Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

On the Road with Jesus

“On the Road with Jesus”

Most of us have a yearly thing we attend. A family dinner, a reunion, a business conference – a gathering that we look forward to that happens once a year. When we we’ve reached this yearly event, we see the same people, do pretty much the same activities. It is all pretty routine – but we like it that way! There is a comfort to the familiar and that is part of the reason we go back year after year – it is something we can count on. That is what Passover was to the Jews. A yearly get together with people you saw only once a year, getting together to participate in the same activities, the same events, the familiar rituals. A pretty routine week. However, this year Passover took on a whole new flavor. From the day the Jews traveled into the city with the crowds following Jesus and waving palm branches to hearing about his disruption of the temple, the teaching they had never heard before. Passover had never been like this before! Then the terror at the end of the week when Jesus was arrested and crucified. This would certainly be a week they would never forget.
Two of the people at Passover, a couple from Emmaus – Cleopas and his companion had become followers of Jesus before this week. They had heard Jesus’ teachings before this particular Passover and had put their trust in him……. So they were pretty excited when they came to Jerusalem and saw Jesus there. Like everyone else who followed Jesus, they were expecting great things, a revolution! But the week didn’t turn out quite like they had hoped. Jesus died, was buried and then the body comes up missing. What excitement and what mystery! What disappointment things didn’t turn out as the followers of Jesus had hoped. The week now left them confused and sad.
So this couple heads out to return home, to the town of Emmaus about 7 miles from Jerusalem. As they are walking down the road they were talking about all these strange happenings and discussing where they were going to go from there. After all, they had put all their eggs in the Jesus for King basket and that hadn’t happened. It was pretty disappointing and they just quite weren’t sure what they were going to do now. As they went down the road, they were approached by a stranger who wondered what they were discussing so intently. Cleopas and his companion – which many Biblical scholars believe to be his wife – stopped and just looked at this stranger for a minute and then replied, “Have you been living under a rock? Do you mean you really haven’t heard all the strange things that have happened this week in Jerusalem? Surely you’ve heard the news” “No’ the stranger said, “I’ve been out of town. Tell me what happened.” So Cleopas and his companion proceeded to tell how they had had these great expectations of Jesus. “Jesus” they said, “was a great prophet and proclaimed the word of God. He talked like he was going to be the new King of Israel and how then it had all fallen apart when our religious leaders had him arrested and crucified. “They buried him in a guarded tomb with a big stone rolled in front of it – but someone was able to steal the body anyway. And we just don’t know what to do now. We heard rumors that some of the women who followed him had gone to the tomb and had seen angels who said he was raised from the dead. But we know that isn’t realistic. It is all just so confusing.”
Now, let’s think about what is happening here. Cleopas and his companion, were followers of Jesus. They had known Jesus before this crazy Passover week, they had seen Jesus during this week in Jerusalem. Now Jesus walks up to them and begins to talk to them and they don’t recognize who he is. We find that confusing. Certainly we would recognize someone we had seen so much before this. But then this couple on their way to Emmaus thought Jesus was dead so they didn’t expect to see him so that would excuse them a little wouldn’t it? But where do we expect to see Jesus? Churchy places, maybe? Sunday mornings or maybe at Bible Study. Certainly not in the nitty gritty of our everyday lives. Not in the routines of going to Walmart and mowing grass and spending lunch with friends.
Where do we see Jesus in the midst of COVID? With all the tragedy associated with this pandemic, maybe like the followers of Jesus back in Jerusalem after Jesus death we think Jesus is somehow absent. The tomb is empty and we don’t know what happened to Jesus. Why isn’t he here stopping all this and healing everyone? Where is he? We just don’t see him.
What we need to believe is the presence of Christ is with us all the time. Even with tragedy swirling around; even in storms; even in Pandemics. It is a matter of holding on to the faith that Jesus is there. It is a matter of keeping Jesus in our minds all the time, and when we do that we start to see the work he does not only in the storms but in the daily routines of our life as well – we begin to see him in people we meet and in the things we do, we see him in the good people do for one another. We begin to feel the comfort and peace only he can bring into our lives. When we can do that, Jesus becomes a much more real, more important part of who we are. We recognize him as we travel through our life with Jesus by our side.
Then Jesus, whom the couple still hasn’t recognized, fusses at the pair. Calls them ‘foolish’! “You fools” he says. “You are good Jews and as good Jews you had a responsibility to know what the prophets taught. If you would have paid attention to the scriptures like you were suppose to, you would have known that what happened in Jerusalem is what was supposed to happen. Everything that happened was just as the prophets had foretold.” Seems the couple was a little taken aback by the outburst of this stranger. “What are you talking about?” they asked. And so this stranger on the road began to explain to them how the Old Testament told exactly what was going to happen to the Messiah, how the Old Testament, which this couple was suppose to know, explained who the Messiah was going to be. Wouldn’t it have been great to hear this on the road ‘lecture’ straight from the horse’s mouth!

Jesus is looking at us and fussing at us as well. Throughout the bible we are instructed to learn scripture. We are told how important it is for us to know what the Bible teaches. We
aren’t going to get it an hour on Sundays – scripture takes time, effort, struggle, work, to really learn what it is speaking to us. We cannot truly understand who we are as God’s people unless we spend time allowing God to teach us through his word.
And I realize this is tough. It is hard to get into reading Bible routines, especially in the busyness our lives bring us - Although maybe these stay at home orders give us more opportunity to sit down and read some scripture…. Maybe these stay at home orders give us time to start devoting some Bible reading habits….. But even then Bible reading is hard. We pick it up and we read something and it makes no sense. Or maybe it makes too much sense and we don’t really like what we read. All I can tell you is this - as God’s people we are instructed to read and learn what God teaches us through his word - and I can tell you that if we do it with a sincere desire to learn what it says; and if we stick with it when it is tough or confusing - it will all come together and God will begin to reveal to us what he wants us to know.
Jesus is telling the couple – and us – that had they read. studied and learned scripture, then they would have figured out what is going on. Same goes for us – Jesus reminds us that it is only through learning scripture that we can figure out what God wants us to know about living as he desires us to. It is then that we begin to see Jesus in our everyday lives and in the midst of pandemics.
The good news is that as the couple continues down the road, hearing Jesus teaching just captivates them. They are fascinated about what they are learning. And if we really start to study scripture, we come to find out that it is interesting, informative and truly will help us live the life God has intended for us! The more we learn, the more captivated we become. This couple was so enthralled by the discussion on the road they wanted to hear more and so they invited Jesus into their home to have dinner with them.

During dinner, Jesus takes a loaf of bread and blesses it and breaks it and gives it to them and it was then they recognized who he was. It was in the breaking of the bread that they realized they had been with Jesus all along. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are recognizing the fact that the risen Christ is truly spiritually present with us – what a great thing that is! If while we take communion we truly realize that Christ is here with us, what a difference it will make. In that ceremony of breaking bread and drinking the drink, Jesus is there. That simple act of breaking bread during the Lord’s Supper aids in our realization of the constant presence of Jesus in our life.
The reaction of the couple were the words “Surely our hearts were burning inside of us”. These were later the same words of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination. John’s father was an Anglican priest living with his large family in a parish house. One night the house caught fire and everyone made it out except young John. He made his way to a window where he was eventually rescued. From that point on he felt a closeness with God and became a priest himself. He struggled with the practices of the Anglican church and one evening went to a Moravian worship service, a much more spiritual service than what he was use to in the Anglican church, and his reaction was “Surely my heart burned inside me” as he felt the spirit of Christ in that worship. That was the first time he had truly felt the presence of Jesus with him since that fire when he was a boy - even though he had been a priest for many years.
The point of all this is that we can experience that same ‘burning’ in our hearts if we really make Jesus an integral part of our lives. If we make a conscious effort to recognize Jesus’ presence with us in everything we do and in everything that is happening around us; if we study and learn scripture, if we truly believe that Jesus is actually present with us when we share in the Lord’s Supper then even our hearts will burn within us and we will be on the road to becoming the people that God knows we can be.
Amen!