SERMON from Easter Sunday 2013: Last Words From The Road to Emmaus

Luke 24.13-23 (CEB)

On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him. He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast. The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?” He said to them, “What things?” They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive.


Last Words From the Cross Road to Emmaus

Two sentences. That's what we're talking about today. Jesus says two sentences.

“What are you talking about as you walk along?”

“What things?”

Surely, there are other things I could have brought to your attention. Certainly, it wouldn't have been difficult to farm Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the interwebs for material that I could have used as inspiration for unveiling the good news of a day in the church like this.

But, no. I decided to continue with the theme of this sermon series all the way to Resurrection Sunday. Or, as the retail world calls it, “Easter.”

Why is it called “Easter,” anyway?

Anyone know?

Well, as far as I could tell, it has to do with a German goddess. Specifically, it has to do with the Teutonic goddess of fertility and spring. Her name was “Eostra.” It is from her name that we get the name for the female hormone, “estrogen.” Well, once Constantine and the church decided to run roughshod over the indigenous people and religions of Europe, they found out about the spring goddess and assimilated the tradition into the Christian celebration of the Resurrection.

Easter eggs are actually given to us from Eostra. Since she is the goddess of fertility, the eggs came to us from her as a sign of fertility. What they still have to do with the Christian celebration of the Resurrection is beyond me?

Also beyond me, is why Cadbury Creme Eggs have to be so darned sweet. Seriously, I feel as if I'm going into a diabetic coma each time a bite into one. It hasn't stopped me from biting into them, but still…

But, I digress…

Why are Jesus' words in this passage important? To clear things up, there's nothing significant about the words Jesus uses. The significance is in the response his words received.

The response is significant because of it's complete lack of something to the effect of, “Whaaaaaa?” There was nothing there.

I hate to go here, but some of us have dogs, right? From the very big to the annoyingly small, our country has decided there is merit in the domestication and mass-ownership of these animals we call “dogs.” I don't like dogs. My wife and kids like dogs, so we have dogs.

Have you ever had or seen a dumb dog? I mean just by looking at the expression on their face, you can tell that there is not much there. We have one of these dogs. Many of you have seen our dog, Angus. More of you have probably seen our yippie little poodle-slash-brain-aneurism, Samson; but many of you have seen Angus.

He's dumb. He's cute – and a great dog – but he is so dumb. It's so bad that I made up a theme song for him. I did it because when he's walking around, it just looks like he needs some accompanying music that bounces around with him that goes, “dum-da-dump-da-dum…” He's a good dog, but the expressions he gives and the things he does just make you feel sorry for the poor dog.

As I read the account of Jesus encountering some of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I found myself – and this is true – beginning to hum Angus' theme song as I realize just how ridiculous it seems that these people could have been clueless as to who was right next to them.

The expression about hindsight notwithstanding, we often look at the plight of biblical characters as something upon which we can look with laughter and ridicule.

“If I were Samson, there's no way I'd let Delilah cut my hair.”

“If an angel tells you not to look back, Lot's wife, you don't look back. And now, you're a pillar of salt.”

“Peter totally botched it by looking down at the water, instead of Jesus.”

You get the idea. Lots of chances for us to look at the characters and say, “What were you thinking?”

This one is even more ridiculous for us to understand. We certainly don't know exactly how Jesus looked in his resurrected form. He couldn't have looked much worse than he did a couple of days ago, so we have the expectation that Jesus probably looked a lot like he did before he was arrested in the garden.

The big problem with this is that they had just seen Jesus die in gruesome fashion. Nobody could have expected to see Jesus again, especially after seeing that – and the fact that Jesus told them it was going to happen.

The good news – pun intended – is that the Jesus they are now encountering is the Resurrected One. Showing God's power over death. Proving God's love for God's son and God's people. Evidence of God's desire to keep the promises God makes to God's people.

Ya' know, the good news!

Still, though, we don't know the significance of this little interaction. Not to downplay an instance where Jesus speaks, but he asks two innocuous questions of two oblivious disciples. That's pretty much it.

Or is it?

I would argue the significance of this interaction for us is in the fact that the two disciples didn't recognize Jesus. Now, rather than trying to figure what excuses there might be for not recognizing the man for which you gave up your livelihoods, why don't we turn this into a way to look into ourselves.

When are the times we've been so oblivious as to miss seeing Jesus? That is, have we ever been so distracted or disinterested – or whatever – as to miss a genuine opportunity to have an encounter with the divine?

The way we choose to commemorate this holiest of weekends is certainly a good place to start. How many of us – right this second – are thinking about which dish needs to go into the oven first when we get home? How many of us are considering taking that shortcut Uncle Larry told us about, so we can get to grandma's quicker? How many of us are trying to remember the best places to hide eggs for the annual family Easter Egg Hunt?

Well, you might be thinking about that stuff now – and I accept full responsibility for that.

However, let's not forget what's happening right here, right now. We've gathered here in this place to worship God for his show of just how much he loves us. We are here to bear witness to what the empty tomb really means. We are here to sing our praises to the God of all creation, for he has done great things.

We are here. Right here and right now is a golden opportunity to encounter the God who loved you so much that the dead have been raised and the tomb has been emptied.

There will certainly be time to kick back in your recliner and watch all the basketball you desire. There will be time to hide and hunt all the eggs. There will certainly be time to ingest all the ham – with the glaze and the pineapple with the cherries in the middle – that you want.

But right now, we are here.

What do we do? We desire to be here, in this moment, to give thanks to God for the gift that is his amazing grace – evidenced to us by the horror of the cross and the emptiness of the tomb.

So, as we sing our final songs and pray our final prayers, let us remember this encounter with Jesus – and be grateful.




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