In the Name of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
He is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia!
Last week’s Gospel and sermon were all about Thomas, the disciple who went beyond doubting into damnation in eight days because he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. He adamantly and concretely refused to believe what his brothers were telling him about what happened in a locked room. Thankfully for Thomas, at the end of the Gospel Lesson, he did believe when the Savior spoke and showed him his hands and side. It was Christ coming and speaking to Thomas that gave Thomas saving faith.
If this week’s Gospel seems similar, that’s because it is… sorta. Yet, the account of these two disciples traveling to Emmaus and talking with Jesus is different. It begins differently and everything that leads up to the end is different than the Gospel lesson on Thomas in John 20. However, at the end of both Gospel readings, whether it’s Thomas or these two disciples, they end up knowing that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.
Here we are, Easter morning, the morning when Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death, and there are two men, Cleopas and his friend. These two, who numbered from the 70 that Jesus sent out in Luke 10, were traveling to Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. You can put yourself in their shoes, especially if you’ve lost someone very close to you.
Like two normal guys walking together, they were talking about the most recent events in a very disordered and tumultuous short time. Their talking was full of grief over their close friend and Savior dying, and doubt at what they heard from the ladies, (Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James) who were at the tomb earlier that morning, who said that an angel told them that Jesus was no longer at the tomb but had risen.
While Cleopas and his companion were traveling, Jesus, whom they could not recognize, appeared and came upon them. Just like a person appearing to make small talk to pass the time, Jesus began asking these two men questions. Questions about what their conversation was about and about “what things” have recently happened in Jerusalem.
The men stopped, and they stood. They were very σκυθρωποί. I know the ESV says ‘sad,’ but σκυθρωποί doesn’t mean sad. Intead, it gives the impression of having “a darkened face” or being “sullen”. You might even go so far as to say that these two men had an “air of gloominess” about them.
Not knowing that it was Jesus that they were traveling and conversing with, the two sullen men said: “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
As I said, these men were sullen while speaking with the risen Jesus, whom they didn’t recognize. That was because the women came back from the tomb and told everyone what the angels had said. Then Peter and John go to the tomb and see that the tomb is empty. They don’t see Jesus, because He wasn’t there to be seen, and these two men needed more proof than the ladies’ word and an empty tomb, which could have meant any number of things to these men.
The men were also sullen because they knew that Jesus would redeem Israel. Literally that Jesus would ‘ransom’ or ‘buy back’ Israel. However, these men had no idea how His death played into this. They didn’t know what Jesus’ death would provide for them, if it were freedom from spiritual powers, physical powers or what. All that they knew again was that their hope of being ransomed, or redeemed, or bought back was dying the longer that Jesus lay in the tomb and remained dead.
Upon hearing what these men, these disciples who were part of the 70 that He sent out to do healings and cast out demons in His name, had said Jesus rebuked them. He said “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”
These two men thought that they were intelligent because they knew the Scriptures and part of what the Messiah was going to do and that He was going to ransom them. Despite this head knowledge these same men were actually foolish in a Proverbs sense of the word. They knew part of what writings of Moses and the Prophets wrote, but they didn’t believe it. For instance these two men knew and believed that the Messiah, that Jesus Christ, would come and establish His kingdom, but they overlooked the essential parts of the Messiah’s kingdom, i.e. His death and resurrection as a ransom for many from sin or that His death would be the final sacrifice and their relationship with God the Father would be restored.
It is because of this foolishness that Jesus now explains Moses and the Prophets and everything in them that pertains to Himself. The Word made flesh explains the Word to these two disciples. He showed how “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25). Jesus also explained how “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20-21).
These men suspected something was different about this man who explained the Scriptures. They suspected enough to ask Jesus to stay with them and eat because the day was almost over. Yet, they didn’t believe.
So Jesus stayed. “He took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them.” Then the men’s eyes were opened. The veil covering their hearts and minds was gone. They could see clearly now.
It wasn’t until Jesus broke bread, that is Communed with them in a way that brought to remembrance what Christ did in the upper room on Maundy Thursday, that they recognized the man who was walking, talking and explaining the Scriptures to them as their Savior. The Holy Spirit needed to open their eyes, hearts and minds and it was in the Sacrament and the Words from Christ that accomplished this miraculous feat.
The same goes for you. You know and recognize that Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar that you are about to partake of because Christ says ‘This is my body!’ and ‘This is my blood!’ You know and recognize Christ because of His Word. The Word that says Jesus’ body and blood were shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins. It is in the Word that you hear that Jesus had to be betrayed, die and rise again three days to forgive you all of your sins. The only ways that we are able to comprehend the Lord and to receive Him are in the Word and Sacrament.
Joyously, after their eyes, hearts and minds were open from hearing the Word and receiving a foretaste of the Sacrament that Christ instituted a few days earlier, did they remember that their hearts were burning within them. They were moved to faith. Moved by something, or more importantly, by someone, outside of them.
Cleopas and his traveling companion were moved so much that despite the hour and that they wanted to rest, they left post haste and went to the 11. They went as a testimony that Jesus had risen from the dead just as the women said. That Jesus had risen just like He said that He would. In Matthew 12:40 “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Also in John 2:19″Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Jesus has done these things for the 11, for the two traveling to Emmaus, and for you.
Rejoice. Christ is Risen! He has appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He has already appeared to you in Word and is also going to appear to you in just a moment in the Sacrament.
Rejoice for you are forgiven because He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!