Monday, April 28, 2014

Stay With Us

In this Sunday's readings we are given the story of the travelers on the road to Emmaus. It is quite a journey. They are in despair. Jesus joins them and they don't recognize Him. It is a good thing they don't. It allows them to be very blunt about how disappointed they feel. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. Despite the resurrection story already circulating they speak of hope in the past tense. 

Then Jesus begins to speak. He starts by saying, "How foolish are you! How slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken!" It does not sound that charitable. The truth is we need that kind of straight talk. We can make some pretty major errors. We can be slow to believe. If everyone is to polite to tell us then we will never correct our mistakes. 

These disciples listen. They take the time and go through a detailed logical explanation of why they were wrong. We are not talking about a couple of proof texts. It talks about "all the scriptures." Probably not literally every verse but the walk is a couple of hours long. We tend to want to take short cuts and not do serious theological study. They invest the time and are amazed by what they learn.

Then the key moment comes. They arrive at their destination. Jesus pretends to be going on. They ask Jesus to stay. That is so important. They don't know it is Jesus. Yet their hearts are burning within them. They are not able to articulate their feelings at this point but they feel something. They act on it. They invite Jesus to stay with them. To eat a meal. To spend the night. We don't know who this is but we sense the presence of God and we don't want to let it get away. 

Ultimately that is the difference between faith and unbelief. When we are interested intellectually and our hearts are responding spiritually then we have a choice. Do we want to invite Jesus to stay or let Him keep walking? We often don't even know it is Jesus at that point. We just know we were hopeless and He allowed us to hope. We sense something we can't totally explain. Yet there are doubts to. It feels too good to be true. Nobody wants to believe only to be disappointed again. 

Then we have the breaking of the bread. After the moment of decision comes and they invite Jesus to stay they get the full experience of Jesus. It says He was made known to them in the bread. Not just a simple recognition of His identity but an understanding that they have experienced God in a personal way. They don't marvel at the cool things they learned. They marvel at how their hearts burned. In fact, they got the best biblical teaching session ever and they don't say a word about the content of it. Just that their hearts were burning.

Then what happens? Jesus disappears. It is interesting that once we have experienced God we don't need that experience to persist. Jesus vanishes visibly but He remains spiritually and that is enough. When you don't just have an intellectual discussion but you invite Him into your heart then you remain changed. 

The second thing that happens is they go right back to Jerusalem. It is a long walk. It is late in the day. Walking after dark is dangerous because there can be bandits on the road. They don't care. They have to go and tell the disciples right now. An encounter with God is like that. We want to share it with someone who will understand. After that we want to share it with anyone who will listen. Jesus is alive and I experienced Him in the breaking of the bread. 

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