Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “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.” And he said to them, “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?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:13–35, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This last week for preschool chapel we talked about this account of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The teachers put a path of footprints from the back of the church winding around all the way up to the front. The whole class followed the footprints and we stopped at several points to talk about Jesus along the way. I think it’s wonderfully amazing how Jesus is so much at the heart and center of this particular text. These two disciples have left Jerusalem, the very place Jesus said he would meet them, and were walking away to Emmaus. They were talking about, “all these things that happened.” That means Jesus death, and the rumors of his resurrection. And Jesus appeared to them. But they didn’t know who he was, because that’s the way Jesus wanted it to be. “What are you talking about? As you’re walking away from Jerusalem.” And the two disciples were dumbfounded that someone would not know what was going on. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know these things that have happened in these days?” The truth is Jesus knows more about what has happened than these disciples. But they are about to find out. “What things?” says Jesus. It’s about one of the most ironic statements in the Bible. “We had high hopes for Jesus of Nazareth. But, he was crucified dead and buried. Some women we know told us that he has risen from the dead. But none of this makes any sense to us.” “Don’t you know your Bible?” Jesus chides. “Doesn’t it say in the prophets that these things are necessary to happen? Doesn’t it say that the Christ should suffer all these things?” Then Jesus conducts a Bible class on the road. Jesus walks through the Bible with his disciples as he walks with them on the road to Emmaus. From beginning to end, he shows them how the Scriptures are all about him. He interprets the texts of God’s word for them, showing how he is the center of it all. They invite him to eat with them. And he reveals to them who he is in the breaking of bread. Just as they see it, Jesus in the Scriptures, Jesus seated with them in their meal, Jesus teaching them on the road to Emmaus, he leaves them that thought. They later told the other disciples that their hearts burned within them while Jesus talked to them on the road. When Jesus told them that he was the center of Scripture the meaning and purpose of the Bible was “opened to them.”
I want to go back to the path of footprints winding around the sanctuary. It was a little journey with Jesus. We would walk for a way, pick up one of the footprints and read about what Jesus was doing or saying. Then move a little further and do it again. Jesus was the center of our little journey. We got up to the front of the church. It was the upper room. We talked about Jesus being the most important thing. We talked about Jesus dying on the cross to forgive our sins.
The Emmaus disciples ran back to the upper room. They couldn’t wait to tell the other disciples that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. They wanted to explain how Jesus opened Scriptures to them. They couldn’t wait to explain how Jesus resurrection proves that the main thing Jesus had come to do through his life, death, and resurrection is bring the forgiveness of sins. After all, it was all there in the Scriptures. Just as Jesus appeared to them in the breaking of bread, just as his presence was made clear at the end of their walk to Emmaus, Jesus was made clear to them as the center of the Bible.
So what does this mean for you and me? It means it whenever we read or study the Scriptures we ought to be looking for Jesus. The whole Bible is about him. Our sinful tendency is to look at the Bible and make it about us. We read the Bible stories and we want the application to be what were supposed to do, who we are supposed to be, how we are to make ourselves right with God. And although we can get helpful insight on living from God’s word, as Jesus told the disciples on the Emmaus Road, the Scriptures are opened to us when we see Jesus in the text. We understand Scripture clearly only when we see the main purpose. Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinful people.
Our journey through life is to be a journey with Jesus, footprints from here, through death, to life forever with him. The only way for us to walk with Jesus is to see him in the place that he comes to us. That is the Holy Scriptures. His Word is Jesus at work. And, just so you know, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are simply God’s Word connected to physical elements, water and bread and wine. There is no place else to find Jesus working. We should not look for him in feelings in our hearts, or the dreams of little children. It is in Word and Sacrament where Jesus comes to us.
So the Bible is always about Jesus. And maybe we should have a few examples of looking for him there. What about Philippians 4:13. This could be an important verse for someone here today.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, ESV)
Now you might think that St. Paul is giving some great advice. That he’s giving hope to someone who might be getting confirmed, about how their whole future is opened to them. That they can do anything that they set their minds to doing. But that’s not exactly what he’s saying. He is in fact talking about his life of suffering. What he means is that when our minds are focused on who Jesus is and what he has done for us in his life, death, and resurrection, we can live through the trials of life knowing that we have life forever with him. Knowing that nothing that happens to us, that seems evil, is punishment from God but rather a way for God to remind us how much we need Jesus.
Or how about Isaiah 43:1?
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1b, ESV)
There is indeed great reason to fear in this world that we live in. Christian persecution is greater now than it has ever been. If you care to look, every day brings news of our brothers and sisters in faith who die rather than deny their Savior. Christians in Africa are being crucified. In the Middle East, they are regularly beheaded. The culture all around us is increasingly hostile to the message of Jesus. When we dare to say what is right and wrong according to God’s Word we are held up for ridicule. In fact, to stand firm on what God says is a dangerous place to stand. But we stand there because it is the only place for us to stand. God gives us his name in Holy Baptism. It is the name of Jesus, and it carries everything that Jesus did. The name of Jesus placed on you, gives you the forgiveness he won on the cross. All of this makes you God’s very own child. Persecution, trouble, hardship, and even death are only things that will bring you closer to Jesus. There is no reason to fear you have God’s faithful promise of life forever.
And finally Joshua 24:15.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15b, ESV)
Now this one certainly sounds like something we do, serving the Lord. We ought to understand what serving the Lord means. First of all Joshua is confessing faith in God who saved them from slavery in Egypt. He says, even if other families turn to other gods he will remain true to the one who saved him. Joshua’s response is to God’s salvation. As for me and my house, we will serve the God who saves us. The word Lord in this passage is all capital letters. And it really is God’s name, Yahweh. And it is the name that means, “I AM.” “I AM” is the name that God gave the Israelites to know who was saving them from slavery. This same God sends Jesus to save us from our slavery to sin. He is the God who comes in human flesh in Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our forgiveness. To serve this God is to recognize first what he has done for us on the cross. In service of the Lord in a family first begins with bringing that family to hear God’s word. And therefore teaching them of God salvation through Jesus Christ.
So on the road to Emmaus; we learn how to keep Jesus at the center of our lives. God gives to us Holy Scripture that points us to Jesus. That’s what our faith journey is. A life lived in the forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.