Strangers in the night

Easter 3 – St. Luke 24:13-35

Who are the two Emmaus disciples?

Our text sort of identifies them as Cleopas and Simon; but that only begs the next question as to who are they?

And why are they leaving Jerusalem?  Have they given up hope?  Or are they showing their own level of obscurity in that it was safe for them to walk about, as opposed to the inner-circle of disciples who feared the Jews, and would have been more recognizable, and thus subject to arrest?

And why does Jesus appear to them?

After all, every other appearance thus far has made sense.  He appears first to the women at the tomb; they will be the first witnesses of the resurrection, and in fact, they are the ones most in need of seeing the resurrected Jesus, for they are confused by the earthquake, the stone and the words of the angel.  In fact, Mary’s own words to Jesus reflect her need to see Jesus, for she begs the man whom she assumes to be the gardener to show her where they have taken the body.

The next appearance is the one we heard just last Sunday, where Jesus appears to the disciples first without Thomas present, and then again with Thomas present.  Again this appearance is necessary for the benefit of Thomas and his demand to touch the physical resurrected Jesus with his own hands; thus confirming for himself and for all people of all times and places that Jesus had indeed physically risen from the dead.

But then there is today’s Gospel text, which recounts the Emmaus disciples; what are we to make of it?  What benefit does the Church receive by Jesus appearing to two disciples of which we know nothing about?

That is not to say this text does not have potential.  In fact, this text would be a lot more interesting, albeit a lot longer in terms of word count, if we actually had recorded for us what Jesus said when He opens up the books of Moses and the Prophets and the Writings to these two disciples.  We have our own studies showing the many and various Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ, but why not have it straight from our Lord’s own mouth?

This text would be even more intriguing if we swapped out the two disciples, and instead had Jesus appear to new best friends forever Herod and Pilate.  What an amazing text that would be if the two men who refused to intervene in the kangaroo court trial that led Jesus to the cross could now see and hear the words of the man who was so oddly silent when He last stood before them.

But if Pilate and Herod hearing and seeing Jesus is too much of a stretch for you, how about Jesus appearing to the Pharisees and chief priests who demanded that Jesus be crucified so vehemently.  They are the ones who misinterpreted the entire Old Testament, they are the ones who refused to believe, they are the ones who could do the most in terms of bringing people to faith; why not have Jesus open their eyes to the words of the Old Testament?

But alas, what we see is what we have.  Two nameless disciples, walking along the road, listening to Jesus, only to have Him vanish the instant they realize who He is.

And so we shrug this text off as the Church scraping the bottom of the barrel in search of one more Easter text; and in fact this is it: next Sunday, we go on to Christ as the Good Shepherd, and then on to some other readings dealing with Christ as Lord of all.

So we hear this last text, and then go looking for things that are more interesting and more intriguing to our ears.

But before you wander off, ask yourself one more time, who are these two disciples?  And what happens before their very eyes on that road to Emmaus?

First they are wandering, lost in their thoughts and emotions about what has happened the previous week.  A roller coaster of a week to be sure, with excitement and discouragement and tragedy and now mystery and confusion and joy all mixed into one bag.

They are then approached by Jesus, and they listen to Him as He opens the words of the Scriptures to them; no doubt pointing to Himself, but pointing to them as well and saying, this is what has happened for your sake and for your benefit.

And then they sit down and watch Jesus as He breaks bread.

What does that sound like?

It sounds like worship.  It sounds like Sunday morning.  It sounds like the Word being read and proclaimed into our ears; and it sounds like the Lord’s Supper being celebrated.

Who are the two disciples?  In our text, they are Cleopas and Simon, but you can put your own names in there now.  The two disciples are you.

You sit in a world dazed and confused by the actions swirling around you; you sit in a world where each week you experience your own roller coaster of emotions from one end to the other; and then you come here; and you hear of Jesus.  You hear of how Jesus has come to bring order and peace to this world, and to your own life.  You hear how Jesus redeems you from the chaos and commotion that surrounds you, and offers to you forgiveness and life.

And then you receive from Jesus the gift of His body and His blood; confidence of what He has won for you; and the strength to carry on as His own child each and every day.

This text is all about Jesus for you.

For you are most certainly correct; Jesus did not have to appear on this road to these two nobody disciples; He could have gone to Herod and Pilate; or He could have gone to some Pharisees and chief priests; or He could have just gone to some of the bigger name disciples, ones we would recognize more readily.

But He does not.

Instead He appears on the Emmaus road to these two disciples, to you, to me.  He appears and declares that Easter, that the resurrection, is for you too.  This is not just for those who we will celebrate on Church Feast Days; nor is this just for those who we read about in history books; nor is it just for those whose names we recognize.  Easter is for you too.

This text is for you.  For Jesus comes and makes Himself known to two disciples whose names are only known by our Father in heaven; and if He will do that for them, then why won’t He do the same thing for you too?  Jesus comes and shows Himself to you today, here in the Word and in the bread and wine; He shows that He is risen for you, and that He has come to take away your sins and grant you everlasting life.

And, this text has one more note for you.

After Jesus disappears from before them, the two disciples look at each other, and then run back to Jerusalem to tell the others what had just happened.

Just as Jesus did not just come for those who are known and for those who are recognized, but that He also came for those who are known only by their Father in heaven, so too does the work of sharing that news extend to not just the well-known and those in Church positions, but it also extends to you.  Take the good news of Christ risen for all people, and share it with others; tell those around you in your home and in your lives, that Christ is indeed risen, not just for a select few, but that He is risen for you as well.

For the risen Lord appears to you on this day in the same way He appeared on that Emmaus road: in the Word and in the Sacrament.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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One Response to Strangers in the night

  1. Debra Niermeier says:

    Very good sermon. Thank you for sending.

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