Walking to Emmaus Part 7

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They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”  – Luke 24:32-34

Can you imagine the questions they asked themselves as they raced back to Jerusalem? The distance was probably 7 miles. Do you think they got competitive about who recognized him first?

Never forget how this wonderful story ends:

  • They shared the same physical experience of feeling the truth in their hearts, hearing it and being in his presence.
  • They were overcome with the need to do something about this experience, to share it with everyone else. It was late in the evening, yet they jumped up and hurried back to their friends (hours away).
  • Once gathered with their friends the experience they had just had was confirmed by others who had also seen the risen Lord.

When I think about the Road to Emmaus story it reminds me to always think about which direction I’m heading today. There are choices to make. Too frequently I’m heading back home to what’s familiar and comfortable, my tail between my legs. I fall into ruts and routines and am not as intentional with people like I want to be.

Today, I want to be with those two disciples whose hearts were filled with happiness and hope, eager to get back to the scene of all the action. I want to live a life that reports the truth and not dwell on fear and failure.

Our life is different than it was for those two disciples heading home that day. As believers we have the Spirit residing within us. We have not been left alone.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.  – John 14: 16-18

So why do we still have such trouble recognizing the presence of God when he resides so close to us (within us)? How much nearer does he need to get? Maybe the noise of world is too much with us. It’s not looking for God…Are you?

Be certain today that you’re running back to the action not back home to safety. Listen for that voice in your spirit who’s there to guide your steps into the will of God. What looks like defeat may indeed be the greatest triumph.

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.  – I John 2:6

Walking to Emmaus Part 5

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Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.  – Luke 24:25-27

Has anything really changed? Is it still just as difficult to walk in faith today?  Has our generation really grown up that much more than those two standing in that dirt road listening to a stranger explain it all?

That discouraged couple represents us all. Maybe that’s why Jesus came back and made sure he caught them before they got home. He’s acting like the father of that prodigal son or the shepherd searching for that one lost lamb. He’s caught them as they move in the wrong direction and he challenges their lack of faith. They seem to know the truth, but because they’re in retreat, they don’t believe the truth.

Jesus takes them to an “A-Ha!” moment of belief. It sounds like they knew their Scriptures. He helped them to connect the dots. He showed them where the story was leading. Later in this account they tell each other that their hearts were on fire as he taught them. Their faith was ignited as all the pieces of knowledge and their own experiences came together.

Right now the Holy Spirit resides in all believers to do this same thing. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26).

At this point in the story, I’m left with some big questions

  1. Why couldn’t these two remember all those lessons they had learned while growing up? Sometimes I wonder if what I’m learning is getting filed away as just “interesting information” and not real truth that I should be living out loud. Are your beliefs all tucked away, safe for a rainy day, folded up neatly in that Bible, never once to see the light of day (or heat of battle)?
  2. What did these two eyewitnesses do with the Jesus they had just seen and heard – maybe even watched die on the cross? It’s usually safer to just walk away and not say or do anything. I mind my own business too often or worse I mind other people’s business way too much. It’s safer to play by the rules. It’s risky to love, to turn the other cheek, to give up, to sacrifice, to become invisible and die. Are you living a life that’s in retreat?

 

“Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?” 
– Francis Chan

 

 

Walking to Emmaus Part 3

 

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Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him.  We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.” – Luke 24:18-21

The great works of God were in the past tense for these two disciples. They were now in retreat. They had misunderstood who Jesus was, had sold him short. They described to this stranger a different kind of conflict because they had expected a different kind of rescue. Their savior was someone who could be “handled” by the authorities, someone who could not control events as they happened to him, a victim. What a crushing feeling of disappointment must have been written across their faces.

If only they had really heard what Jesus had been trying to communicate all along.

It makes me wonder about things that I might be missing. I wonder what the Holy Spirit has been trying to tell me and then I wonder what I’ve actually been hearing.  Sometimes it’s hard to hear life changing messages when you’re very busy propping up an agenda about yourself:

  • You see I want to make a point
  • I need to appear strong, not weak
  • I want to be moving forward in my spiritual journey, not backward
  • When people ask, I should have answers
  • Why would anyone come to me for help if I look unsteady?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? – Matthew 16:24-26

It is increasingly difficult for the visible man to hear and understand eternal truth.

Did you pick up any “attitude” in Cleopas reply? “What kind of dumb hick are you? Let me explain what’s been going on.”  They are walking in the wrong direction yet are able to maintain a clear air of superiority. I wonder what that feels like, I’m glad I never act like that (ha!).

This part of the story is that constant and classic reminder to us all that we often misunderstand God’s will and then go about constructing and living in a different reality (Gordon-Conwell Seminary estimates that there are 43,000 Christian denominations world-wide, all reading the same Bible). That’s why Jesus taught his disciples to pray for God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. That’s why he came and joined these two on the crooked road to Emmaus, to straighten things out.

And He gives grace generously. – James 4:6

Walking to Emmaus Part 2

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As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.  But God kept them from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.  – Luke 24:15-17

Sadness was written across their faces. They were in retreat from a great hope. They had misunderstood God’s great plan. All their fears, disappointment and sorrows were right there for anyone to see as they walked slowly home.

What’s written all over your face every day? Have you thought about that? I have to stand up in front of classrooms full of college students every day. Most days you’d think they had each just received the news that their pet had been run over by a train. Very doom and gloom, no matter how much circus I try and drag in…I need to get a better book of jokes.

I frequently remind people that our attitudes shape our actions. That’s not hard to believe. What’s more difficult to figure out is how our actions shape our attitudes. People in the fitness world know this. If you can get people to be more physically active, they tend to feel happier. There’s a famous experiment in which people holding a warm cup reported more positive feelings in their rating of an unrelated product than those who were holding a cold drink. The temperature they felt in their hands helped to shape their attitude while forming an opinion about that product.

I’m not suggesting that this couple on the way home to Emmaus should have stopped off at Starbucks first. Actually I want to remind you of some things that you already know:

  1. You and I walk around all day with our attitude written all over our face – what are people reading about us?
  2. We’re not walking away from hope like these two were. Each one of us is walking in hope – does your face show it?
  3. Sure, all of us have ups and downs and even long periods of time when the going gets dark, but if we determine to smile, laugh, move, and look at people, these actions will help to shape our attitude into one that’s more in line with the truth about us.

If you see me walking around with a scowl, just ask me if I’m on my way to Emmaus. That ought to remind me that my face looks like it’s heading in the wrong direction!

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.  – Romans 15:13

Walking to Emmaus Part 1

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That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.  – Luke 24:13-14

One of these “followers” is identified later in the story as Cleopas. He may be the same man who’s wife was with Mary and the others at the foot of the cross. She may even have been one of the women who went to the tomb three days later (early this same day). So perhaps these two followers on the road back home to Emmaus have been eyewitnesses to the death and even the resurrection of Christ.

Here they are walking away from the public execution of their hope. Then, three days later his body is missing. What’s going on? There are reports that mysterious visitors were also at the tomb this morning. These two members of the inner circle are talking and trying to make sense of so much that happened so fast. Their minds, hearts and fears are in turmoil. Now, we come upon them as they’ve set off on a 2-3 hour hike back to the comfort and safety of home. What else was there to do?

Here they are like so many of us, walking down that same old path. They are running away from what they have mistaken for defeat. They are putting all the pieces together. Can you imagine what they must have been talking about, trying to figure out and wrap their faith around?

Every now and then I wake up and realize that I’m walking away from the real answers I need to find. I’m heading out to what makes sense, what seems safe, where I feel at home. I want to find my own version of the truth that fits nicely into my carefully constructed life (such as it is). My walk of faith is on autopilot, walking back to Emmaus as I’ve done a hundred times before. How many times have you walked away from the risk of faith and stayed home where dreams never do come true?

Now, as they try and piece together their dashed hope during a retreat down this familiar old road, someone comes along and joins them, and nothing will ever be the same.

“We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.”
– W.H. Auden