First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Dr. Jane Florence
April 15, 2018
Scripture: Luke 24:13-21a
Sermon: “Emmaus Eyes”
In the scripture story for today, it is still Easter day. The women go to the tomb this morning. They find it empty. The women return to the disciples and tell the others they have not only seen angels, but have talked to them, and Jesus is alive! The disciples think the women are hysterical with grief.
These two have turned their backs on all this foolishness. They are going home.
“Two of them” were walking along the road of broken dreams, shattered hopes, dead ends. No doubt their eyes were as downcast as their spirits. One of them kicked a rock off the path in frustration and anger. It came near to hitting the man ahead of them, the stranger they hadn’t seen in their path. He spoke, “What’s up?”
They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s up?” 1He asked them, “about what?” They replied, “about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet- our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be crucified. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
These two told a stranger their grief story of following Jesus from town to town, listening to his teaching and stories, and watching crowds gather around him! What a year it had been! How he brought hope to their spirits! Things would be different from now on, or so they had thought.
It’s the very first Easter afternoon, and it’s not the snow that’s keeping the disciples from being out on the lawn hiding Easter eggs on Sunday afternoon. They had hoped Jesus was the one: the one to bring Israel out of bondage like Moses did so long ago. They had hoped he would be the one to bring their nation back to greatness again like King David did. They had hope that he would be the one that gave hope to the poor and the outcaste. They had put all their hope in him. Instead of watching and helping him rise to power and leadership of their nation, they had watched him die. Their hopes died with him. So back home they go. They are going back to fishing, raising sheep, or whatever they had done before Jesus. They are going back to hopelessness.
The stranger on the road listens to their story. The man began talking about Moses, the one who led their people to freedom. The stranger reminded them that Moses faced impossible odds against the Pharaoh, still he had hope. Then the stranger started talking about their prophets, the ones who called their people to justice. The prophets were ran out of town and threatened with death, still they had hope.
As they neared their destination and paused in the doorway of the house, the stranger turned to continue down the road. These two weren’t finished with their conversation. This guy had a different view of things, they wanted to hear more. They somehow felt more at peace talking to him, so they urged him strongly “Stay with us” they said.
One of them felt a shiver of guilt run down his spine when he said those words. Weren’t those words what Jesus had said to them in the garden the night before his death, “Stay with me. Keep watch and pray.” Only they hadn’t stayed.
The three of them went inside and continued to discuss fallen hopes and scripture teachings. When it was time to eat, they moved to the table. Their guest reached out “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” His dark eyes sparkled and crinkled at the corners in a pleasant natural way like it was something he did often. He smiled at them. Their eyes opened wide, then he vanished from their sight.
They had walked down a road dejected, hopeless, consumed in their grief and they almost missed seeing the holy stranger who walked with them. When they started talking to the stranger, the text said these disciples walking to Emmaus, “stood still looking sad.” They stopped in their tracks. In order to encounter the stranger, they had to stop. When they stopped, they told this stranger of their journey. They told of their own disappointments and confusion along the journey. They told of the surprising twist and turns of their journey. They became vulnerable with a stranger. They spent time with the stranger. They even invited this stranger to dinner with them, even to lodge with them in their home.
The scripture we heard today begins, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him,” I wonder what kept their eyes from recognizing Jesus? Was it because this man before them doesn’t look at all like Jesus? He doesn’t look like a walking corpse Zombie or anything like a man who had been crucified three days ago? Were their eyes kept from recognizing him because they were so caught up in their grief, they really never looked into his eyes? Were their eyes kept from seeing him because he had a foreign accent, or different skin tone? Because their own fears or prejudice blocked their vision? Were they just too busy with their own thoughts? Those are things that keep our eyes from seeing the Christ in people we pass every day, right?
When we are in our own little world, we are looking through the eyes of our ego- the eyes of our self-interests. As the disciples walked along they were consumed with their own story- their experience of the last year with Jesus, and their experience of his death. They were caught up in their stuff.
We see what we are looking for when we are looking through ego eyes for things that fit what we already believe, things that suit us and not challenge us. We see what we want to see.
By the end of the story it says, “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road.’” Their hearts were burning; they should have known. They admit that their hearts recognized Jesus. Their hearts burned within them. Their bodies KNEW what their brains refused to even see. The eyes of their heart were opened on this road to Emmaus, so they no longer saw through their ego eyes that told them they were smarter than those crazy women who talked to the angels. Their ego eyes that told them what fit their construct and what didn’t. They learned to recognize Christ with Emmaus eyes as Jesus offered a means to connect with them that circumvented their ego eyes when he took bread, blessed, broke and gave it to them.
Finally they get it, his actions were the touchstone to that last night with them. He promised them an open channel to connect with him always. He promised them when they shared bread and wine they would know he was with them. Their hearts knew and opened their eyes to know as well.
May we find that our practice of table Eucharist opens our eyes wide to see with new eyes that we are more than these physical bodies. Our spirits continue to connect beyond mystery of death. We are one with all who ever have and ever will share this table. We our Emmaus eyes help us to see the Christ in the strangers walking beside us on our life journey as well.
May it be so.