“Walking Home” (Luke 24:13-35)
Walking is good for you. It’s healthy. It gets the heart pumping, the blood circulating, and the lungs respiring. I know that I ought to do more of it. In fact, just yesterday my son said to me, “You’re like a nice warm pillow that walks around and takes care of me.” There was a part of me that appreciated that sweet sentiment. Another part of me immediately thought, “I know I could stand to do a few extra sit-ups, but I don’t think I’m at the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man stage just yet.” My exercise regime is not what it should be. And walking is so easy. All you have to do is put on a pair of decent shoes, some comfortable clothes, and go. And when it’s raining outside, I can always use the treadmill in our bedroom. Even on those warm sunny days in Cucamonga, my dad used to say that he preferred using the treadmill. Can you guess why? He explained, “When I feel like stopping, I don’t have to turn around and come home. I’m already there!”
I don’t know if the two disciples in today’s Gospel lesson were heading home to Emmaus. That was their destination, but whether it was home, the text doesn’t say. All we know is that they were walking there and planned on staying the night there. Maybe they had reservations at the Emmaus Comfort Inn.
Whether Emmaus was their home or not, what we do know is that they were walking away from where the action was. The two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem … and you know what had just happened there. Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified. Not only that but he was laid in a tomb made secure so that his disciples could not be accused of stealing the body of their Master. His opponents wanted to make sure that everyone knew he was dead … finished … kaput. But three days later the tomb was empty and people were running around claiming to have seen Jesus alive. Apparently, these two followers of Jesus on their way to Emmaus were like Thomas, who was not there on the night when Jesus first appeared alive to the other ten remaining disciples. They, too, doubted whether all that they had heard about was true.
As they walked, we see some things about their condition. They were unaware of the presence of Jesus, who had appeared and began to walk along with them (although, of course, St. Luke writes that this was because they “were kept from recognizing him”). They were uncertain and confused. They were sad. After all, they thought their beloved teacher was dead. And they heard some strange news about visions of angels, an empty tomb, and a missing body.
In addition, they were clearly discouraged. They had lost hope. They called Jesus a “prophet, mighty in word and deed before God and all the people.” But apparently they no longer believed that Jesus was the
said, “we had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel.” Like the rest of Jesus’ followers, they
probably expected him to lead the people in defeating the Romans and
reestablishing King David’s throne in Jerusalem.
What a surprise it must have been for them to hear what came from the mouth of this “stranger” who was walking with them. He rebuked them for their foolishness and dullness of heart not to believe all that the Scriptures said. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” he said to them. Then he proceeded to explain to them what was said in Moses and all the Prophets – meaning the OT Scriptures – about the Man from Nazareth … about himself.
You know, you and I are not all that different from those two men on their walk to Emmaus. Wherever you and I walk – and I don’t mean on the street or on the treadmill … I mean wherever our life takes us – we are often uncertain, sad, and discouraged. We lose hope when it looks like there is no way out from behind the troublesome stones that are rolled in the way of our faith, our peace, and our joy. Jesus is with us on the way, but we are often unaware of his presence. Our sinful hearts keep us from recognizing that his love and mercy support us and strengthen us. We, too, are foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the Scriptures say about Jesus and his love and care for us.
The two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem … away from where all the action was. But the action was right in front of them. The Risen Jesus was walking right along with them. And after he explained the Scriptures to them, he stayed with them a while longer and sat down with them for an evening meal. It was at that meal where their eyes were opened. Jesus revealed himself in the breaking of the bread at the table with them.
Even if this place they were staying was not their home, they were already at home … at home where the action was … at home because Jesus was there with his forgiving presence and his resurrection life. In the presence of Jesus … that is the Christian’s true home.
You and I are at home at the table … at the Lord’s Table. You and I are truly at home in the presence of Jesus. The action is right in front of us … in Word and Sacrament … in the way Jesus walks with us and takes care of us moment by moment even when we are unaware of his presence. And finally, in the Resurrection on the Last Day, we will be eternally at home with Jesus … no longer walking by faith only, but resting eternally in his presence, seeing him face to face.
Before we leave our text this morning, notice, too, how Cleopas and the other disciple walked back to tell about the “action” that had occurred right in front of them. They recalled to each other how their hearts burned within them while Jesus talked to them on the road. That’s the power of God’s Word. It motivated the two disciples to immediately walk the seven miles back to Jerusalem. They couldn’t contain their excitement that they had communed with the Risen Jesus. They had to tell someone. “They told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Does our heart burn within us? Not always. Sometimes it does because of the pizza we ate the night before. Sometimes it burns within us for various reasons due to our fickle emotions. But does our heart burn within us with a holy fire sparked by the Holy Spirit? The flame of faith is there as God’s baptized children. But the flame needs to be fanned and kept burning. We need to slow down and take time to listen to God’s Word – to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it – and hear God speaking to us in His Holy Word, his two-edged sword that pierces our hearts and convicts us of our sin, draws us to repentance, and comforts us with the Good News of forgiveness in Christ Jesus.
May God grant to us hearts burning with the desire to tell what has happened on the road for us. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we can tell how the Lord Jesus has been with us along the way, while we walk day by day, moment by moment, trusting in his loving care … even when we were not aware of his presence … how he cares for us in the midst of our discouragement, our confusion, our uncertainty, our sadness. He restores our hope, because we know that he truly has come to redeem Israel ... that is, the Holy Christian Church … all who are justified by faith in Christ Jesus and are baptized into the name of the Triune God. He has saved you, as St. Peter said, “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.”
And we can tell how the Lord Jesus is known to us in the breaking of the bread. Here, at the altar, we eat and drink the precious body and blood of Jesus. This is truly home for us. And one day, our walking through this sinful world will cease, and we will walk home through the gates of heaven and eternally be at home with Jesus, feasting forever at his banquet table.