Easter 3 2023
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
April 23, 2023
Acts 2:14a, 36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-25, Luke 24:13-35


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            It is Sunday afternoon and things do not look good.  Their leader was arrested late Thursday night in the olive grove where He was praying.  An armed mob tied Him up, abused Him and marched Him up Mt. Zion to the High Priest’s house where they assembled a late night crowd of religious leaders and others to put Him on trial in the middle of the night.  They convicted Him, sentenced Him to death, abused Him some more and then turned Him over to the Roman authorities in the morning.  The Romans continued the abuse and even though the governor knew it was wrong, he gave in to the crowd’s demands and allowed Him to be taken away for crucifixion.  By Friday at 3 PM their leader was dead.  The one they had hoped on, the one to whom they looked for guidance and inspiration, the one who had done such amazing miracles, the one who held so much promise, is dead, His lifeless body is wrapped in a death shroud and is lying in a tomb.  How could this have happened?  Why did this have to happen?  What is going on?

It is Passover and there are so many people in Jerusalem and everyone is talking about what happened.  There are rumors and half-truths and outright lies all swirling around.  So much anger, so much grief, so much turmoil, so much confusion.  Some of the women in their group were even claiming that their leader rose from the dead and the tomb is empty, but this seems like an idle tale.  How can that be true?  They must just be seeing things, or making things up wishing it was true.  The whole situation is just… too… much… and so a couple of followers of the leader, Cleopas and a friend, decide to leave town and make the three or four hour walk to Emmaus just west of Jerusalem.

            And this is where the story gets good.  The two are walking and talking about all that has happened over the last week.  And as they are walking a man comes up from behind and joins them and asks what they are talking about.  They stop walking and stare at the man with their mouths hanging open.  They look back at the way they came from and can still see Jerusalem in the distance.  How can anyone coming from Jerusalem not know what they are talking about?  How can this man be so ignorant?  So since they know what has happened and this guy does not, they tell the man about all that has gone on with their leader in Jerusalem.  After they tell everything to this ignorant man, He looks at them and probably shaking His head in disappointment says,  Luke 24:25–26 (ESV)  25 …, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 

            Cleopas and his friend are in shock.  Who is this guy?  As they continue their walk, the ignorant man begins to interpret to them from Moses and all the prophets all things concerning the Christ.

            As they get near to Emmaus the man acts as if He is continuing further, but Cleopas and his friend urge Him to stay with them since it is almost evening. 

            It is time for dinner and the man takes the bread and blesses it and gives it to them.  In the breaking of the bread, Cleopas’ and his friend’s eyes are opened and they recognize that the man at dinner, the man they have been walking with and learning from, is indeed Jesus, the Christ, risen from the dead.  

            These two followers of Jesus whom Jesus called “foolish and slow of heart” now say to each other, Luke 24:32 (ESV) 32 … “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”  They knew something special was happening, but they didn’t know what, until Jesus reveals Himself to them in the breaking of the bread.

            It is like a great Hollywood script.  As we read it, we know what is going on, but Cleopas and his friend do not.  The emotional roller coaster that they have been on over the last week has been intense -- from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to His arrest and trials and condemnation and crucifixion and burial.  And then came the rumors of Him rising from the dead and then Jesus Himself opening the scriptures to them to show that the Bible teaches that the Christ must suffer and die.  And then, in this great Lutheran moment, Jesus reveals Himself, at the table, in the breaking of the bread. 

            We can get kind of jealous of Cleopas and his friend and this incredible experience that they have with Jesus.  All of the confusion and frustration and education and their hearts burning within them and then the big reveal of who Jesus is. They are right there with Jesus.

            Here, on Good Friday, we have a series of readings about the horrible events of that first Good Friday interspersed with solemn hymns and increasing darkness.  There is a deepening gloom as we remember what Jesus went through because of us -- and for us.  It can be an emotional service of remembrance and at the end we sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?  Were you there when God raised Him from the dead?  These are rhetorical questions which try to get you to imagine what it was like to actually be there watching Jesus die, watching Him be buried and seeing Him raised from the dead.  For us, “Were you there,” is a rhetorical question.  For Cleopas and his friend these are straight questions and their answers would be yes, yes, yes.  They were there, perhaps at a distance, but they were there at the crucifixion, at the burial and seeing the resurrected Jesus. They experienced things first hand. And so we rejoice with them that they got to see Jesus and have that amazing experience that was meant for them.

            We rejoice with them for their experience with Jesus, but for us, the burning of their hearts and the big reveal is not the highlight of this passage.  These are not the most important messages for us.  This reading is not about encouraging us to have our own “Road to Emmaus” experience.  The important message for us is, “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!”  Jesus appears to two of His followers after His resurrection from the dead and walks and talks with them for hours.  “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!” 

            And because Christ is risen, you too will rise from the dead.  You too will be raised, because in baptism you died with Jesus and therefore you also will rise with Him.  On the road to Emmaus Jesus is showing eyewitnesses that He is indeed raised from the dead.  These eyewitnesses tell St. Luke and Luke records their words in his Gospel writing.

          These are not the most important messages for us.  This reading is not about encouraging us to have our own “Road to Emmaus” experience.  The important message for us is, “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!” 

            Jesus disappears from their midst in Emmaus and so Cleopas and his friend hurry back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples all of what has happened, and while they are there, Jesus appears to all of them and shows them His hands and feet and invites them to touch Him and then He eats with them, and He teaches them, and opens their minds to understand… Luke 24:46–48 (ESV) 46 [He] said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”

            Eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection wrote down what they saw or their testimony was recorded by others.  Matthew, Mark, John, Peter, Mary Magdalene, the other Marys, Cleopas and his friend.  They provide us written eyewitness testimony that, “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!”  You do not get a road to Emmaus moment with your heart burning as Jesus teaches you.  You were not there… and yet Jesus’ promise is still for you.  At your baptism Jesus gives you His righteousness, His holiness, His perfection.  In Christ you are a Saint of God.  You have the risen Lord Jesus with you in His Word and Sacraments.  Jesus comes to you in the waters of Holy Baptism.  Jesus teaches you through the Words of Scripture. Jesus brings you forgiveness through the words of absolution, and Jesus continues to reveal Himself in the breaking of the bread as He has promised to do. 

This is why you gather together each Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, to celebrate again and again that, “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!”  

This is the most important message from our Gospel reading today and it is the most important Good News of all time.

You do not get to walk on the road to Emmaus with the resurrected Jesus, but Jesus is most certainly walking with you through this life and into eternity. You have eternal life with Jesus because “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!”  Amen