13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. — Luke 24:13-35
These first few weeks of Easter we are talking about ”awakening.” How have been awakened through Jesus to various aspects of our faith, to our ministry, to communion, and to baptism. Last week we looked at our awakening to ministry and what it means to minister in the same manner as Christ. We are called to be sent the same way that God sent Christ. We are meant to take the breath of the Spirit and live into the peace that Christ shows us. We pay attention to our breath and keep connected to it as we live in the peace and love Christ shared with his disciples and with us.
This week we come to a new awakening. This week we look at an awakening to the “nourishment we receive for the ongoing work through the sacrament of Holy Communion,” (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/second-sunday-of-easter-preaching-notes) and what better story to focus on than the story of the journey on the road to Emmaus.
Reflect back with me for a moment to Maundy Thursday. It has been a couple of weeks now, but in the context of our scripture it has only been a few days. Jesus sat around a table with his twelve closest disciples and they shared a meal. However, this was not to be a normal meal. Rather it was to be the institution of a communal meal that would connect us through the generations to Christ and one another. It would be a means by which we receive the grace God offers to each and every one of us. It would be a reminder given to the disciples to pass down as to who Christ was for each person. You see as those disciples gathered at the table for the last supper I can’t imagine they thought this meal would become an extending sign of grace given and received throughout the generations. However, I am sure in the continued reflection on the presence of Christ at the sacramental table the disciples realized the deeper meaning behind this act of nourishment.
As Christ talks about himself as the bread of the world he goes through his ministry offering things like bread and water and wine to those who need it. He feeds multitudes of people and he feeds the ones who gather closely around him. He offers nourishment to those around hime as they prepare to do the ministry he is readying them for. That is why when we gather around the table we see a lifelong ministry, we experience a lifelong grace, and we live into the body of Christ we are called to be.
However, that is not the manner in which these two travelers are thinking as they walk this road to Emmaus. This is not the thinking they have when they gather around a table with an unknown vagabond. In fact they come to the table quite unaware of the true nature of the meal they are about to partake. In a way, not only are their eyes opened to Christ, but they are also opened to the true depth of this meal. And it all starts with the beginning of their journey when they leave Jerusalem.
They leave Jerusalem, on the day of the resurrection, mere hours after Peter and Mary return from the tomb and tell of what they experienced that morning at the empty tomb. After some time they are approached on the road by a vagabond of sorts who is traveling in a similar direction and they oblige him to join them. We are told by the Gospel writer that this vagabond is Jesus (v. 15), however this fact has been obscured from those who are traveling (v. 16). To them he is a fellow traveler and company on their journey. They discuss the weekends events. The vagabond appears to be interested in what has happened and from the recounting of the events we see these followers of Jesus seem very downtrodden by what has unfolded. They are afraid of what the empty tomb might mean and even express some disbelief as to some of the events earlier in the day (v. 19-24).
However, the vagabond responds to their concerned voices,
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25b-26)
He then recounts the Scriptures for them trying to encourage them in the resurrection. Now I would have become a little curious as to this characters true identity, but the travelers continue on until they reach their destination, a village.
Once they reach the village we can assume it is becoming late in the day and so the two disciples invite the vagabond to stay with them for the night. Next the table is set and the meal is prepared and we become reading witnesses of another beautiful dinner table of grace. We read in our passage,
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31)
It is their awakening to this meal, to the meaning in this meal, and to Christ himself that show us what happens. The eyes of these two disciples are finally opened to the true identity of the the vagabond, and in that they become witness to this sacramental event.
However, what does this mean for us? How are we awakened?
For this we look at how we understand Communion in our contemporary context. In the United Methodist Church we do not believe in transubstantiation, that is that the elements are the physical embodiment of Christ’s body and blood. However, we do proclaim a belief in the real presence of Christ in this meal. We do believe that our eyes are awakened to Christ’s presence in our lives through this meal, and that not only is this meal sacramentally founded in the essentials of our faith but it is also a means by which we receive God’s grace and are empowered to spread grace to others.
The United Methodist denomination puts it this way,
“It’s a time to celebrate the Resurrection, to recognize and give thanks for the Risen Christ. The bread and wine represent the living presence of Christ among us—though we do not claim, as some denominations do, that they become Christ’s body and blood. In Luke’s Resurrection story, the Risen Christ broke bread with two of his followers at Emmaus, ‘then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him’ (24:31). So, as we’re nourished by this meal, our eyes are opened; and we recognize Christ here in our congregation, our community, and our world.” (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/communion1)
Not only are we awakened, not only are we nourished, but we are also empowered to come from this table to face the world with Christ beside us. We can hear the timidity of the disciples on the road. We can see the unassured nature of where they stand on whether Christ was resurrected, but through the table, and Christ’s actions, they are enlightened to the resurrected Christ and are empowered to run back to Jerusalem and share what they experience.
I want you to think about your mindset in communion.
Do you meet Christ at the table? Is Christ present for you? Do you feel Christ with you when you leave the table?