On The Road Again-Luke 24:13-35

This is not like Luke, the careful writer and precise physician because the particular details of this story make it difficult to know who and where.  First, we are told there are two travelers on the road to Emmaus, one named Cleopas and the other nameless; both who were probably with the eleven in Jerusalem.  Some think the other was Peter, because of the reference to Simon in v. 34.  Some think it was Cleopas’ wife, since women in the Bible are often left unnamed.  Luke was better than others at giving women their due, it seems unlikely he would have slighted that detail.

In Israel, there are three towns that claim to be Emmaus; Chambers of Commerce marketing religion.  No one is sure where the town of Emmaus was during Jesus’ time.  Manuscripts don’t help, even they differ over the whereabouts of Emmaus.  One text says Emmaus was seven miles from Jerusalem.  Other manuscripts say one hundred and sixty stadia, about eighteen miles.  Yet, there is no such place seven or eighteen miles from Jerusalem.  Perhaps the word Emmaus is the name of the other person, not the town.  This kind of reporting is not like Luke.

I’m not sure Luke is reporting facts, but reporting how the resurrection is a present event in the lives of people of every generation and in every land.  After all, Luke’s gospel was primarily written for the Gentile world.  The challenge of the next generation of those first believers is the same in every subsequent generation, will the story remain believable.  The details missing in the story work in favor of insuring the resurrection will remain relevant.  The resurrection happened with no witness, save women and the disciples who only see an empty tomb and angels.  On that same day, Jesus show up to two travelers, one of them unnamed, who are leaving Jerusalem for no named reason to a named town no one can place.  Jesus; reveals to them and us since he’s no longer confined to a dead body, tomb, or the past, he can show up to whoever, wherever, and whenever.

These two are trying to go on with their lives despite tragically losing the one who they had trusted their lives.  They are talking about him and the things that have happened, they can’t talk about anything else.  They had known him in the flesh, but they don’t recognize him as walked up beside them.  They don’t know him because they can’t know him as they once did.  They will have to come to know him as he is and will be always; showing up in their lives whether it be at the communion rail or family table.

I think Luke leaves the person unknown so each of us can be with Cleopas; filling in our own name in the blank.  The unnamed traveler is no one; the unnamed traveler is everyone.  I also think he also leaves Emmaus indistinct to say Christ will find us wherever we are headed and whatever road we travel; walking alongside us whether we recognize him or not.  Emmaus is nowhere.  Emmaus is everywhere.

All of us are on a road from somewhere, literally or figuratively.  The exact details of the roads we travel only matter inasmuch as they could be the road Christ finds us.  We may be traveling from marriage to singleness, gladness to grief, or work to retirement, or even life to death; but Christ can find us.  Whether we think our lives are significant or not, we’re to pay attention to what is happening in our lives.  The Risen One shows up to both the anonymous loner or notorious achiever.  They both need the kind of saving love Christ offers from above to make them whole.

Some Christians suggest God’s plans are laid out, so when we come to a fork, there’s a road Christ will go with us, or we can choose to travel the other road alone.  This text shows whatever road we choose, God will meet us: sometimes blessing, other times chiding; sometimes urging us down that path, other times standing ahead; begging us to retrace our steps.  God knows who we are, and finds us wherever we are.

The most common faith story I hear in these times, is how a person grew up in a church where being good was the message.  Eventually, they grew tired trying to be good enough, so God will love them.  In fact, they knew they could not be good enough, and they weren’t sure they wanted to be.  So they left the church to explore different worlds.  Over time, the faith they thought they had left, had not really left them.  Or, the God they thought they had left, kept reappearing in places and faces they hadn’t anticipated; often outside the confines of the church.  They are now crafting a faith that is their own, instead of accepting what everyone tells they should believe.

This same theme is played out by people will tell of a past life of faith, but they gave up on God because of fallen leaders, people, or institutions.  It is unfortunate no one ever told them every biblical character had character problems.  Yet, despite their biblical flaws God didn’t give up on any one, at anytime.  Thus, for any of us to give up on God because of other people’s failures is too easy of a cop-out; and it prevents a person from experiencing the depth of the grace of God learned in walking the long road of faith.  

We mistakenly think the Bible is an account of our search for God, and a report of our findings.  Genesis’ first story sets the tone for the nature of the Good Book.  God goes for a walk in the cool of the evening, and calls out  to the hiding sin-ridden humans looking for them despite their failure.  Nothing has changed from that day to this day in our relationship to our Creator.  Faith is not the product of our own discovery.  It’s the product of being discovered by God on the road we are traveling.  God specializes in looking for us.  Sometimes that happens when we are looking and sometimes when we are not looking.  Any impulse to search for God is a homing instinct God placed in us to make us more open to being found.  The only place God works is right where we are.

We don’t pray, read scripture, or come to the Communion table to discover Christ.  These spiritual disciplines are simply the arenas of grace that put ourselves in better position to see and experience the presence of Christ in our lives.  It’s Christ who makes self known most clearly and more dearly along these well-walked roads.  We also see two other places that are fertile ground to become more acutely aware how the grace of God compels Christ to come looking.  It happens when we walk with others who are talking about spiritual things; opening ourselves up to gifts from above.  It happens when we break bread with other hungry souls; acknowledging all of us are needy.  These are places we come to know Christ as our companion and host, who wants us to experience him in all moments.

We  all need a constant grace filled boot in our backsides sometimes to open us up to the amazing grace of God so we might realize “Someone” is standing next to us along.  When we do realize Christ has never left our side we realize Christ will be with us on every moment and everyday.  There is a “Someone” who finds us in all the places and times of our lives.  It happens from who knows where, to God knows where.  Look for the Risen Christ walking beside you on your road of discovery.  Listen carefully to the words from Fray’s song, “You Found Me” and hear the  voice of God looking for each one of us in the same way.

Did You Notice?

Caravaggio paints the scene of the Emmaus with dramatic realism, like he does all his other works.

This scene depicts the moment of recognition.  The two disciples, dressed in dark clothes are slack jawed.  One disciple’s hands fly out to the sides in surprise. The other is bolting from his chair.  The light in the picture seems to radiate from Christ and illumines their features.

Caravaggio adds a character not present in Luke’s story, a servant who does not know Jesus, who stands dully by watching this scene as the risen Lord of the new creation blesses the sacred supper with two lesser known disciples.

Caravaggio reminds us will always be those who are unaware at best or oblivious at worse to the presence of God.  The good news is Jesus keeps showing up at the table.

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 1:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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