Never the less, from their point of view, it was more like a dream than reality.
Right then and there, Jesus could have said, “Here I am! The accounts of my resurrection are true!” He could have shown them His hands, feet, and side. He could have shown them that He was alive, but He didn’t. Instead, He began an intense Bible Study. He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25–27)
Before Jesus revealed Himself to these two disciples, He showed them Christ in Moses and the prophets … what we would call the Old Testament. He taught them that the entire Old Testament points to Christ. He used the Old Testament to show these two disciples that it was necessary that the Christ should suffer as they had witnessed with their own eyes and ears. He showed them, from the Old Testament, that the very heart of what it meant to be the Christ was for the chief priests and rulers to deliver Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified. According to the Scriptures, this is exactly what the Christ came to do and experience. The very testimony that they gave when they explained the happenings in Jerusalem … who Jesus was … what He experienced … His suffering and death … this very testimony points to Jesus as the Messiah promised by God in the Holy Scriptures.
Last week we heard John’s account of Jesus appearing to the disciples in the locked room. When Thomas saw the Lord, he confessed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) Jesus responded to Thomas and said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) In today’s Gospel, we heard how Jesus did that with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In this account, Jesus pointed to the Holy Scriptures as the proof of His resurrection before He revealed Himself to these two disciples. They did not know it was Jesus talking to them. Never the less they believed because of the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. They believed without seeing.
When Jesus first joined the disciples, they had the facts exactly right, but the facts depressed them. The facts depressed them because they did not interpret the facts in light of the Holy Scriptures. They did not understand how the crucifixion fit into the plan of God. They had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel, but they did not understand that the crucifixion was the way that the Christ did the redeeming. It was as Jesus opened the Holy Scriptures to them that they began to understand that, in the crucifixion, Jesus not only redeemed Israel, but He redeemed the entire world. Jesus opened the Gospel of the Old Testament to them, and the Holy Spirit called them by that Gospel. The Holy Spirit created faith in them even though they did not recognize that it was Jesus Himself who taught them. Not only did the Holy Spirit bring them to faith, but they became an example of those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
There are many devout Christians who really wish they could have heard the Bible class that Jesus gave on that road to Emmaus. How wonderful it would be to hear God’s Word taught by the perfect teacher. While we cannot know every last detail of His teaching, today’s reading gives us insight into the general theme of His teaching. In fact, this coming Friday evening, I will ask our youth catechumens to explain this theme to me. I will ask them is: “What is the key to the correct understanding of the Bible?” The official answer is: “Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is the heart and center of the Scripture and therefore the key to its true meaning.” This is a primary principle of Biblical interpretation taught by the Scriptures themselves and demonstrated in today’s Gospel: Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27) These words teach us that you have not fully explored a passage in Scripture until you have learned something about Jesus from that passage. Jesus Himself tells us that the Bible teaches us that it is necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26) It is by this suffering that Jesus not only redeemed Israel, but also redeemed the entire world.
Now that Jesus had taught them from the Holy Scriptures, it was time for them to share a meal. As they talked, the two disciples drew near to the village to which they were going. [Jesus] acted as if he were going farther, 29but 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. (Luke 24:28–29) This is common Middle Eastern hospitality at work. There were no Motels or other public lodgings. As travelers came to the end of the day, those who had farther to go, acted as though they would continue their journey. Those who had arrived at their destination, insisted that other travelers stay with them and enjoy their hospitality.
Hospitality included a meal. When you stayed at someone’s house, they would serve a meal to you. They would bless the food and serve it to you, the guest. But something changed as this guest came to eat with these two disciples. Notice how Jesus turned the tables on His hosts. He became the host and served them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. (Luke 24:30–31) Jesus was the invited guest, but He became the host. He took the bread. He blessed it. He broke it. He gave it. Jesus served the two disciples. It was as Jesus served them with this meal that He finally revealed Himself to them.
This pattern of teaching and then eating is very common in the Bible. The Gospels record many meals that Jesus had with a wide variety of people. Every time there was teaching before eating. First there is teaching from the Word of God. Then there is a meal with the Christ. This meal in Emmaus was different in that it is a meal after Jesus rose from the dead. In this meal, Jesus began teaching the disciples that although they could not always see Him, He was always with them. He was with them in disguise on the road as He taught from God’s Word. He was with them as He broke the bread and they recognized Him. He was still with them even after He disappeared from their sight.
This pattern of hearing God’s Word and then eating God’s meal has made its way into the liturgy of the church. We follow the pattern that Jesus used as we first have the Service of the Word where we hear the teaching that Jesus has passed on to us through the writings of His apostles. We continue that pattern as we eat a meal with Jesus and all the company of heaven even as Jesus gives His body and blood for us to eat and to drink.
Even though we cannot see Jesus, He has promised to be with us. He is with us as we hear the Word of God and the Holy Spirit uses it to strengthen our faith. Then, after we hear teaching that is based on the Word of God, we have a meal with Jesus where He feeds us His true body and His true blood given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus comes to us in His Word. He comes to us as His Word falls on our ears and He comes to us as the Word combines with the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. In each case Jesus reveals Himself to us. He is with us just as He was with the Emmaus disciples. We have His promise and by His promise He gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen
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