Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Luke 24:13-35
3rd Sunday of Easter
St Barbara’s 30.04.17
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Walks and meals are two of the best ways of getting to know someone. They provide the space, the time, the lack of distractions, to properly talk.
Sometime before Sarah and I were going out with each other I managed to persuade her to come out for a meal with me. When it comes to restaurants I’m not normally the most generous of people – just the main course and tap water is quite sufficient, thank you very much – but on that occasion I was happy to order starter, main course, dessert, even coffee afterwards. It was not that I was trying to impress. It was just that I was discovering things about Sarah that I had never found out about before – I didn’t want the evening to end.
A few months later and we were walking on the North Norfolk coast. After two and half miles of walking we came across a river not marked on the map that proved to be totally unfordable. We turned back, walked back to the beginning of the route and started again. A 12 mile walk had just turned into a 17 mile walk. But it was during the course of that walk, as we walked and talked for far longer than we had planned, we both came to appreciate the other all the more. A few months later and we were married.
Maybe you too can think of walks and meals significant in your own life-story?
Well, in this most wonderful of stories in Luke’s gospel, we accompany two of Jesus’ disciples as they first walk with and then eat with the risen Jesus. It is an encounter that will change their lives forever. Their story is a wonderful example of how God reveals himself to us too.
The two disciples, possibly a husband and wife, are walking, down-cast and sad. Maybe they are hoping the fresher air outside Jerusalem will clear their heads. Maybe they just can’t cope with the grief of their other friends, and just need space. Jesus, the one in whom they had placed so much hope is dead, killed at the hands of those they had thought he had come to overthrow.
And so when Jesus comes alongside them they are in no place to recognise him, even though there are strange rumours circulating that his body is missing and angels have appeared to say he is alive.
Note what Jesus does first. He does not reveal himself in a blaze of glory. He does not ignore their experience or their feelings of sadness. Instead he gets them to tell their story, and he listens.
There can often be the temptation when people are sad or low to try and “cheer them up” without giving them the space or time to talk first. Jesus listens. He values their experience. He gets them to reflect on what they have experienced over the last few days in Jerusalem.
It is an important starting point for all of us. Too often I can rush through each day without pausing for breath, without stopping to think where I may have encountered Christ in my day. When I do stop and prayerfully reflect, I am almost always amazed by how God has been present, how he has been revealing his presence and his love to me, whether in the simple trust of a young child, or in the beauty of the blossom on the trees, or in someone’s act of kindness, or in a word that has been spoken.
Like in that well-known poem of footsteps in the sand, we can sometimes as we look back discover that those times when we felt we were walking alone, when there were only one set of footprints, not two, in the sand, were in fact those times when God was carrying us, not when he had left us.
As he did with the two on the road to Emmaus, Christ invites us to set aside time, maybe even just five minutes a day, to reflect on our day and discern his presence. As we do so, we will come to see him and experience him more and more in our daily lives.
But for these two disciples, and also for us, often our experience is not enough. There can be times when no matter how hard we look we cannot find God. Our eyes remain closed; our hearts remain unmoved. It is then that Scripture can make such a difference.
Having listened to them, Jesus now takes the time to unpack the Scriptures for these two. Starting with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus takes them through the whole story of the Old Testament, explaining to them how it was part of God’s plan for the Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead. He could have simply revealed himself to them. It would have been much quicker and much more dramatic. But instead he builds their understanding; he places their experience of his resurrection which will come later, on a sure foundation, on a foundation that they can return to again and again.
When I was a teenager, I used to visit an elderly gentleman. He was in his late eighties and increasingly restricted to his home. And he carried the great sadness of grief for his wife of more than sixty years who had died a couple of years earlier. Whenever he spoke of her, tears would come to his eyes, and to my eyes too. There were days when his day-to-day experience of faith just wasn’t enough. But on those days he would sit in his chair and read to me from the Bible the promises of God: Jesus’ words of the gift of eternal life; his promise that he would always be with you until the end of the age; his gift of forgiveness and love. Those words gave him strength to believe.
For each of us too, when experience can run dry, the words of Scripture can continue to offer hope and a firm foundation. It can warm our hearts, just as those two disciples on the Emmaus road found. Can I encourage you to add just another five minutes to your five minutes of reflection each day to read the Bible and allow God to speak to you through it? How about reading the Sunday readings again or the book of Mark or try Isaiah chapters 40 to 55? Lay down foundations that will hold you in the difficult times.
God reveals himself through our experience; he reveals himself through Scripture; and he reveals himself through the breaking of bread. The two disciples invite Jesus to eat with them, and as he takes the bread and breaks it, the disciples immediately realise who he is. Their eyes are opened in astonishment and wonder.
The breaking of the bread, the sharing of the wine, that we will do later this morning, can take us back to that extraordinary moment in that room in Emmaus. It can remind us of the presence of Christ, with us, here and now. We too can be lost in wonder and astonishment. Christ meets with us; he reveals himself to us. He invites us to eat with him – what an extraordinary privilege.
A final thought. God longs to reveal himself to us, as he revealed himself to those two disciples on the Emmaus road. But it wasn’t until those two disciples invited him into their home that their eyes were fully opened. Jesus is walking with us, alongside us. But we won’t fully know him until we invite him into our lives. Maybe today is the day when we want to do so, whether it is for the first or umpteenth time.