Everything That Has Happened

Everything That Has Happened

Grace & Fairview United Methodist Churches

May 4, 2014

 

Luke 24: 13-35 (CEB)

On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. 15While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. 16They were prevented from recognizing him.

17He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along? ”They stopped, their faces downcast.

18The 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?”

19He 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. 20But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. 22But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning 23and 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. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”

25Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. 26Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.

28When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead.29But 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. 30After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32They 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?”

33They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” 35Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.

 

In the Talmud, a sacred Jewish book that offers rabbinical interpretations of passages from what we call the Old Testament, there is a beautiful story, which I want to share with you this morning. “Rabbi Joshua ben Levi came upon Elijah the prophet while standing at the entrance to a cave…He asked Elijah, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ Elijah replied, ‘Go and ask him yourself.’”

Obviously, the Rabbi needed to know where he would find the Messiah if he were to ask him anything. When he inquired, Elijah told Rabbi Joshua that he would find the Messiah “[s]itting at the gates of the city.” But lots of people sit at the gates of the city, so the Rabbi asked Elijah how he would know which one was the Messiah. Elijah said, “He is sitting among the poor covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and then bind them up again. But [the Messiah] unbinds one at a time and binds it up again, saying to himself, ‘Perhaps I shall be needed: if so I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.’”

Our Easter encounters with Jesus continue this morning as we join Cleopas and his companion on the road home to Emmaus. By Luke’s account, it is still the day of the Resurrection, though by now it is probably mid-afternoon at least. The Passover celebration has ended in Jerusalem, though it had not ended well for the followers of Jesus. And so Cleopas and his friend have packed their bags in disappointment. They had bet their lives on the wrong Messiah. They thought Jesus of Nazareth was the man, but in the end, he was just a common criminal. There is nothing for them in Jerusalem now; the Passover is finished, their savior has died, they are wounded, and in great despair they begin the journey back home; certainly wondering as they go what will happen next. After many months of following this man, they are still looking for the Messiah. But in their wounded state, they are joined by a third companion; just the right person it turns out, who showed up at just the right time, ready to listen. And we all know how wonderful it is to have a sympathetic ear in such times.

Have you ever needed to vent? You all know what I mean, right? Something has happened, and you’re so angry, hopping mad that steam may as well be blowing out your ears…kind of like Donald Duck in just about every old Mickey cartoon. So, you take just enough time to get calmed down so that you can form a coherent sentence, then you pick up the phone and call the friend that is always willing to listen, and you just start blowing off steam. You say anything and everything that comes to mind as you recount the sequence of events that led you to such anger, and as you explain, you ask “Can you believe it?!?” about a gazillion times. If you’re anything like me in such a state, you might say the same thing several times in the course of the conversation because you are so angry about it. And if your friend on the other end is worth their salt, they will listen intently to every word and share your outrage, even as they try and talk you back to a state of composure.

I know we’ve all been here from time to time. I also know that it helps me a lot when I can call someone up who will listen when I’m really sad, too. A few months ago, I was dealing with something that had me pretty upset, and I called up the person I consider to be my pastor. We met the next day and the conversation began when he said, “Tell me what’s going on.” So I started to talk. I’d finish one thought, and he’d say, “Go on.” And I’d move on to the next thing. When I finished that thought, he’d say, “Go on,” and I would start up again. I “unloaded” for two whole hours, and my colleague listened intently to every single word. The conversation didn’t accomplish anything. It didn’t change what had happened that upset me so, nor did it develop any plan to help me avoid such disappointment in the future. But at the time, that conversation was just exactly what I needed, the opportunity to unload, the chance to talk about everything that had happened. And you know what? Because I had the opportunity to talk about everything that had happened, I was able to let go of some of the sadness and worry, and to see that things aren’t really so bad as they seemed in that moment.

I imagine that when joined by this mysterious third traveler, Cleopas and his friend must have done the same thing as they walked together. Cleopas and his unnamed companion began to pour their hearts out. They unload their heavy emotion as they tell their companion of “everything that had happened.” And this new companion on the road listened. He listened to everything they had to share. He probably watched as they choked back tears recounting that horrific death on the cross. He might have patted one on the shoulder, or put a sympathetic arm around the other. I imagine that more that once on that seven-mile journey he must have said, “Go on.” The funny thing is, this new guy had had a pretty rough week too.

The Messiah, though himself wounded, was right with his followers when they needed him most. What they wanted most was a Messiah to lead them, and that’s exactly what he was doing. They didn’t know it at the time, but of course, how aware are we really of what’s going on around us when we are grief-stricken. It didn’t occur to them to imagine that this might be their teacher, but his lessons continued even still. After he listened to them for what must have been at least a few hours, they ran out of words, there was nothing more to say. So he began to tell them a story. The funny thing was, it was a story they already knew, and it was also his story; a story that began long ago with Moses and God’s people in Egypt, delivered from slavery to new life. He told them about how those people lived and how God loved them and sent the prophets to teach them. Everything he told them pointed to the central truth that has been a part of God’s story from the very beginning, that the Christ must suffer these things to enter into his glory.

By the time Jesus finished, they had arrived in Emmaus, and even though Cleopas and his friend were still drowning in their grief and didn’t “get it,” there was something about this man; they needed more time with him. So they invite him in for the evening, to dine and rest. The man agreed, and the three headed into the house to share a meal together. And that’s when everything changed.

There’s a lot to be said for the hospitality of a meal shared; mostly because it’s about a lot more than just sharing some food with another person. Hospitality is about the space that is created between fellow humans, allowing them to share their deepest selves. The conversation that had begun on the road most certainly continued in the walls of that Emmaus house. And though Cleopas and his companion were technically the hosts, when Jesus blesses and breaks the bread, it almost makes you wonder if perhaps he is the host for these two mourners in their time of suffering. Through his own brokenness, Christ creates a hospitable space where his traveling companions can find healing.

“Many people in this life suffer because they are anxiously searching for the man or woman, the event or encounter, which will take their [sadness] away. But when they enter a house with real hospitality,” with space to share their deepest selves, “they soon see that their own wounds must be understood not as sources of despair and bitterness, but as signs that they have to travel on in obedience to the calling sounds of their own wounds.”[1] The “Wounded Healer” as Henri Nouwen calls him, had traveled with his own wounded followers, and when he broke bread with them in hospitality, their eyes were opened to see that their sadness could be a source of hope and new life, a reason to continue on their own journey, helping bring others to new life. They were longing for a savior, and as they grieved over “everything that had happened,” their eyes were opened.

I began this sermon with the story of Rabbi Joshua enquiring of Elijah when the Messiah would come. The ending of that story is important. Let me share it with you. When the Rabbi found the Messiah, he “said to him, ‘Peace unto you, my master and teacher.’

The Messiah answered, ‘Peace unto you, son of Levi.’

The Rabbi asked, ‘When is the master coming?’

‘Today,’ [the Messiah] answered.

Rabbi Joshua returned to Elijah, who asked, ‘What did he tell you?’

‘He indeed has deceived me, for he said, “Today I am coming” and he has not come.’

Elijah said, ‘This is what he told you: “Today, if you would listen to His voice.”’”

Cleopas and his companion had thought they missed it. As they journeyed in grief, they needed a Savior. And then, he was there. And he’s there for each of us, too. “The master is coming—not tomorrow, but today, not next year, but this year, not after all our misery is passed, but in the middle of it, not in another place but right here where we are standing.”[2]

Perhaps we are that unnamed companion walking in despair with Cleopas. Each of us carries great burdens or sorrows at times in our lives, we need someone to listen to us, and Lord knows we need a Savior. As we break bread together this morning, may our eyes, too, be opened to the Savior in our midst.

 

[1] Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer (New York: Image Doubleday Books, 1972), pg. 92.

[2] Nouwen, 95.

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