Sunday, April 30, 2017

They Recognized Him in the Breaking of Bread

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles [1] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
 28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said 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?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35 (ESV)
“And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said 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 and they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem and they found the eleven and those who were gathered together saying “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how we was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”1 Corinthians 11:26 (ESV)
An enigmatic passage from Paul. You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. It is something we perhaps don’t always like to see. Our natural man flees in horror at the sight of death, it is to be avoided at all costs. Oh we talk about how it was time, they had a long life. They were suffering they are better now. It may be true if the person was a Christian and died in the faith. Scriptures speak of another reality, the reality for which Christ died, the reality from which we are saved by his death, when we are buried into it in baptism that we may be raised to walk in the newness of life, the road upon which Christ makes our hearts burn as he explains his victory, speaking to us his gospel from the scriptures, all of which speak of him, our savior. It is upon the road of faith we walk in the newness of life, that the Lord sustains our faith in the Lord’s Supper where we proclaim his death that we might recognize him in the breaking of the bread and all our suffering, all our worries and anxieties may be turned to joy as we realize the victory.
Walking the road of faith in the newness of life. We are on the road, pilgrims to the Promised Land, walking together with one another as we make our way home to heaven. But we aren’t there yet. We still live in this world, and the journey isn’t always an easy one. It is plagued by sin, death and the devil, the prowling lion who seeks to devour us and our faith. We often find ourselves discouraged like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. If Christ is our savior, then things should not be going so badly for us, right? The student is not above the master.
He suffered, but his suffering had purpose and gained meaning in victory, in resurrection. So to now his death becomes a source of joy for us. I knew nothing among you but Christ and him Crucified, Paul says to the Corinthians. It is the very gospel itself. That God died for our sins, Christ was crucified for you. It is why the depiction brings such joy for so many Christians and is displayed in so much art. But of course if Christ had not risen from the dead then the pain would have been meaningless. Perhaps the same way defeat has the power to bring on such depression. Was it all meaningless? I think of races which we try hard to win, we train and train, no pain no gain we tell ourselves. But when it was all for not… Cancer patients can find solace and comfort in the midst of their pain if they know it is working, the chemo, the radiation. The good news from the doctor that they are in remission, it makes it all worth it. So it is for the Christian, for we suffer here, not for ourselves but for Christ who is our life, who works in and through all we do, and even all we suffer to accomplish his purpose in and through us here in this world. His purpose is our salvation, but not only our salvation. If that were the case, he might actually drown us in baptism that we die not only the spiritual death of the old Adam, but the physical death that is brought about by the cessation of our hearts. If he were only worried about our salvation we might become nothing more than a death cult bent on a grand suicide mission, all taking a cocktail or purple  Kool-Aid, before meeting Hailey’s commit in the sky. I mean what is this world to us if heaven is our home? This world is Christ’s world, the world in which he toiled and suffered and died for our salvation that we might live in him and him in us. This world and all who are in it, our children who give us fits, our parents who drive us insane, our coworkers who seem as inept as we are at getting it all together, our friends who suffer without knowing their hope, with no burning in their hearts, without recognizing Christ in the breaking of the bread. We suffer this world for them, because Christ suffered this world for their salvation, and so he still suffers in and through us for them. Our suffering is his suffering.
But we are not alone on this road. It sometimes feels a lonely way. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had each other but felt alone. Alone is how you feel in despair, when you suffer without hope. It often doesn’t matter who is with you or not in the hospital, if you have no hope. We’ve all suffered that melancholia, have we not? So many friends, we go through motions, faking it until we make it. Perhaps they provide a diversion from our worries, and that is a wonderful thing to do for a friend in need. Luther recommends it over and over again. It is part and parcel of what he means when he talks about the mutual consolation of the saints in his letters. That you grab your friends and celebrate life with them in the midst of depression, but then give them something to celebrate, give them Christ! Proclaim his death until he comes. Because he is with us in this journey, and it is he who comes to us through or Christian friends speaking encouragement and hope in the life eternal the resurrection of the body, in the salvation of our souls through the forgiveness of sins for which he died. He it is who comes to us in scripture, and the spoken word, the glad tidings of comfort and joy amidst a dark and dreary winter night, that he might make himself known to us in the breaking of bread.
Christ makes himself known to us in the breaking of bread, because it is there that he gives us the forgiveness of sins that he won for us in the death we proclaim until he comes, and then it is with joy having all sins of body and soul forgiven. The disciples, their hearts began to burn as Christ talked to them, but there was uncertainty. Who was this man? What was he speaking about? Yes, the scriptures did speak this way about the suffering servant. But was it really true? Then Christ broke the bread and they recognized their salvation, their Lord, the forgiveness was for them. Jesus is for them. Jesus is for you.
Here is his body given for you. Here is his blood of the New Testament, the Testament in which he makes you coheirs of salvation and victory with him, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Here is the certainty of salvation, that he reaches out his hand to you and says: take eat, take drink. Here you receive the benefits of his death, here you receive the forgiveness of sins and share in his victory that you might return to the road in the midst of night running for joy as you walk in the newness of life.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

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