“On the Road and at the Table with Jesus” (Luke 24:13-35)

Third Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2023

“On the Road and at the Table with Jesus” (Luke 24:13-35)

The painting I’m holding in front of you–and you can see it on your bulletin insert–is called, in German, “Gang nach Emmaus,” or in English, “The Road to Emmaus.” It’s by a 19th-century Swiss artist, Robert Zünd. And it’s one of my favorite paintings. Imagine putting yourself into this picture and getting to walk alongside Jesus as he opens up the Scriptures! And then when you get to Emmaus, to be right there at the table with Jesus! What a day! What an experience! “On the Road and at the Table with Jesus!”

First, though, let’s set the scene. It’s a Sunday–in fact, it’s the Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead. But the two guys who set out from Jerusalem to go to Emmaus that day–they don’t know that. They don’t know that their master, Jesus of Nazareth, has risen from the dead. Oh, they had heard this crazy report that some of the women brought back that morning. The women said that they had gone to the tomb, the tomb was empty, and an angel told them that Jesus had risen from the dead. Yeah, right. Who can believe that?

These guys had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, which is supposed to be a joyous festival. But for them it turned out to be a heart-breaking disappointment, a crushing blow. Their master, Jesus, had been betrayed and arrested and put to death. Death on a cross–crucified, like a common criminal! And he was the one they had been pinning their hopes on! Jesus was the one they thought was going to make Israel great again! They thought he would be the Messiah, who would deliver Israel from the hands of the Romans. Restore the nation to its former glory. A new David! The long-promised King of Israel! But now this. He’s dead. And all their hopes have died with him.

They explain all this to the stranger on the road. They hadn’t noticed him catching up to them, but there he is. He should look familiar to them, but something–or someone–is keeping them from recognizing him. The stranger asks, “What have you guys been talking about?” They stop and look at him. They’re amazed that this guy hasn’t heard the big news about what happened in Jerusalem just a couple of days earlier. “You mean you haven’t heard what happened to Jesus of Nazareth? Surely everyone who was there has heard about it. It was the talk of the town!”

So they fill him in: “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” And then they tell him the wild talk from the women, that nonsense about Jesus rising from the dead.

But at that, the stranger tells them: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And they’re thinking: “Who is this guy? Who gave him the right to call us ‘foolish’ and ‘slow of heart to believe’? And what’s this strange idea he has, that the Messiah must suffer first? Are you kidding? We were expecting a glorious Messiah! This suffering and death business–a Messiah who is rejected and killed? This doesn’t make sense! It doesn’t fit our paradigm!”

But then the stranger starts explaining this as they walk along: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” What a Bible study this must have been! Jesus has the whole Old Testament to choose from as he explains about a Messiah who suffers. So, what are some of the Scriptures Jesus could have used to teach them this? Let’s think of a few.

“Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets.” So let’s begin with the First Book of Moses, Genesis. Right away, right after the fall into sin, there is the first promise of a Savior. He’s called the “woman’s seed,” who will stomp on the head of the devil. But what will happen to him as he does that? The serpent will strike him in the heel. Think of how Jesus would be nailed to the cross. Already we have a suffering Christ, right out of the box. But that’s how he will reverse the curse and win the victory over sin and death–through suffering.

Think of how Adam and Eve tried to cover up their shame with fig leaves. That didn’t work. But God covered them with skins of animals. Meaning, someone had to die in their place. Adam and Eve should have died that day, but God provided a substitute.

Or think of the exodus from Egypt. Death should have struck the homes of the Israelites, but God provided the Passover lamb, whose blood on the doorposts spared them from death. Or think of all the animal sacrifices at the tabernacle and temple. Blood was shed, sacrifices were made, to cover the sins of the Israelites. These all pointed ahead to Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Yes, a suffering Christ, whose perfect sacrifice atones for your sins and mine. As St. Peter writes, in the Epistle you heard today: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” Brothers and sisters, God has set you free, he has redeemed you from sin and death. How? By the blood of Jesus Christ, the holy Lamb of God.

A suffering Christ. A righteous sufferer. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22, the psalm most vividly portraying the crucifixion of Christ. You see, the suffering Christ was right there in their Scriptures all along, but these Emmaus guys hadn’t gotten it, nor had the rest of the disciples.

Or consider the most direct prophecy of a suffering Messiah, Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant: “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” There it is, right there in their own Bible! But these fellas had not put two and two together. Nobody had. They had not figured out that this was exactly what Jesus did, that this was who Jesus was. Jesus is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, suffering and dying for the sins of the people, for our sins as well. By his stripes, with his holy wounds, we are healed. This is the Savior we need! Jesus is the righteous one who suffers and dies for us, to take our place and suffer the judgment we deserve, so that God’s judgment will not fall on us.

Well, Jesus could have gone on, explaining these things. But the road to Emmaus is only seven miles long. These disciples wished it was seventy times seven! They don’t want the stranger to leave. They want to hear more. So they invite him into the house. “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” And when they sit down at table to eat, the guest starts acting like the host! “He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” Now their eyes are opened! Now they recognize him! It’s Jesus who has been teaching them. It’s Jesus who is breaking bread with them. It’s Jesus, risen from the dead! He really is alive! Now it’s all starting to come together for them. And with that, Jesus vanishes from their sight. And they say to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Friends, on the road to Emmaus, and at the table in the breaking of the bread, our risen Lord Jesus Christ sets the pattern for his church for all ages to come. It’s Sunday, the first day of the week, the day when our Lord rose from the dead. And so every Sunday becomes another Easter, because on this day Jesus meets with his church. He opens up the Scriptures to us. He opens our minds to understand the Scriptures, that it’s all about him, a Savior who loves us and suffers and dies for our sins and rises from the dead. Now we are forgiven. Now, baptized in his name, we will share in his resurrection. This is what it’s all about.

Brothers and sisters, every Sunday Jesus joins us on our journey through life, on our own Emmaus road. And when we reach our final destination, there we will see our Lord face to face. There he will be our host at his heavenly banquet, the wedding feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which will have no end. We receive a foretaste of that feast to come in the Lord’s Supper, as Jesus invites us to his Table every Sunday.

On the road and at the table with Jesus: Friends, you don’t have to walk to Emmaus to experience this. No, Jesus comes right here to us. Abiding with us. Opening the Scriptures to us. Hosting us at his Table. Dear fellow Emmaus disciples, our risen Lord Jesus is with us, on the road and at the table! And it’s a beautiful picture indeed!

Published in: on April 22, 2023 at 12:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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