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The Walk to Emmaus

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about
seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and 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, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And 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?’ 19He 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, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be
condemned to death and crucified him. 21But 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, 23and 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.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are,
and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was 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. 29But 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. 31Then 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. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen
indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the
road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Our Emmaus Road
Let us pray...

Almighty Father,
As you have given us you Word,
so give us now your Spirit,
that we may understand and live the things which we hear.
We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.1

Movie producer Woody Allen once gave a speech to students at Yale University. He said the
following: " More than any other time in history, mankind (sic) faces a crossroads. One path leads
to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom
to choose correctly.”2 Woody Allen was obviously trying to be funny, but his statement reflects the
despair and pessimism of our times. Disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, defeat,
discouragement, despair and death - all of these words sum up how Cleopas and his companion
were feeling as they trudged up the road toward Emmaus. These words also sum up how we can
all feel at times during our formation, our Christian ministry and our life generally. Just as the risen
Christ ministered to the two travellers on the road, Christ offers that same ministry to each of us on
our journeys of life.

The concepts of pilgrimage and journey have been a focus for our worship this weekend. Like any
metaphor there is the risk that it can be overused to the extent that it loses its meaning. There are
two dangers with the use of journey as a metaphor for the Christian life. The first is focussing on
the journey and not the destination. We might say, “It’s not where we’re going that counts, but the
way we get there.” By excluding any attention on destination, there is the risk that the journey loses
a sense of purpose and direction, and we can lose our way, as the Israelites did in the wilderness.
The second is concentrating on the destination at the expense of the journey, the journey is seen
only as a means to an end. Such an approach draws our attention away from the present and
prevents us from appreciating the significance of our experiences. The story of the journey to
Emmaus is an important reminder that both journey and destination are important.

We meet two travellers on the road, sad and disillusioned. The one they had loved and followed
had suffered a cruel and degrading death on a cross. Even the report of the women that Christ’s
tomb was empty didn’t raise their spirits; it only confused them even more3. Then, along the way,
they meet Jesus, who to them appears a stranger4. The stranger asks them what they were
discussing5. And so they pour out their story to someone who seems willing to listen6. They tell the
stranger all about their hopes and their disappointments. The last thing they needed was a quick
"cheer up" talk, or being told to "snap out of it". Jesus simply provides a listening ear. When
disappointment and discouragement fill our lives, Jesus is the unseen "stranger" walking alongside
us, listening to us, as we pour out our hearts in prayer. The psalmist expresses this very well:

“I love the Lord, because he heard my voice:


the voice of my supplication;
1
Prayer by Bishop Tom Wright.
2
Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates, http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/48.html
3
Luke 24:9-11.
4
Luke 24:15-16
5
Luke 24:17
6
Luke 24:18-23.
Because he inclined his ear to me:
in the day that I called to him.”7

As we cry out to the Lord in prayer, we can be reassured someone is listening and someone cares,
and be encouraged to continue on our journey of faith. Christ is the Good Shepherd who meets us
on the road, providing a listening ear whenever we need it.

The stranger listens silently to the two travellers, then, when the time is right, he responds. How
does Jesus reassure and help them? He points them to what God said in the Bible about the
Messiah8. He links what they’ve seen and what they’ve heard with what God has already revealed
in Scripture. By connecting their experiences with the Word of God, Jesus helps them to see God’s
story in a new way, and starts to bring understanding and hope to their hearts and minds. Like the
travellers, it is important for us to continually bring our story to God’s story contained in Scripture,
especially when times are tough. Bishop Brian Farran in his Lenten Study, Sustaining Discipleship,
urges all Christians to be immersed in Holy Scripture, to memorise Scripture, to build up a
Scripture Memory Bank9. When facing difficult times, issues and decisions, this allows appropriate
words of Scripture to come to mind and minister to us. Remembering words of Scripture also
allows us to use them as a foundation for our prayers when praying feels too difficult and God
appears silent or even absent10. Christ is the Good Shepherd; Christ is Rabbi, Teacher, who meets
us on the road, bringing meaning and hope through the Scriptures.

The travellers reach Emmaus, but the story isn’t finished. The travellers urge the stranger to stay
with them overnight11. Their offer of hospitality is their way of thanking the stranger for his ministry
to them, his listening and his teaching. Jesus agrees to remain with them. Like the travellers, God
has promised to be with us when we ask. From James, there is the promise that as we draw near
to God, God draws near to us12. From Revelation, Christ promises that as he stands at the door, all
we need do is open the door, and Christ will come in, eat with us and stay with us 13. And from John,
Jesus promises on a number of occasions the Holy Spirit will be present with us and remain with
us.14 God has made the promise, so let us be intentional about seeking the presence of God so
that we may be strengthened for our journey. Christ is the Good Shepherd, Christ is Rabbi,
Teacher, and Christ is Emmanuel, God with Us, who meets us on the road, promising to remain
with us until the very end15.

The travellers invite Jesus to stay with them, and yet we find Jesus in the position of host 16. At the
moment of the breaking of the bread, the travellers’ eyes are opened and they know they are in the
presence of the risen Christ17. It is tempting to speculate what it was that opened the eyes of the
two men. (In raising his hands to bless the bread, did the travellers see the nail marks in his
hands?) We will never know, but somehow through the breaking of the bread the spiritual truth of
Christ’s resurrection was made known. We, as Anglicans, are sustained by the Sacraments,
especially the Eucharist, and, by faith, we receive the spiritual nourishment that is so necessary for

7
Psalm 116: 1-2.
8
Luke 24:27.
9
Bishop Brian Farran & Fr David Battrick, Sustaining Discipleship, p.21.
10
Bishop Brian Farran & Fr David Battrick, Sustaining Discipleship, p.14.
11
Luke 24:29
12
James 4:8a.
13
Revelation 3:20.
14
John 14:26 (NIV).
15
Matthew 28:20b.
16
Luke 24:28-30
17
Luke 24:31.
our journey18. It is important for us to try to understand how we experience God in the Eucharist,
but no so important as making stops on our journey to meet and receive the risen Christ in the
bread and wine. Christ is the Good Shepherd; Christ is Rabbi, Teacher; Christ is Emmanuel, God
with Us; and, Christ is the Bread of Life, who meets us on the road, revealing himself in the
breaking of the bread.

The two travellers rush back to Jerusalem to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection19. A
journey that began with sadness and despair finishes with joy and hope. In fact, the end of the
journey wasn’t really the end at all, but the beginning of a new and even more exciting journey. In
our own times of adversity, as we seek God’s presence in prayer, Scripture and Sacrament, joy
and hope is brought to the darkest of circumstances through the love of God. We are inspired to
recommit ourselves to the journey and to the service of God’s Kingdom. May we who reach out our
hands to receive the sacrament continue to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, to live and work to
God’s praise and glory in the power of the Holy Spirit20. Christ is the Good Shepherd; Christ is
Rabbi, Teacher; Christ is Emmanuel, God with Us; Christ is the Bread of Life; and, Christ is the
Way, the Truth and the Life, who meets us on the road, commissioning and recommissioning us for
God’s mission in the world.

Woody Allen offers us two alternatives: despair and hopelessness, or total extinction. Through the
death and resurrection of Christ, we are offered a third alternative: joy and hope. The travellers to
Emmaus were encouraged, guided, strengthened, sustained and inspired by the risen Christ. May
we also seek Christ’s presence, and that of the Holy Spirit, to sustain us in the highs and lows of
the journeys that are ahead of us. May we support one another as a community as we make our
separate but similar journeys...and may we commit ourselves to seeking and meeting God in
prayer, Scripture and Sacrament so that we can confidently say in word and action that, “Christ is
Risen! Alleluia!”

The Lord be with you


And also with you.

18
Bishop Brian Farran & Fr David Battrick, Sustaining Discipleship, p.22.
19
Luke 24:33.
20
APBA, pp143-144.