The Third Sunday of Easter; Year A (4/30/2017)

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. 15While 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. 18Then 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. 22Moreover, 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. 30When 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. 32They 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).

Then Their Eyes Were Opened…

A friend visited me two or three years after my family and I moved to the Denver area. We were driving west on Belleview Avenue, through Greenwood Village, with the Rocky Mountains spread out before us as far as we could see in either direction. He looked at it and remarked: “I bet you don’t even see those mountains after a while.” I assured him that nothing could be farther from the truth. I was still in awe of that view then — and I still am today. And I’d guess this is true for many of us who live in the Mile High City.

However, there are times when we don’t see what is right in front of our very noses. There are times when we are unaware of the beauty that stands in plain view. There are times when we need our eyes opened to what we pass by without even noticing. Sometimes this happens because of neglect. Sometimes this happens because of indifference. Sometimes this happens because we are preoccupied with other matters.

On the afternoon of that first Easter day, Cleopas and his traveling companion are preoccupied. They are followers of Jesus. Lovers of Jesus, really. Among the first. And their hearts are broken after the events of the preceding week. They had experienced him as a “prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” They had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. No doubt, they remembered the promises of a Messiah from the Hebrew Bible, and were only waiting for Jesus to fulfill them all.

Yet the leaders of the religious institution in Jerusalem won’t have it. They turn against him, turn the people of Jerusalem against him, and convince the occupying Roman forces that he should be put to death. Along with Jesus, the hopes and dreams of Cleopas and his friend die. In fact, their hopes are so thoroughly destroyed that when the women come back from the tomb that morning, with reports of him still being alive, it astounds them, but it doesn’t move them to faith.

When Jesus asks them what is on their mind, they have nothing to say. They stand still, looking sad.

So as Jesus had done so many times before, he turns their attention to the Scriptures. While doing so, he opens their minds to understand what has taken place that week in an entirely new way. Rather than a devastating defeat, it is a profound victory. Rather than the end of hope, it is the beginning of hope. Later they will remember their hearts burning as he spoke. And their jaws dropping when he breaks the bread and they are able to see that it is Jesus himself. Walking the road with them. Offering them words of comfort and hope. Feeding them with his presence as much as bread.

All of this on the road to Emmaus, the afternoon of that first Easter day. It is the beginning of a new life for Cleopas and the other. And perhaps — just perhaps — as we break open the word together, and share in the meal that bears his presence to us, it can be the beginning of new life for us as well.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why are Cleopas and his friend unable to see the passion of Jesus as a sacred gift?
  2. What effect does Jesus’ ministry of word and meal have on them?
  3. How might the early church have used this story to understand how to be church?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have my eyes been opened up to something new in God’s word?
  2. When has the Eucharist stirred me, as I’ve been aware of the presence of Christ?
  3. How has my experience of God’s word and Christ’s meal strengthened my faith?