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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 24:13–49   

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over 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 took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed 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 they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (NRSV)

I’ve always found it comical that although these two men could recite Jesus’ entire life (and death and life) story, they somehow don’t recognize the risen Jesus until he breaks bread in their presence. We are told that their eyes were kept from recognizing him—by what or whom we don’t know—but it should be said that without their invitation for him to stay, they would not have seen him at all.

This invitation—an invitation offered freely to someone they consider a stranger—is reminiscent of Matthew’s twenty-fifth chapter. When Jesus’ disciples ask when had they seen him hungry and given him something to eat, or seen a stranger and welcomed him, Jesus’ response convicts us: “Truly I tell you, just as you did to the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). In this Road to Emmaus story, we see Jesus’ disciples in the early church putting this teaching into practice—and witness a reminder that it is through practice that our eyes can be truly opened.

The Road to Emmaus story poses a pointed question to us: How different are we from Cleopas and this other unnamed disciple? How many of us could recite Jesus’ life story—his teachings, his miracles, his death and resurrection—and yet wouldn’t recognize him even if he appeared right next to us?

Friends, may each of us be challenged in this season after Easter to not only hear Jesus’ words but put them to practice.

Holy God, just as you have made your love known to us by breaking bread with friends and strangers alike, may we too emulate the breadth and depth of your love in our daily living. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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