“Hope & Expectations”
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.
The passage we are reading this morning is about the second appearance of Jesus after his death of resurrection. The gospel of Luke is the only gospel that contains this story. This scripture passage begins with, “now on that same day,” which means it is the same day that we have talked about the past two weeks, the same day of Mary’s discovering the empty tomb, the same day as Jesus appearing to his disciples behind closed doors and now Jesus present to two disciples as they walked to Emmaus, a journey taking them about 7 miles from Jerusalem.
Now at this point some of you might be asking, just when did this journey to Emmaus occur, I’m a bit confused? I understand your confusion as last week I preached about Jesus appearing to the disciples when Thomas wasn’t present and now here is another appearance. Well, I can help clarify the order of things here. According to Luke the trip to Emmaus occurred during the daytime, the same day that Mary went to the empty tomb. These two traveling disciples were leaving Jerusalem to go home, and it is during this trip that Jesus joined in with them. You’ll remember that in the passage just read verse 33 said, “That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.” So, these two disciples got up after eating with Jesus and their eyes being opened, they realized Jesus had been walking with them all day and they immediately got up and walked all the way back to Jerusalem, 7 miles to be together with the other disciples. It is at this gathering behind closed doors that Jesus again appears to them.
Let’s go back now to this road to Emmaus. So, we can imagine where these disciples are at this point in time, they are distraught, sad, bewildered…and confused, nothing makes sense, Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Lord, died right before their eyes. I imagine the two disciples are trying to figure everything out. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” We had hoped…you’ll notice this is in the past tease. We had hoped seems like they are saying but now we have no hope. Why is that? Why has their hope for a restored Israel vanished? It is the same day that the empty tomb is discovered. The same day the women talked of visions of angels announcing that Jesus was alive. Why have they given up so quickly, even in the reality that strange things were happening, spiritual events are breaking into their world and yet they have no hope.
Maybe, just maybe their hope was built on false expectations on just how this redeeming of Israel would emerge and what it would look like. Jesus’ death was not a part of their expectations. Even though the risen Lord was right beside them, they could only think of death. It was only when they sat down and had a meal together that they recognized Jesus. And then what happened? He immediately disappeared! It’s clear to me that there expectations much change in order for their hope to be renewed. They can’t cling to the past, the physical bodily presence of Jesus, no they will need to see Jesus in new ways, be open to seeing the redeeming of Israel in unexpected ways.
This passage speaks so perfectly to us this morning and our current situation. I know so many of you have had a hope for our church, I had hope for our church, a hope that we would bring in tons on children and families, that the pews would be full again. It was a hope you have held for many, many years, a hope that was built on an expectation that when people know how loving we are, when they see our outreach ministries and our hearts of mission, when they come and are welcomed into our choir, when they hear Cindy play incredible music on the piano…they will come. Yes, we had hoped, but our hope was built on false expectations. Is our hope that a thriving church means Christ is present? And that a church that is closing means Christ is no longer here with us? Like the disciples, has our hope vanished? Why? Might we learn from the disciples and see how our own false expectations have blocked our vision from seeing where Christ is still present, right here, right now in Elk Grove Presbyterian Church. The disciples did regain hope, the disciples learned to see Christ working in their lives in new ways and their hope, their courage and their faith in Christ changed the lives of many, and ultimately changed the world. Let’s regain our hope, be steady and at the same time be open to changing our expectations of how things should play out for our church so we too can see Christ who just might be walking alongside us, listening, asking questions and turning our hearts on fire! Amen