INTRODUCTION LUKE 24:13-35
Today’s gospel is taken from Luke 24:13-35. It’s the story of one of the fascinating resurrection appearances of Jesus. You may be familiar with this story. It starts with two of Jesus’ followers walking from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus, just over 11 kilometres away.
These two disciples are talking to each other about what has happened to Jesus over the past few days. In verse 17 we read that they were “looking sad.” This shouldn’t surprise us. One can imagine that they were in a state of shock at Jesus’ death. They probably thought that all that Jesus had said and done among them had now come to nothing.
We know that Jesus had impacted greatly on their lives and on the lives of all who followed him. Over a few years they had seen Jesus interacting with many different people: loving people – mixing with those who were considered outcasts by their society, treating women with the same respect as men, teaching that those who were poor, or wronged or shamed, were blessed, or favoured, by God. Jesus had given them hope that things could be different, that people could relate differently to one another; that compassion, care, healing, and generosity could replace mistrust, division, discrimination, and condemnation
These two disciples now thought that in Jesus’ death their hopes for this new understanding of life, and the expectation that Jesus would redeem Israel – set it free – had all come to a very disappointing end.
As they continue walking and talking with one another, Jesus suddenly appears and walks alongside them, though they don’t recognise it’s him. Jesus listens to them and joins in their conversation. He explains to them that the Messiah should first suffer these things, and he interprets the scriptures for them.
But it doesn’t sink in: they still do not realise who is talking to them. It is only when they invite Jesus to join them at their house when they get to Emmaus that the penny drops. There they recognise Jesus in the familiar act of the breaking of bread, something they had experienced before.
OUR JOURNEY TODAY
We too are on a journey together, as the church community of St Pauls in Durban, as a country, in fact as the world – all of us. We are on a bumpy road, along with the many who have become ill and are dying because of the coronavirus. We are told by scientists that the road ahead is still a long one.
But we travel together, as people of hope.
JESUS TRAVELS WITH US
We too believe that Jesus draws alongside us on this road that we are on today. We believe that Jesus listens to our fears, and helps us in our desire to make sense of what is happening to our world right now.
While we cannot share in the breaking of the bread together, we believe that God’s Holy Spirit makes real for us God’s loving and sustaining presence, wherever we are. And like the Israelites on their uncertain and unfamiliar journey through the wilderness centuries earlier, we know we can turn to God to guide and provide for us, and for others.
As we look to Freedom Day tomorrow, 27 April, we draw inspiration from our own history. We are encouraged by what can be achieved when people commit themselves to work together for the good of all. In our country, centuries of injustice, discrimination and oppression have been overcome; a journey we continue to make together.
This new struggle against the common threat of the coronavirus has again brought people together. We know that freedom from the coronavirus will be achieved: through our prayers, our care for one another, and the sharing of the many resources and gifts that God has given to each of us, including through the vital work of health workers and other specialists. We have faith; a strong belief in a healthy future for us all, and that God’s will will be done.
There is a sense in which we build the road together as we go along. We know that we do not walk alone and that with God’s help we will overcome.
While deeply conscious of the great suffering and cost to human life in this pandemic, we are beginning to see Jesus’ vision of a more compassionate and just society being born among us. God’s reign, or rule, in the world is being realised as people reach out to help others across barriers and divisions that have in the past kept people apart. This is the vision that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus thought had been lost. We are seeing it now becoming a reality.
So let us open our eyes to see Jesus at work among us, not on the dusty road to Emmaus but in homes and hospitals, among those who share their lives with others in giving and caring, in courage and with perseverance.
And, through our own actions, let others recognise Jesus in us too.
Alleluia! Christ is risen
Haleluya! uKristu uvukile