Seeing Moments

4/21/96
Easter 3
Lk 24:13-35

The Gospel story in Luke offers a “seeing moment.”

The two men were walking along talking furiously. Their week had been a roller coaster of exultant expectation and devastating disappointment. A third man fell into step with them. Soon all three were engrossed in conversation. The first two recounted how they thought they had finally found a prophetic leader who would bring hope, peace and healing to the country.

They told the third man that there had been turmoil in Jerusalem and that the chief priests and leaders had insisted that their prophetic leader be executed. Now some of women of the group can’t find the body, because the tomb is empty. These women had a vision and believe that their leader is alive! The two travellers were distraught, confused, and their outlook grief filled. The third man listened and then explained, how looking at it from the perspective of the Law and the prophets, the crucifixion of the Messiah was inevitable, and made sense. At a village the two men asked their friend to join them for dinner. When He took the bread, broke it and gave it to them, they saw that He was Jesus. And then Jesus vanished from their sight.

” Good grief, how could we not have noticed that it was Jesus when He was explaining the scriptures?” They hurried and told the eleven disciples what had happened. The disciples said,

“Yes, Simon Peter saw Him too.”

It’s a good story. It connects on many levels: being pre-occupied, being despondent, being surprised by an epiphany, being put down at the end by the comment that the disciples already knew about the presence of the risen Lord - Peter saw Him, too.

There are four points about this story of the moment of seeing on the road to Emmaus which hit me. The first is this: the men are on a journey. Life in the Bible is viewed as a journey. It is not seen as a state or condition of being. The patriarches move around. Moses travels. The Israelites are constantly on the move. There is the Exodus, the return, the exile and another return. Even the Davidic kingdoms and the prophets can be seen as a movement in the direction of a goal - an eschatological Kingdom of God at the end of time.

Secondly, life is seen in the context of Biblical themes, legends and metaphors. What happened in Jerusalem, who the players were and what they were doing, is viewed in the context of the Law, the Torah, and the prophets. The resolution of life’s political and societal problems is viewed over against the Law and the prophets. Men look at what is happening through eyes of faithful expectation Ü the faith of Israel and the expectations of Israel.

Thirdly there is the existence and the presence of the Risen Lord. Just as Abraham did not recognize the three angels who appeared to him as emissaries of God, so the two followers of Jesus did not recognize Him immediately. Jesus is present with the travellers in the grief, in their despair, and on their faith journey. It is a continuous presence.

Faith is a funny thing. You can’t force it. There are epiphanic moments of visions in which you recognize the presence of God. These can be extremely profound, as in theophanies, or they can be subtler and more touching and graceful. The historical event, the story of the road to Emmaus, points to the existence of the Risen Lord and it points to the nature of events, which come when men, are on their way to somewhere else and doing something else. The point is that God is there. Jesus Christ is risen and is with us, even when we are not confronted by a Christophany.

The fourth point is this: there is a guarantee. Jesus is known in the breaking of bread. It is in this meal, which Jesus instituted with His followers, that He is most clearly identified. Here the followers’ eyes of faith are able to discern Jesus’ existence as the Risen Lord, His presence amongst them, and his reality as a suffering Messiah. Once identified, Jesus vanishes before the vision of the two men. This is true in all epiphanies. But the continued existence and presence of Jesus remains. Indeed, it is confirmed when the two men learn that Simon Peter also saw the Risen Lord.

My New Testament professor at the end of each presentation of an exegetical paper would ask the question, “So what?” Where’s the relevance? Is there an imperative or a didactic or a catachetical in the indicative. Each of the points, I’ve noted carries an imperative. First of all, seriously look at your life as a journey. Now to some of those of us who have deadlines and are over stressed, this might seem like a strange request. However, society often tempts us to view the goal of our lives to be a state of balance, to be anesthetized from the pressures. This can be through escapism, liquor, or other panaceas leading to a Nirvana.

Both the elderly and the terminally ill can find this to be a problem. The elderly often feel their journey is over. Not so. They have a contribution to make to the lives of those around them and to their families. Even the terminally ill can, and often do, come to grips with issues of faith and meaning. As Christians, they, you and I are pilgrims on a faith journey, a journey of service, worship, evangelism, and the preparation of our souls for the next world, the final theophany.

Secondly, you and I need to be reminded to look at our lives in the context of the themes, legends and metaphors of the Bible. “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” The prophets cry out for righteousness and justice. Amos and Hosea issue scathing condemnations of contemporary society. Baal, fertility gods, paganism are very much alive today, and Elijah speaks up to date words. One of the strengths of the civil rights movement was that it was set in the context of the Exodus. There is eternal strength and meaning in the metaphors and themes of the Bible.

Thirdly, Jesus Christ is risen and is present with you and me, today, right now, and right here. You do not need an epiphany or a Christopany. You have been baptized, and every Sunday you confess that He has died. He has risen. He will come again. Live like it. For instance, here’s a challenge. Take a week and allow Jesus to be your companion. I don’t mean like Harvey the rabbit in the Jimmy Stewart film. And I am not advocating being charismatic or psychotic. But can you look Jesus in the eye and say this is what I want? This is how I want to act in front of Jesus. If Jesus is standing here with me do I want to talk like this. Do I want this car, this accomplishment? If Jesus is right here, do we want our church to look like this, our presence in the community to be as it is? Are we satisfied with our our education, our evangelism, or our personal stewardship? If Jesus is standing next to me, do I only put a buck in the hunger basket? The presence of Jesus Christ, right here, right now, really changes your and my perspectives, our views of life.

Finally, we have the assurance, the word of God incarnate, that He is present in the bread and wine of the eucharist. Here is grounds for hope and joy and incredible encouragement. Our lives are not meaningless nor frivolous. We are given the body and blood of Jesus Christ to empower us to live lives of incredible power and beauty. I can understand the burdens and pains which we carry, but I cannot understand why Christians leave the table of the Lord glum and passive. Sometimes we confuse reverence with weakness and with dejection. If we have partaken of the body and blood of Christ, if we have the assurance of eternal life, then the whole world is open to us to celebrate the Easter promise and to accomplish great things in our own personal and societal lives. Certainly there are incredible challenges before us to help one another and to carry the message of God’s love to others. But the eucharistic table gives us an iron clad assurance that life is good and that we are not alone stumbling in blind confusion and dejection. At the eucharistic table we meet the presence of the Risen Lord, and like the two men on the road to Emmaus you and I have cause to run and tell others and to share our vision of faith and the Gospel of Jesus’ triumph for us over the powers of evil and death.

Four challenges in this moment of seeing: l) See life as a journey. 2) See life in a Biblical context. 3) See Jesus as present. 4) See joy in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia! Amen.