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the sermon for

The Third Sunday of Easter

30 April 2017

Luke 24:13-35
We don't find Jesus; Jesus finds us!

by Todd Wise

04302017Earlier that morning the group of women — Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James — had found the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, and received the amazing news that Jesus is alive, he is risen. Of course, this was not your typical Sunday morning — not a normal start to the week — and this news traveled fast to the eleven.

And later that day is when our gospel reading from Luke begins. It begins with Cleopas, who was Jesus' uncle, and his son Simon solemnly traveling to the town of Emmaus. Now being an avid hiker and engineer, I quickly did the math. It's seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, traveling at a casual pace of 2 miles per hour would mean that this journey takes somewhere between 3-4hrs. To put this in perspective, it is about the same distance as walking from our church to the Wagner Noel (minus the traffic lights and drilling rigs, of course). Now, I'm sure most of us have enjoyed a pleasant walk with a friend. Good conversation, scenic views, a relaxing way to unwind or get from one place to the next.

But, as these two are on their way and engaging in somber conversation, they happen to gain an unexpected visitor. Someone they do not recognize. Someone they had not sought out. Someone that found them and joined them on their journey.

And it seems that this 'visitor' was somehow unaware of the incredible events that had just unfolded in Jerusalem. In fact, the disciples explained to their visitor these events and what had happened to Jesus of Nazareth. They also relayed what the women had seen and heard at the tomb, and that Peter had gone to the tomb and also found it empty. But still, none of the disciples had seen the living Jesus. Where was he? Would you have been nervous if you were a disciple? In the disciples' eyes, things must not have appeared to be going to plan. The disciples expected the Messiah to usher in God's rule, but not that He would suffer, die, and rise again.

It's at this point that the visitor begins to open the disciples' hearts to understanding what had really happened. To interpret the old testament scriptures so that they might understand all of the recent and significant events.

And as their journey comes to a close, the disciples reach their destination and coax the visitor to stay with them — to join them for dinner as the day is getting late. The disciples are gracious hosts, yet the 'visitor' takes on the host's role. He took the bread, blessed, and broke it and gave it to them. And it was at this moment, the moment that the bread was broken, that the visitor was revealed. No longer a visitor, but Jesus Christ, living, risen from the dead.

And, as quickly as the disciples had met the visitor, he disappeared from their sight. They were left to ponder the situation. They had felt a burning in their heart when Jesus had explained the scriptures. The text had been there all along, but they now see it in a new and profound way. And even though it was evening, the disciples got back on the road. This time, heading right back to Jerusalem where they had been earlier that day. On their way to find the eleven and tell them that the Lord is risen indeed; and they had seen it first hand in the breaking of the bread. That they now understand what the plan had been all along.

What an exciting story.

You see this story is about Jesus. Jesus seeks us out. Jesus joins us on our journeys. No matter how easy or difficult that journey is, Jesus takes the first step even if we're not expecting him to. Even if we don't recognize Him because of our preconceptions, Jesus makes the connection. In fact, Jesus opens our hearts to the scriptures so that we might see them in new ways. Jesus opens our eyes, he reveals himself to us after revealing the truths of His word. Jesus gives us the bread of life.

We have all traveled the road to Emmaus. Perhaps you are on that road right now. Perhaps you've been down that road before, Or perhaps you've just returned from Emmaus. We have all had challenges and had our hopes shattered, but Jesus was there. Already walking beside us. We may not have recognized Him even though he was there beside us. We may not have known his voice even though he was talking to us throughout that journey, but it was Him. We may only have come to recognize him at the end of the journey, when he revealed himself to us through the breaking of the bread and forgiveness of our sins.

That day, Christ made a tremendous difference in the lives of Cleopas and Simon. Before meeting Jesus on the road, their heads were low, their eyes pointed at the ground, their hopes receding. But after meeting Jesus, they turned around and walked another 7 miles right back to where they had just been earlier that day. That's fourteen miles in a single afternoon and evening. However, during the return trip, I'm sure that their heads were held high, their pace was quickened, and their hearts were uplifted. That is the difference that Christ makes when He is the center of our heart instead of doubts, uncertainties, and difficulties. Jesus opens our eyes and fulfills his plan whether we had doubt or not. He is already here with us.

It's Jesus that took the first step, It's Jesus that seeks us out, It's Jesus that opens our hearts to scripture and it's Jesus that opens our eyes to the Truth. And it's because it's Jesus that loves us unconditionally - unearned, undeserved.

"Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, For round us falls the eventide. O let Your Word, that saving light, Shine forth undimmed into the night" Amen (LSB 585:1)

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