"Sunday Meeting" Bible Study on Luke 24:13-35
April 22, 2020, 1:05 PM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from Luke 24:13-35 (Common English Bible translation).

13 On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. 15 While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. 16 They were prevented from recognizing him.

17 He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?”They stopped, their faces downcast.

18 The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”

19 He said to them, “What things?”

They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. 20 But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. 22 But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. 26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.

28 When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead.29 But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”

33 They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” 35 Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.

In Luke 24:13-15, we immediately discover that our text is a story about a meeting.

The "Walk to Emmaus" follows the Easter narrative in Luke 24:1-12  It's Easter evening.  Only Luke tells the story.  "Two disciples" are on the road to Emmaus.  Who are they?  They don't seem to be members of the eleven, the original, inner circle of disciples because the story ends with the two rushing to report to "the eleven" what had happened (Luke 24:33).  However, they are members of a "group" of disciples (Luke 24::9) to which the women belong who had gone to the tomb, three of whose names are listed in Luke 24:10: "Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother James, and the other women."  Some of this "group" also visited the tomb on Easter morning "and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him" (Luke 24:24), the Risen Christ.  We are given the name of only one of the two on the road to Emmaus, Cleopas (Luke 24:18), but he is found nowhere else in the New Testament.  Why does the other disciple accompanying Cleopas remain nameless?  Does the Gospel writer want each of us to enter the story and become the other disciple walking with Cleopas and Jesus toward Emmaus?  Or is it that the narrator does not mean to narrate either the women or the men as the chief subjects of this story so that the main protagonist is the Risen Christ?

The story opens (Luke 24:13-27) with these two travelers being clueless that it is Jesus who walks along with them.  Even when the stranger interpreted "Moses and all the Prophets" as concerning himself (Luke 24:27, NRSV), they still do not recognize him.  They do know about the climactic, sad recent events in Jerusalem, reciting for the stranger a summary of Jesus' ministry ("a prophet mighty in word and deed"), his passion, and death (Luke 24:19-20).  They also give a brief account of the Easter story in Luke 24:22-24, based upon the Easter narrative of Luke 24:1-12.

By Luke 24:28-35, the identity and significance of the stranger seems to become known to the travelers.  While gathered at the table, their guest "took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them" (Luke 24:30).  Note that the words are almost identical to those in Luke 22:19 at the Last Supper where Jesus "took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, be broke it and gave it to them."  Surely we are meant to make a connection to the Lord's Supper/the Eucharist/Holy Communion.

When these table actions are performed, their eyes are opened, and they know it is Jesus.  In an instant, he vanishes from them.  It's then that they recall their hearts burned within them while he had been teaching them concerning the Messiah on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32).

After this stunning recognition, the two men rush back to Jerusalem to report what they have seen and heard.  The eleven tell them that Jesus had been raised and had appeared to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34), the premier disciple.

I did not preach on last Sunday's Gospel Reading (John 20:19-31), which begins with the followers of Jesus who are gathered behind locked doors on Easter evening, cowering in great fear.  Suddenly, Jesus comes, stands among them, and bids them peace.  John 20 ends with the story of Doubting Thomas.  We find that belief in Jesus as the Risen Christ is far from self-evident to the first witnesses.  When people believe, it is only on the basis of revelation: the Risen Christ has appeared to them and chosen to disclose his identity.  Thus is the case with Peter (Luke 24:34), as well as for the two travelers on the road to Emmaus.

The basis for belief is not in the believer's insight or gifts of perception.  If someone is able to see the Risen Christ and to believe in him, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift of Jesus' determination to show up to people.  It's due to grace alone.

Surely, Luke's story of the meal of Emmaus is meant to link believers to worship as the main focus for revelation and therefore for belief.  During Sunday worship, in the reading and preaching of scripture and the breaking of bread in the sacrament, the Risen Christ is speaking to us and offering his presence to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, who connects each of us to one another.  It is in this fourfold act -- gathering, hearing, eating, sending -- that faith is engendered and sustained.

During this time when we are physically isolated from one another, we are still connected by the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps this will become a period when we will come to appreciate even more than ever before our corporate Sunday gathering for worship.

One thing is clear from all the post-resurrection accounts of the appearance of the Risen Christ to all his disciples: the Risen Christ is determined to meet us.  And that's just what happens during worship, even during a broadcast Worship Service that we participate in behind the closed doors of our homes.  We have been and are still being met by a Living, Loving God.

Peace be with you.

Abundant Blessings,

Pastor Greg Rupright


04-24-2020 at 8:06 PM
Pat May
Excellent reminder that even absent one another, we are still bound to each other by the grace of God, the three in one!
It will make the reconnections even sweeter when “this” is over...
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