The Resurrected Jesus: The Road to Emmaus

Marissa Jadrich Ortiz — April 11, 2021

Breaking Bread with Jesus

Jesus is alive! Easter gives us a lot to celebrate. Jesus is alive! But what does that mean?

We’re going to spend some time in the next few weeks with the people who met Resurrected Jesus so we can learn a little along with them about what Jesus being alive is all about.

For the people following Jesus the very, very first Easter was actually a very confusing one. Their friend and leader had been killed, his movement was a failure, their lives were in danger. Not only did Jesus die—he went out without a fight. It seems like he gave up.

For Jesus, I bet it felt AMAZING to overcome death and be alive again! But even a resurrection couldn’t instantly repair all the relationships he lost along the way. Jesus just suffered an extraordinarily painful death while his closest friends were either running away, sleeping, denying they know him, or actively handing him over to his enemies. That’s a terrible feeling.

So by Easter Sunday everybody is feeling betrayed. There’s grief, fear, frustration, loneliness all around. And then a rumor starts coming around, that Jesus is alive. He’s back. He wants to talk. Well everybody has questions. And this is where today’s drama starts.

Do you think Jesus wants his friends back, the ones who totally abandoned him in his hour of greatest need?

Do you think Jesus’ friends want to follow him again, now that they know Jesus path to victory means gruesome death at the hands of their enemies? If this was his game plan, do we really want to keep playing that game?

Let’s see what happens next. This word is especially for those of you who may have your own experience of feeling let down by God. Jesus is no stranger to messy relationships and that’s what this story is about. Bring your doubts along for the ride.

This is such a good story.

The book of Luke tells us this:

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

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

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?”

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. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning 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. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”

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

Jesus plays dumb. He hears the whole story from their perspective. And then, he calls them out (I thought this was harsh) and tells the story from his perspective. I imagine he had already told them all this before, how God’s plan throughout the Hebrew scriptures was for a spirit-led leader to stand up for justice and peace while rejecting violence, death, and all the ways Satan tempts people to give up on relying on God’s abundance as their source of life and their way of living. Now when they were all hanging out a year ago and Jesus told this story, they took it very personally. If Jesus thinks he’s going to get killed for this, we are too, and we do not endorse this plan. But hearing from a stranger, in retrospect, it made some sense.

Now I imagine Jesus is feeling out his friends’ reactions too. Are they ready to accept the New Jesus? Or are they going to say “hell no, Jesus was a total fraud!” or “well if that’s the truth about Jesus, I don’t want anything to do with it.” Jesus has some serious forgiving to do if he’s going to welcome these friends back after they abandoned him. But they also have some serious thinking to do, if they want to accept a second invitation to be a follower of Jesus, this time knowing more what it really entails. [DOUBT PSA HERE]

So that’s my take on this moment along the road, where Jesus pretends he has to keep going and his friends ask him to stay. Jesus is feeling out, do they want me? Do they accept me? Are we ready for another step closer. Or are they tired of hearing about this sacrificial messiah business, they just want to get over Jesus and move on with their lives?

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. 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. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.

They invite Jesus to stay. Jesus stays. And it’s the moment when he blesses the food they’re about to share that he lets slip his secret, it’s really Jesus. New Jesus. Real Jesus.

Jesus eats so much in the gospels that I imagine food is Jesus’ love language. So sharing this food, specifically blessing their meal, is Jesus’ way of welcoming them back into his company, and a reminder that even if a whole lot of what they believed about Jesus is wrong, not everything was lost. The relationship is real even if it needs some work. This is a gesture of belonging. As they share this meal with Jesus, they get it.

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?”

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

Weren’t our hearts on fire? It inspires them to backtrack their seven miles to Jerusalem after dark. Seven miles take a while to walk, and travel after dark was not recommended at this time. It’s a sign to me of the way that, even though Jesus has not changed his victory-by-dying game plan that they hated so much, they’re now experiencing courage through Jesus’ presence instead of fear. They’re compelled to take risks for this mission and they believe Jesus’ powerful presence will get them wherever they need to go.

I’m going to say this again. After encountering the risen Jesus, there’s no less reason to fear being targeted by Roman authorities or maligned by their Jewish community. Jesus does not tell them that such things will not happen to them, if anything, he confirms the likelihood of that prospect, which we also see throughout scripture. What does happen though, is that Jesus drains the power out of that fear. Jesus’ life, and the hope that he offers, overcomes the fear of death that drove the to abandon him and to abandon his cause. Jesus affirms that despite all appearances to the contrary God absolutely is doing what God promised God would do. And when they believe that, when they encounter it with burning hearts, they start running. A long run down a dangerous street in the dark.

God is doing what God promised to do, church.These men are not running through the dark because it’s the right thing to do. They are not running through the dark because God told them to. They are not running through the dark because they are afraid of something even worse in the other direction. No! They are running with hope! With freedom! They’ve realized that God is up to something bigger and better and more beautiful than everything they are afraid of, and they CANT WAIT to see what happens next! They have been freed from the despair of an impossible situation, they’ve grasped that it’s not inevitable anymore. That’s what hope means. Hope means there’s no such thing as inevitable. When these friends of Jesus grasp that through a relationship with Jesus that connects them to God’s death-defying power of life, peace, and justice, everything about the world as we know it can change. They are filled with hope and they run, they run towards their friends who need to hear about it.

What is your inevitable today? That is the place where you have lost hope. It doesn’t always feel like despair, but it’s the same. Some of are facing what feels like an impossible situation in an important relationship. There are lots of big picture impossible situations, the economy or healthcare or the legal system or trash in the ocean, that seem so messy it’s hard not to think “I guess I’ll start getting used to this.” Some of us are facing our own health, finances, and destructive habits with resignation. For some of it it’s the church, or your own relationship with Jesus. You know what it is, you know where you are, the thing you might say to a stranger on the street, “well we’d hoped….but now…”

The Jesus we meet on the road to Emmaus doesn’t tell us those things aren’t true or they don’t matter. The Resurrected Jesus instead says, “there’s more to the story than that, and it changes everything.” It reminds me of one of my favorite parables, where the guy finds a buried treasure and then sells everything he has to buy the land it’s buried in. If you were a journalist who doesn’t know the whole story you might write up a headline for this that said “MAN LOSES EVERYTHING” or “WORLDS WORST INVESTMENT PROPERTIES”. But Jesus is giving us that insider look at the kingdom of God, the headline is “BURIED TREASURE FOUND” “MAN RICH BEYOND WILDEST DREAMS.”

There’s more to the story. What seems inevitable, and can you imagine a version of Jesus who has something to say about that? Can you imagine a version of Jesus, that if you met him, if you walked a few miles together, if you shared a meal with him, it would leave you RUNNING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION, telling all your friends that you’re too hopeful and too excited about what God is doing to be too afraid to do anything about it? That’s the resurrected Jesus we meet in this story and I want you to meet that Jesus today!

Church, this really is a big challenge for me, because I’ve gotten used to my own inevitables, and I still want a version of Jesus that just fixes the world instead of freeing me to face it. I’d much rather believe Jesus went through death so that I won’t have to, instead of that Jesus did that so that I wouldn’t be afraid to do the same. So let me tell you something that has encouraged me. I have watched YOU walk with Jesus, and I have watched YOU discover how much more there is to your story. I have watched YOU find there’s more to the story of your family struggles. There’s more to the story of your loss. There’s more to the story of your mental illness. There’s more to the story of your marriage. There’s more to the story of your divorce. There’s more to the story of your chronic pain. I’m not telling you this like “you shouldn’t feel bad about those things,” I’m telling you as a witness, I’ve watched people in this congregation walk through impossible situations with Jesus and that is good news for all of us.

We need each other’s stories. Church, some of you are like the women who came to the tomb early in the morning, some of you are reminding us “hey I went looking for Jesus and it looks like he’s on the move, it looks like he’s up to something.” Some of you are like the two disciples from Emmaus, who come running in saying “Jesus showed up in the middle of my despair and he changed the story of my impossible situation.” Some of us are the disciples huddled in a locked room, needing to hear those stories! So please be generous with your testimonies.

Resurrected Jesus meets everybody where they are. He comes to walk along the road with these guys. Later he breaks into the house where they’re hiding, he sneaks up on the women still looking for him in the burial garden, he shows up at their place of work while they are fishing. There isn’t a place that you “should” be to meet Jesus, there is only the place you are, and the way Jesus is present for you right now. Perhaps in disguise. There is nothing about your family, your relationship status, your education, your finances, your appearance, your lifestyle, that puts you off limits to Jesus walking up beside you saying, “what are you talking about? Why the long face? Can I stay for dinner?”

Go ahead and tell Jesus your story. Listen to each others’ stories. And I bet Jesus has a story to tell you in return. Jesus has more than enough hope for you. God has surprises still for you. And sometimes, it’s really fun. Bring your fear, doubt, and despair into God’s presence in prayer. Jesus is ready to show you something new. Jesus is ready to change your story.