05/04/14 Sermon (May 4, 2014) "In the Breaking of the Bread"

posted Jun 4, 2014, 12:36 PM by David Hawkins

Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-35  

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, 16but 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.

Sermon: "In the Breaking of the Bread"             Rev. David Hawkins

On the same day that the woman were at the empty tomb early in the morning and saw Jesus, we find two disciples making their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. One of them is named Cleopas, and we never get to know the other. We don’t know too much about them, just that they were part of the inner circle around Jesus.

They had marched with Jesus into Jerusalem. They had hoped that Jesus would lead a revolt against the Romans, They had believed that Jesus was the Messiah who would restore Israel to glory. They had eaten with Jesus, had been fed by Jesus, and had watched in terror as Jesus was betrayed, arrested and crucified. They were there when the disciples were hiding, they were there when the women came back and told them about seeing Jesus. They were there when Peter confirmed their reports about an empty tomb. We don’t really know who they are, but they certainly know who Jesus is. At least, they thought they did.

But now, in hindsight, it looks like everything they thought about Jesus was a lie. All the hope, all the hype, all the teaching, and the feeding, and the healing, all of it for nothing. Even worse, it all seems a little foolish, now that they’ve had some time to think about it. What did they really expect? Was Jesus going to take on Caesar? Was he going to overthrow the greatest empire ever to rule the earth?

Well, of course not. It was a pipe dream. They were lucky to get out of it alive. And now they’re leaving Jerusalem. To return to their everyday empty lives, to go back to normal routines, back to appointments with stupid clients, arguments with stupid neighbors, tedious work at the office, back to the certainty of death and taxes. They are leaving Jerusalem to live their joyless  lives as though nothing had really happened. As though Jesus had never lived at all. They are going to Emmaus.

Emmaus is the place we turn to when we’ve got nothing left to lose. Emmaus is the bad choice we make when we fear the world around us. Emmaus is the car we buy to relieve our midlife crisis; it’s the bar we spend too much time in when we don’t want to go home; it’s the self-medication of drugs and alcohol and promiscuous behavior with which we abuse ourselves when we feel lost and alone. Emmaus is the place where we wonder if our life has any meaning whatsoever. Emmaus is where we live when hope dies.

It’s not all that long of a walk to Emmaus, maybe seven miles or so. But it can take a lifetime to get there. And some of us have been on this road. Seven miles of thinking about what could have been, what might have been. Seven miles of dreading a return to the mundane, to a world without purpose or hope. Seven miles of regret and self-doubt. Seven miles of not wanting to go on, but knowing you can never go back. Seven miles on a road of broken dreams and broken faith.

It’s just the two disciples on the road to Emmaus for most of the journey, and maybe they want it that way. Maybe they want to be cut off from the main group. Sometimes we want to be alone with our misery. Sometimes we hurt so bad, we just don’t have the energy to deal with the feelings of other people.  

But they don’t stay alone, do they? They’re joined at some point by a stranger, uninvited. Someone who doesn’t understand their sorrow, doesn’t know anything about everything that’s gone on in the last few days. Who is this guy, they wonder. Has he been living in a cave? And so they have to tell the whole story again. They have to relive every moment, every awful detail that brought them to this point.

Now, you would think that a stranger would have some empathy for them after hearing their story. That even if the stranger didn’t know who Jesus was, didn’t know the whole story, weren’t a part of the whole thing, he would still be able to connect on some level with what these two were going through.

But this stranger seems strangely upbeat about the whole thing. It’s as though he thinks that all of this is part of some kind of bigger plan, a plan that had been put in motion a long, long time ago.

The stranger knows his scripture, that’s for sure. He’s able to point to prophecies and stories in the lives of their ancestors that remind them of the things that Jesus used to say. The problem is, he just doesn’t seem to understand that all of it was for nothing. Because Jesus is dead, and there’s just no getting around that. All of that other stuff about redemption and liberation sounds nice, but without Jesus, there just doesn’t seem to be any point to it.

But, even though the stranger has some unusual ideas about everything that had just happened in Jerusalem, he seems like a nice enough person, and when they finally reach Emmaus, and it’s time to stop for the night, they invite him to join him for a meal. It is their custom, after all, to show hospitality, even to eccentric strangers on the road that they hardly knew.

But when it is time to eat, they are startled by the way the stranger assumes the duties of serving the food, as though he is the host, rather than them. As though he is inviting them to dinner, instead of the other way around.

And when he takes the bread, they feel something in the air, maybe it’s just an evening breeze, but something is stirring, a gentle breath of remembrance. And when he gives thanks for the bread, that feeling grows, the feeling that there is something, somehow about this stranger that they had missed, a familiar presence that they had not noticed before.

And when he breaks the bread, they realize that this man is no stranger. They know very well who he is, they had always known who he was,  they will always know who he is. And it is in that very moment that their eyes are opened, and Jesus is feeding them again, Jesus is alive, and he’s feeding them the way he had fed them so many times before.

They had thought that they had eaten their last supper with him just a few nights before, but they were wrong. They had thought that all they had left of Jesus were tragic memories of a crucified Rabbi, but they were wrong. They had thought that the rest of their life was going to be lived without the possibility of ever seeing their friend again, of ever hoping, or trusting in anything, or anyone again, but they were wrong.

In the breaking of the bread, their eyes are opened, and they see the Lord for who he really is. Jesus is with them, and he is alive. It was all true. Every word. Jesus is alive, and he will never abandon us.

You know, we never do find out the name of the the other disciple. But maybe we know him better than we think. Because most of us have walked a few steps on the road to Emmaus. There have been times in our lives when we were filled with the kind of self doubt that makes it hard to face the world. We have wondered what our life was all about, if it was about anything.

But then, by the grace of God, we find ourselves at this table, invited by the one who gives himself to us. We find ourselves celebrating much more than a last supper. Today we eat the first supper of the rest of our eternal lives, a meal in which covenants are kept, and prophecies are fulfilled. This is the meal in which the broken pieces of our hope and faith are knit back together by the broken bread of Jesus’ body. This is the meal in which our eyes are opened, and we see Jesus for who he really is.

Come taste and see that the Lord is Good.

Thanks be to God. Amen.