18 April 2021 Seeing and not seeing Martin Baker
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.
I didn’t recognise you.
I didn’t recognise you.
Has anyone ever said that to you?
Because that’s how our story starts off today.
It’s a little while, three days, after the execution of Jesus. And these two close friends of his, these disciples, are walking on the road to Emmaus. About 10 km from Jerusalem. Not quite from here to Papakura. (Maybe more from here to Ardmore?)
What are they doing on the road? Are they heading back to life as they use to know it?
Back to their old routines?
Back to their old responsibilities?
Back to their old set of worries and fears and concerns?
You’ve got responsibilities back down that road. Everyone understands that. Everyone knows you, knows where you fit in back down that road. Enough of this discipleship. Following this Jesus. Can’t you see where it all ended? Time to head back. That the answer when things go wrong. Head back. To the old known ways and order. Head back down to Emmaus. Get over it. They’re on the road to Emmaus.
They are talking about everything that’s happened.
While they were talking and discussing, we are told, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
We’ve heard this kind of story several times before. Straight after the resurrection. Remember. Mary discovers the empty tomb, sees a stranger outside. Thinks it’s the gardener and asks where have you taken his body?
There is an order and logic to that thinking. The old familiar order. Bodies don’t disappear. Blame the gardener. Eventually the stranger names Mary, and her eyes are opened she in her shock sees, recognises that it’s Jesus. That’s the only way isn’t it? To see Jesus, we’ve got to see differently. We’ve got to look at things differently.
A figure on the lake side calls to the disciples. And it takes them ages to realise it’s Jesus. They hear his voice. Obey. A miracle, a huge haul of fish. Then sharing breakfast, they recognise Jesus. To see Jesus, we’ve got to see differently. Can we be on his side of the cross? This resurrection side?
They look at things differently over there on that side of the cross. We thought hate and fear, death, that dominated how we see things on this side, but on that side - forgiveness grace service from brokenness. Sacrifice for others. New life. They see things differently.
And now today. They are walking away from Jerusalem to this little town. Walking away from their hopes and dreams, walking away from their belief that things would be different. Talking about all that’s happened. And this stranger appears. And they don’t recognise him. I didn’t recognise you.
When has someone said that to you?
I wouldn’t mind betting that for many of us, it’s because you were not fitting the image or the memory that that person had of you.
Maybe your physical appearance has changed.
Or perhaps you’ve been to a reunion. And your only image of that person is what they looked like some years, maybe many years before. You hadn’t changed, of course, but they were looking a lot older. How did that happen?
Maybe you’ve moved out of uniform or a stereotype. Mum I didn’t know that you could still do the tango.
Please don’t ask anyone if they are new here. Say instead I don’t think we’ve met before. I didn’t recognise you.
You had that role. I fitted you there. Tortured, Crucified. That’s where you fit. But not here.
It might seem like an obscure point.
But how we recognise others, Jesus made this point crystal clear, how we recognise others is fundamental to our own salvation.
On that day of judgement in Matthew they say to Jesus we didn’t recognise you.
44"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'…
The things that prevent us from recognising one another. Not recognising one another. There the same as the things that prevent us from recognises Christ in our midst. We see only the gardener at the tomb. The stranger on the road.
I visited someone in hospital this week. And he’s someone I’ve known as full of humour, and a special kind of vitality. Always reminds me of how nice it must be to only have to work and hour or two a week on Sunday. How do you get a job as a minister he would ask me. ‘’You guys have got it made. ‘’
I do it, maybe we all do it, not looking past a patient, or an old person or a child or a baby, and saying that this is fully a person created in God’s image who God so loves who God has lived and died for and risen for. That little baby, our 90 year-old friend in hospital. Each fully completely undiminished, a person God has created and loves. We have to recognise them or we’ve all had it.
That young mum with 3 children under 5. The kid’s father has done a runner to Brisbane. We see her most days. She is so many things but she is fed up with the way people have seen her. Or maybe now she doesn’t believe there is another way even of seeing herself. How we see her will say everything about how we are walking in our relationship to Jesus. That’s what we are trying to do here – to see everyone who comes as undiminished regardless of circumstances.
Jesus on the cross. We have that psalm 22, which those first Christians remembered. This is what suffering like this does. - A worm and not a human. Scorned. No wonder people didn’t recognise him.
And they start talking with this stranger. On this road to Emmaus. They tell him everything that happened. Even the unbelievable story of the women finding the tomb empty. The women’s story that Jesus was alive. But they confess, we didn’t t see him. We didn’t see him
Then Jesus 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.
What a conversation. Someone talking to you about how God has been at work in the life and history of your people. All your ancestors that make up your recorded history.
Our Biblical thought, and Hebrew thought presents a different world view.
First is that our sense of well-being, purpose, happiness and fulfilment is not just about me. Not just about the 10 lessons in the last self-help book. My sense of well-being can never be separated from my relationships with people, the community and God. We welcome a stranger and both of us change.
And the second thing - perhaps like me you hope that the answers will come in future discovery. But in much Biblical thought there is not going to be any event that happens in the future that is going to bring you the fulfilment and salvation you seek. That event has already happened.
At the end Jesus on the cross says I Tet – ele – stai - it is finished. The word in our scriptures, means it had been accomplished, fulfilled complete.
Everything necessary for you to live in full relationship with God has been done. The world is redeemed. This new thing has already happened. God doesn’t need to check this off with you, doesn’t need your help, or agreement.
Jesus explains how all their history has led to this point.
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. 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem.
The two disciples, they had been going to Emmaus, back to the old, back to the familiar. But now they share food, recognise the risen Christ in their midst. And they do the dangerous thing. It’s late, it’s now night time. That road is dangerous at night. But they turn and go back to Jerusalem.
Back in Jerusalem they tell others that The Lord has risen indeed 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.
What they had experienced must be shared. They were going to Emmaus but they return to Jerusalem. This is the outward spiral of the gospel. News this good must be shared. News this transforming creates new community. Those illuminated by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ must offer witness to others that they too might come to know him in the stranger on the road, in the sharing of food and the breaking of the bread. AMEN
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.