a sermon on Luke 24:13-36 for the Second Sunday of Easter
preached on April 15, 2012, at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
Last Sunday, as you may remember, we heard a very tentative Easter proclamation from the gospel according to Mark. The faithful women who had gone to anoint Jesus’ body fled from the tomb in fear and amazement after finding it empty and hearing that Jesus had been raised. Last Sunday, I suggested that this Easter story at least is something of a divine game of “Where’s Waldo?” where we have to keep our eyes open for Jesus in the world – so I want to start out this week by checking in. Did anyone see Jesus this week? Does anyone have a story of encountering Jesus that they would like to share this morning? I hope you’ll share your observations in the comments.
I suspect that as many of us as saw Jesus right away had a really hard time finding him in our lives, and if we have struggled to see Jesus this week, we are not alone. In our reading this morning from the gospel according to Luke, we hear about two disciples who were struggling to see Jesus – until he actually showed up with them! After learning that Jesus was not in the tomb, the disciples weren’t quite sure what to do, so they kept on with their normal tasks for the first day of the week. Two of them began a brief journey to Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem.
As they walked and talked about the events of that very saddening week, a stranger along the road joined in the conversation. He acted as if he knew nothing about the distressing things that they were discussing, but soon this seeming stranger jumped in with his own take on everything that had happened. He suggested that there was a lot more to Jesus’ death than they had originally understood. He told them that the Messiah would have to suffer as Jesus did if he was to receive the glory they wished for him, and he helped them to see how Jesus was connected to all the things that they had learned before from scripture.
As the two disciples reached Emmaus, the stranger who had joined them along the way said that he would keep going on the road, but they urged him to stop with them:
Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is nearly over.
When he joined them inside, they sat at table together and began to share a meal. He took the bread at dinner, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, and then they realized that it was none other than the risen Jesus who had been with them all day long! Even though he disappeared right away, they knew who it was, and so they hurried back to Jerusalem – seven miles in the dark, along a dangerous road! – to tell the other disciples.
The stories of encountering Jesus continue all around us. We see Jesus in so many different ways, when we look in the eyes of a stranger, when we offer the gift of presence in the midst of despair, when we share time with beloved friends, when we seek to serve those who are in great need. All the stories of encountering Jesus we have heard this morning and experienced in our lives remind us that Christ is risen, that Jesus is still on the loose in our world, that death does not and will not have the last word, that God is not done with us yet. And every time we gather at this table to share even the simplest of meals, we trust that we will see Jesus again, that he will be made known to us too in the breaking of bread.
My friend Ben, a pastor in North Carolina, told me his own story this week about seeing Jesus. The church where he serves has supplied food to feed hungry students and their families at a local elementary school where his wife teaches. Over the years, they have realized that many children get their only good meals of the day at school, and the weekend for them means less a break from their studies and more the loss of healthy meals for two days. Before Easter, Ben’s wife told him about how Jesus had shown up along the way. The mother of a first grader who gets a bag of food each week came to the office one day to ask why her child was bringing a bag home each week. When the office explained the food was for the family for the whole weekend, the mother had a curious look on her face – the bag had been coming home nearly empty, just a bag of rice and one caned good. They discovered that her daughter had been giving the food away to her classmates on the bus ride home, because she thought they needed food, too, and that the gift she had been given was worth sharing.
The gift of the risen Jesus among us is like that. He shows up in unexpected places – in strange walks and talks with the disciples along that Emmaus road, in the experiences we have shared, at the table where we will soon gather, and in the wonderful simplicity and giving of a child who is as concerned about others as she is about herself.
May we keep seeing Jesus all around us in this Easter season and beyond. Alleluia! Amen.