The Third Sunday of Easter (4/6/2008)

In the Breaking of the Bread

Lessons: Acts  2:14a, 36-41 Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 1st Peter 1:17-23 St. Luke 24:13-35

Prayer of the Day: O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

24.13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. 18 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?" 19 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 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. 24 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." 25 Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 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?" 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread,

St. Luke 24:13-35, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America).

It is hard to identify with the first century believers who knew Jesus. We know the end of the story. We've been reflecting on it for 2,000 years now. We spend most of our time deliberating the nuances of what his life, passion, resurrection and ascension mean. After all this time, every aspect of the story seems to make perfect sense to us.

On the other hand, they were stunned by the loss of their teacher and lord. They were numbed by confusion and pain. They were like accident victims in shock: even the parts that made sense weren't making sense to them any more.

That's the state of mind of Cleopas and his traveling companion, as they make their way towards Emmaus on the afternoon of that first Easter Day. A stranger falls in step with them, and begins to explain it all. His words make so much sense. He explains everything in a way that ties up all the loose ends. It is exhilarating. They don't want it to end. When it appears as though he will continue on beyond Emmaus, they beg him to come in and have dinner with them. It never occurs to them who he is.

Not, that is, until they are seated at the table. In language that is hauntingly familiar to those of us who know his story, he takes bread, blesses and breaks it, and gives it to them. Immediately their eyes are opened, they recognize him, and he vanishes from their sight. They race back to announce to the others that he has been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

He has been made known to them in the breaking of the bread... as he is to us today. Every time we gather around the Eucharistic table and receive his body and blood, he is made known to us. Every time we recall the words "Do this in remembrance of me" he is made known to us. Every time we hold dear his promise that this meal is given "for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin" he is made known to us. And what is it that we know? We know a God who is willing to die for us, who delights in forgiving and renewing us, and who promises to bless us whenever our Lord is made known to us in the breaking of the bread.

As we spend time in the presence of Jesus today, may we know the same thrill and delight they experienced at the table that evening in Emmaus. May our eyes be opened to the wonder of his presence in the meal. May our hearts be healed, and our faith be strengthened.

David J. Risendal, Pastor  (March 25, 2008)

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. Why were Cleopas and his traveling companion unable to recognize Jesus?
  2. Why did they invite him to stay the night with them?
  3. What are the similarities and differences between this meal and Maundy Thursday?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. What family or community meals have been meaningful for me?
  2. What special memories do I have of Holy Communion?
  3. What could I do to be more aware of the presence of Christ in the meal?