April 26, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“In the Breaking of the Bread”
I want to share two pictures with you related to the story of two disciples on the road of Emmaus in today’s scriptures. Perhaps you have seen these pictures several times. I think that these help us to imagine how they looked like.
[On the Road of Emmaus by Joseph Von Fu̎hrich, 1837]
[Supper at Emmaus by Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, 1648]
The scripture Luke 24:13-35 is a story of the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. We are told that five hundred believers saw the risen Christ, but this story is perhaps the most dramatic of all Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. It is a very human story, full of pathos.
Two believers who were Cleopas and his companion were walking home to Emmaus after that first Easter Sunday, a trip of about seven miles in a northwesterly direction out of Jerusalem. They were sad and disappointed about Jesus, and their faces looked downcast. They were talking about the scandalous Jesus, such as his suffering, death on the cross, and the empty tomb with questioning about the rumor of the resurrection. They disappointed with their expectation about Jesus. They were too sad to recognize Jesus even though he joined their walking (vv.15-17).
It is Jesus who takes the initiative; He joins them. When they tell him the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, he explains the scriptural basis for all these events, and rebukes them for their slowness of heart. Later on, in their mealtime, they discover who he is when he takes bread, blesses it, and breaks it. The Easter event cannot be reduced to a creed or philosophy. It matters to meet this Jesus raised from the dead in your life journey, beyond the matter of doctrines. In faith, we move from belief in doctrine to knowledge of a person. Ultimate truth is a person. We can say as these two believers did return to Jerusalem and join with the other disciples and become Jesus’ witnesses, “we met him; he is alive.”
In his resurrection, Jesus moves our faith to the present tense, as over against the past tense. The two walking along the road recite the past tense. They explained about the scandalous crucifixion of Jesus and rumors of resurrection of Jesus to a companion [Jesus] who join them, and say, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (v.21). However, Jesus himself is there in the present tense. Many of us have been experienced with the question in our faithful journey, “nothing would have happened if he were here, where is he?” Please remember that Jesus is here. He is the hidden factor in our life journey − on our own Emmaus Road, whether we recognize or not.
How do we recognize that ultimate person as we travel our own Emmaus Road? These texts give us some excellent clues. First, we recognize him by knowing the Bible. Jesus spoke from the Scriptures to these two travelers. Jesus traced back through the Scriptures all the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah. He explained that all those recent events were meant to happen so that God might redeem the world. As we study or read the Scripture, we have the privilege of having access to the author of the book. God-self is with us through the Holy Spirit as we read. We can ask God to give us wisdom and insight into portions that are puzzling and pondering.
John Wesley had his own Emmaus experience through the hearing of Scripture. He describes at that moment, “I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins-even mine- and saved me from the law of sin and death” (Wesley’s daily journal). The speaker was reading Luther’s commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans. But Jesus was there. The Scriptures all point to the One who is our companion on our journey on the Emmaus Road.
Second, as Jesus appeared to these two travelers, fellowship resulted. We have Jesus’ promise that where two or three are gathered together in his name, there he is in the midst (Matthew 18:20). Surely Jesus may manifest to us all. It happens more normally among believers who share their faith and who break the bread together (vv.30-31, 35). The breaking of the bread together is the most intimate act. In the Scripture, “the breaking of the bread” means that they share meals. Imagine who would share their meals with. Perhaps they would share their meals with their family members, close friends, and loved neighbors. The Korean word “family” means “people who are eating meals together.” In extension, it means community members, such as a workplace, school, church, village, and nation. Believers who are sitting around the table, and sharing food to sustain life, have experienced an unusual sense of community.
Third, if we would recognize the ultimate person on our own Emmaus Road, we need a heightened awareness. We need to have a sense of expectancy day by day that Jesus will reveal himself to us. We may need to expect the unexpected. Some psychologists say that we do not believe what we see, but we see what we believe. That’s how the mind works. We see what we expect. As we expect God to reveal God-self to us in Jesus, we will see God, for God truly is there. Believers, in case, are not the people who expect what we see but expect what we could not see, such as love, peace, justice, the kin(g)dom of God, eternal life, etc. The Scripture of Hebrews says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith, our ancestors received approval. By faith, we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3).
When Jesus rebukes the two travelers, he tells them the trouble is in their hearts, not in their understanding. He says, “how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” (v.25). The Scriptures have prepared them for all that has happened, and when their hearts are right, they will understand it all. Things happen when we begin to expect God to show God-self to us. Please invited God every moment in your life journey, on your Emmaus Road, and expect God to show you being with you.
Finally, the two travelers made time for Jesus. He appeared to be going farther, “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” (v. 29). The implication is that if they did not make time for him, he would have gone, and they might not see him. Jesus did not intrude. They had to press him: “Please come in. It’s late. Don’t go on. We want you to eat with us.” As soon as he broke the bread, their eyes were opened, and they knew who it was. They ran back that very night to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come to you and eat with you, and you with me.” We must invite Jesus to come in. I encourage you to take time every day, five minutes or fifteen minutes, just to say, “Lord, I am setting this time aside. I invite you to come in and spend time with me.” If you do not, our Lord will go on without bothering you, for he does not intrude.
In every situation in life, remember you have the ultimate source of power and love with you on your Emmaus Road. That is bound to make a difference in every circumstance, wherever you are. Invite Jesus at every gathering and meals like “in the breaking of the bread” so that you may see God’s presence with you. We read in Numbers of the Scripture 21:9 that when the Israelites were in danger from poisonous serpents, Moses, by God’s command, raised up in their midst a bronze serpent on a pole. If they were bitten, they were to look up at this bronze serpent and remember God’s presence with them, and they would survive. They were to look up and live, and they did. We have something better than a bronze serpent, though that was a forerunner of Christ: The Healer, our Lord, is among us. He is with us on our journey-our Emmaus Road. He goes before and with us. He says to us, “look up and live.” You may see the picture of the serpent on a pole/ Moses’ stick on the hospital/emergency ambulances. This time, I urge you holding the Healer our Lord and keep all people who work and suffer due to COVID 19 in your prayers for God’s presence in the breaking the bread with them.
Thanks be to God, Amen!