Wednesday, April 20, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-20 [On the road to Emmaus] Who me?

Who me?

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.      (Luke24:33-35)
Luke is persistent in keeping the Emmaus pair obscure. Even now, as they join the Eleven-group, we are not given any more detail as to who they are. All we know is that one is Cleopas and that Emmaus seems to have been their home town. I've suggested that the other person is Cleopas' wife, Mary, but this is conjecture – plausible, but conjecture.

They've rushed back to Jerusalem because they have big news! Jesus isn't dead – He's alive. I wonder if they breathlessly discussed how they were going to get the Eleven to believe them. (Note the title Luke gives them – the Eleven – they're the "big boys"). When they get there, they discover that they are not the only ones who have this news – their experience is a confirmation and corroboration of what has already been happening!

If this was indeed a couple, then it's worth recognising that the Risen Lord appeared to an interesting selection of people:

  • to Mary and the women who were disregarded in the patriarchy of the day
  • to Simon Peter who had failed so dismally
  • to fringe-disciples on the road to the little town of Emmaus
  • (and, if my conjecture is plausible, to a couple whose marriage and hospitality gave them a story to tell.)
  • to a rag-tag bunch disciples hiding fearfully from the Jews
  • to a sibling (James the brother of Jesus) who got it so wrong (1Cor15:7)
  • to Saul, the legalist, blinded by rule and ritual.

Devalued women, a disqualified disciple, an insignificant pair (possibly a couple) of followers, frightened followers, an estranged sibling and an angry holier-than-thou. Jesus would use their stories.

If you have also met the Risen Lord Jesus, no matter who you are, He will use your story too!
Who? Me???
Yes you....
That brings us to the end of our series on the Emmaus Rd.
Hope you enjoyed it.
God bless,

Monday, April 18, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-19 [On the road to Emmaus] The Difference

The Difference

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.      (Luke24:33)
Jesus walked with the Emmaus Duo, He explained the Scriptures and their hearts were warmed. Then their eyes were opened as they encountered His presence through the meal they shared. They commented on the power of this experience.

Doesn't that sound a bit like going to church? (My tongue is in my cheek...)

  • We come to church, to some extent recognising that He has been walking with us all week (and sing songs celebrating this)
  • We hear the Scriptures explained and preached (and if it wasn't too long) we'll admit that our hearts were warmed, maybe even set on fire
  • We experience His love at the communion table.
  • We may even speak of it. "Lovely sermon Pastor. I hadn't thought of it that way before" or "Wasn't the singing great today?"
But then that's where it ends. (And we do it again next week.)

Let me take my tongue out of my cheek...
The Emmaus enlightened did more than have their eyes opened and their hearts touched. They acted. They got up, and returned at once to Jerusalem.
That's another 11km journey on foot back to Jerusalem and it was nearly evening. So there would have been some valid excuses to procrastinate:

  • They had already done 11km.
  • They would probably do a fair bit of this journey in the dark.
  • It might be dangerous for them.
  • Common sense would have suggested that they wait until morning
But there is no procrastination for them – there is a sense of joyful urgency.

A much loved colleague prefaces the Benediction by saying: "Our (combined) worship has ended, service begins..."

John Wesley's heart was "strangely warmed" in a Moravian Bible study – It lead to preaching and discipleship that transformed Christianity in Britain and America...

What will you do with your warmed-up heart?

Friday, April 15, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-15 [On the road to Emmaus] Burning Hearts

Burning Hearts

They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?      (Luke24:32)
One of the main reasons, Jesus spent a significant time with the Emmaus-goers was to show how the Scriptures explain the work of the Messiah and the coming of His Kingdom...
What a teaching sermon it must have been!

While the Emmaus duo had a lesson in OT Messianic expectations by the Author and Main Character Himself, they, in their own words, experienced even more...

Not only were the Scriptures opened to them, but their hearts were set on fire!

The Scriptures - God's will, character and the story of His journey with humankind - are a great gift to us and to the church. But while we might call ourselves "people of the book", we are not biblicists: there is more to our faith than a wooden adherence to a rulebook.

Here's why:
Firstly, Christ explains the Scriptures to us. The crucified and risen Jesus walks with the Emmaus disciples and explains how the Scriptures concern Him. Take Jesus out of the biblical picture and it is a "closed book." As we walk in relationship with Him (and not with a set of rules) we will find the "Scriptures opened."

Secondly their hearts were set on fire. This, I believe, is the work of the Holy Spirit, who reminds us of what Jesus said, enlivens it to our hearts and convicts us to put it into action. JB Philips who translated the New Testament epistles in modern day English put it like this:
The present translator who has closely studied these letters for several years is struck... by their surprising vitality... again and again the writer felt rather like an electrician re‑wiring an ancient house without being able to "turn the mains off"

May we read the Scriptures with Jesus as our focus and the Spirit as our helper and feel the same "jolt."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-14 [On the road to Emmaus] Food!


When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"      (Luke24:30-32)
Passover, Last Supper, Communion and every meal that we share with others...
What do these have in common?
Fellowship, Intimacy, Trust, Vulnerability and the presence of and blessing of God.

Jesus was accused of being a glutton, drunkard and friend of sinners – why? Because He was always eating with people! Just think about how many important things happened at meal times:

  • The institution of the Last Supper,
  • Zacchaeus' repentance,
  • The woman washing His feet with her hair,
  • Mary anointing Him for burial,
  • Jesus stating: It's not healthy who need a doctor, but the sick...
  • According to Mark, the Risen Christ appeared to the disciples while they were eating,
  • The return of the Prodigal Son was marked by – you guessed it – food.

This simple act of eating together can be a very powerful thing. The Emmaus Duo discovered it – and the Church in the UK is discovering it too. When the Church of England came to a point of acknowledging its decline in post-modern Great Britain, they began a church planting movement called "Fresh Expressions." This is an exciting and powerful movement. They have small church communities in pubs, in "Clamberclubs" for kids, in dockside flatland complexes, in surfer coffee shops, in groups that gather to bake (and break) bread, skateboard clubs, moms & tots groups and various other settings. This is church out of the cathedrals and into the community – it is vibrant – and growing!

Guess what one thing all these fresh expressions of church have in common?? They eat together - a lot!

Take time to savour each meal you have with others – recognise that sharing a meal with others is a holy moment – pregnant with the possibility of God doing something special.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-13 [On the road to Emmaus] Recognition


When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"      (Luke24:30-32)
I wonder what it was about the meal that opened their eyes.
Was it that they had been there when He fed the 5000?
Could it be that they had heard stories of the Last Supper?

Some think it was His nail-scarred hands.
Most scholars and experts agree that the nails wouldn't have gone through the palms, but rather through the wrist because there isn't enough substance to the palms to carry the a person's weight on the cross. Even if Jesus had worn long sleeves, the action of breaking the bread would have revealed the hideous wounds (they'd still be 3 day old wounds, not nicely healed scars.)

This would be a pretty evocative sight.

Maybe it was the scars.

Or maybe the warmth, delight and contentment in Jesus' face as He broke the bread (and there would have been wine on the table too – bread and wine were staple foodstuffs in those times.) Maybe He was thinking of His earlier words: "I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matt26:29) or maybe He was thinking of His words to the crowd "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (John6:35)

Now, with the cross behind Him with the work of salvation complete Jesus eats and drinks and in so doing heralds the arrival of the Kingdom.

When you have your meal today take time to recognise the beautiful fact that Jesus' kingdom transforms every single part of life, even our eating and drinking, into a feast!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-12 [On the road to Emmaus] Hospitality


As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.      (Luke24:28-29)
We're working on the assumption that the Emmaus two are a couple, Clopas/Cleopas and his wife Mary...

When I was a child in Sunday school, our teachers always told us that the Emmaus disciples invited Jesus to join them at the inn. But this wouldn't need an invitation – Jesus would have been free to stay at the inn without an invitation.

But if this was their home, then it is a very different picture all together. This becomes a picture of risky and generous hospitality. Risky, because they were inviting a preachy stranger into their home, and generous, because they'd just had a rough weekend where their friend and hero had been executed and all their hopes and dreams had been shattered. We'd have cut them some slack if they didn't feel like entertaining...

But they choose to open their home and their hearts and because they did this, they received a very special blessing – they saw Jesus revealed in the midst of a simple meal together.

We are guilty of under-estimating the incredible value of hospitality – and I'm not only talking about the hospitality of opening up your home. I think it is more about opening up your heart. The Hebrews writer puts it like this: "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (Heb.13:2)

When we make space in our lives for others, God can do beautiful things in our lives. How hospitable is your heart? Or do you easily let others get on your nerves? Maybe you need to pray that God helps you to be more hospitable of heart to those around you.

Friday, April 8, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-08 [On the road to Emmaus] Two lessons we must learn...

Two lessons we must learn...

He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.      (Luke24:25-27)
There are two abiding lessons the Emmaus road duo must learn. These lessons are what made the whole Emmaus "excursus" worthwhile for the Risen Lord Jesus.

But before we look at these lessons, there is an issue we must resolve and it is this: What tone of voice do you think Jesus used when He called them "foolish" and "slow of heart?" Was He angry, exasperated or sad?

I think He was more sad than mad. His patient exegesis (unpacking) of the Old Testament and His subsequent self-revelation at the supper-communion table reveals a great depth of compassion and warmth toward the two travellers.

But let's get back to the two lessons:

  • The first lesson is that there is no guarantee that life will be easy. If you look at yesterday's reading, we see that they struggled with the injustice of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. They concluded that the body had been stolen and this traumatised them even more. Jesus has to remind them that suffering is part of the journey – that this is a road we must all walk.

    Is your picture of God big enough to accept that He chooses to use and transform suffering - often by going through it; or are you guilty of having a triumphalist faith that can't cope with the inevitable brokenness we must face? The Christ had to suffer these things. Can we, as He followers then expect not to suffer?

  • The second lesson is that Scripture provides a framework for us to make sense of it all. If this was the only reason for Jesus to spend all these hours with the Emmaus Duo, it would be worth it. He patiently unpacks Scripture as a framework for all that has happened.

    I can't wait for the "action replay of heaven" to hear Jesus explain how the Old Testament systematically points to His incarnation and ministry.

These two lessons around Suffering and Scripture are part of the significance of the Emmaus walk - we should be sure not to miss them.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-07 [On the road to Emmaus] Sharing grief

Sharing grief

"What things?" he asked.
"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."       (Luke24:19-24)
Yesterday we saw Jesus walking anonymously with the Emmaus travellers, gently asking about what it was that was so obviously weighing heavily on their minds...

Their answer is quite beautiful – it portrays a willingness to open up, to share not only the facts of what had happened, but the pain and the heartache they were feeling. They can answer like this because of the way Jesus has journeyed with them. He has been unhurried, He has given them space to talk (even though they were rude by ignoring Him), He has asked searching questions and judging from the depth and honesty of their answer I think it is fair to say that they found Him to be a good listener.

We've all read the beautiful story of the grumpy old man who lost his wife. Children were scared of him because he was always yelling at them for making a noise or getting too close to his roses. After the funeral a little boy sees the old man sitting on his garden bench looking quite lost and so he takes the risk of climbing over the fence and sitting next to the old chap and holding his hand. The old man bursts into tears and they sit like this for a long time and the boy gets up and climbs over the fence to return home. The old man gets up and it is obvious that a great weight is off his shoulders. The boy's mom asks "What did you say to him?" The boy replies: "Nothing – I just helped him to cry."

This is what Jesus does for this couple – it is a beautiful thing.
How well do we listen to others? Do we do it in a way that makes them feel safe enough to trust us with their deepest pain?

Do we trust God with our pain?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-06 [On the road to Emmaus] Company on the road...

Company on the road...

"As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" "What things?" he asked.      (Luke24:15-19)
(We're still on the Emmaus road with the disciples who we assume are Cleopas and his wife Mary.)

They are struggling – they are processing – they're working through what has happened. The Emmaus road is a hard and sad one for them...

But we need to compliment them: they are communicating, sharing and journeying together. Traumatic events, especially grief, can easily alienate couples because people grieve and process heartache differently. This couple have it right: they are so engrossed in conversation that they don't particularly notice Jesus walking with them until He interrupts them with a question.

But as Jesus joins them on the road, He gives them a very beautiful gift: He asks them vitally important questions. "What are you talking about?" A little later He will ask another question "What things (have taken place)?"

Part of journeying in faith is to be brave enough to face these kind of penetrating questions:

  • If you are in a relationship or marriage, are you communicating and sharing like these two did?
  • What are you talking about and thinking about?
  • What faith-impacting successes/failures/opportunities/disappointments have taken place in your life recently and what has the impact has this had?

Take some time to think through these questions – especially the last one...

Imagine having a God who walks with us when we have these tough questions. The Good News is that we don't have to imagine it, we can know it is true.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

EmmDev 2016-04-05 [On the road to Emmaus] Life is a Journey

Life is described by many as a journey. As such, Jesus' walk with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus becomes a powerful lived-out metaphor of His ongoing presence with us in the world. We'll spend the next few days looking at this journey...

Life is a Journey

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about eleven kilometres from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.      (Luke24:13-16)
Who were the two on the road to Emmaus? A little later in the passage, we are given the name of one of the pilgrims – a man named Cleopas. The other sojourner is not named, but there is an interesting possibility... In John's gospel there is a Mary who is the wife of Clopas. Cleopas and Clopas are close enough that either John or Luke spelled it wrong and in the patriarchal culture of Hebrew and Graeco-Roman times women were often not mentioned as they were seen as "part of the package" with their husbands. Also, if this is a couple, then it also explains how they could invite Jesus to stay with them when they arrive at Emmaus.

Why does Jesus spend the bulk of His triumphant resurrection day with these two unknown followers? If I were Jesus' press agent I would have scheduled resurrection appearances on the temple steps, at Caiphas' gate and in Pilate's courtyard!

But, contrary to my opinions on good public relations, Jesus spends significant hours of His resurrection day walking with a couple we never hear of again. But His journey with them is a powerful metaphor of His journey with us and we take heart of the following truths:

  • Jesus is not in a hurry – He takes the TIME needed to walk with these two
  • Jesus draws alongside us in the intensity of the moments we wrestle with.
  • If this is a couple, then it is a beautiful affirmation of the importance of couples making the journey of faith together.
  • We don't always recognise Him – but He's here, walking with us!