Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Seeing without Knowing and Knowing without Seeing: An Emmaus Event
Sermon Text: Luke 24:13-35
May 4, 2014
Christ is risen! (He is risen, indeed!) Alleluia!
Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 24th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Leaving Jerusalem in Despair
The road to Emmaus from Jerusalem is not a long road – about 7 miles, a 2 to 3 hour walk – but for these two is seems to go on forever. Cleopas and another disciple of Jesus are slowly leaving Zion, holy Jerusalem to return home. Their steps are dusted with despair. Their hearts drag along the way. Their heads are hung low, rising only to speak to one another. Their words bounce back and forth the weekend’s events as they try to make sense of everything that has happened. The one whom they had hoped would be the redeemer of Israel was rejected, condemned, crucified, dead and buried. With Jesus’ death their hope died. With Jesus’ burial their hearts sank. With Jesus’ departure there’s no reason to stay in Jerusalem. With no Jesus there is no meaning to the weekend’s events, no meaning to what has come before and what will surely happen in the days ahead. All meaning has been crucified, dead, and buried. And so these two, Cleopas and another disciple trudge the road to Emmaus with heavy hearts and a weariness that cannot be refreshed no matter what they say or what they do.
This road is the road so many trudge day in and day out these days. Maybe it’s a road you are on today. Disciples walk this road. Unbelievers walk this road. It can be a busy road. It can be a distracting road. It can be a terribly lonely road. Walking this road in the shadow of death and the tomb is a dreary road, a road with no joy, a road with hopes dashed, where understanding is confused, and those wanting to be comforted are often afflicted. The road is not necessarily a long road, but it sure feels like. The road to Emmaus is a road going away from Jerusalem, it is the road trudged by all who think Jesus is still dead, or live as though he were.
Seeing without Knowing
When walking this road Cleopas and the other disciple are happened upon by Jesus. Jesus happens upon them. They do not happen upon Jesus. Jesus find them. They do not find Jesus. Jesus is never lost but “all we like sheep have gone astray, we’ve turned every one to his own way.” We get lost. Cleopas and the other disciple though they know where they’re going, they walk as though they are lost. They are lost because they see Jesus but they do not know Him. Seeing without knowing they continue to walk without understanding, with no meaning.
Humanity wants to walk by sight and not by faith. Jesus appears. He is seen, but seeing doesn’t give faith, or understanding, or peace, or rest. Seeing without knowing is the way of Old Adam. And Old Adam struggle to find meaning in what he sees, observes, measures, evaluates, judges.
We live in a world that has embraced the concept that there is no meaning to words, no meaning to life, no meaning to what we say or what we do. “What does it matter anymore” shrill the politicians asking us to admit, it doesn’t matter, it has no meaning. In world that no longer has meaning, man is left to determine for himself what things mean, what is “meaningful” to him or her.
Seeing without knowing, observing without understanding Cleopas and the other disciple recognized no meaning in the death of Jesus, no meaning in His burial, or even the tales of His resurrection. Thus their despair. Oft times we, impacted by the meaninglessness of our culture, behave the same. We despair. We look around with our eyes and we see suffering. We look within ourselves and we find sin. We look at our neighbors and we quickly judge their inferiority. We behold the brokenness of this life and fail to see a remedy. We feel the pains of our mortality. We hurt and harm others only to be hurt and harmed back. Sinful creatures cannot find meaning in themselves until Jesus happens upon us and give us His Word. For the Lord of heaven and earth gives meaning to our existence, to the happenings of this world and the events we all suffer, through His Word. His Word gives understanding. His Word opens ears to hear and eyes to see what is true and what is real not just for individuals, not just for “christians” not just for certain communities or cultures, but real and true for all people, every race, every gender, and every age, until the end of time.
Catechesis/Breaking of the Bread
And so when Jesus happens upon Cleopas and the other disciple there is a shift; a cosmic, life altering, world changing tremor that is heard and felt deep into their very core. Happening upon these and any other walking this road Jesus does not give them sight in order to give them understanding. He does not reveal Himself through the eyes. No, instead He gives them ears to hear. For the ear is the funnel to the heart and the Word of God is the quickening agent poured out richly from the mouth of God to the ears of men, women and children. To give meaning and understanding humanity must first encounter the Lord of heaven and earth. All meaning flows from the mouth of God to the hearts of men. And humanity cannot know or understand the heart of God unless we hear Him. When Jesus speaks to Cleopas and the other disciples, when Jesus speaks His Word to you through scripture, liturgy, sermons, or hymns, He is revealing His heart toward you, for you, that your heart be set at ease through the forgiveness of sins.
You see beloved, to understand the world around you, to find meaning even in the midst of sin, death and suffering, to grasp the God of your creation and behold a purpose in what you say and do, you must first listen to Him. You must first be right with the Lord. You must first believe. Faith first then understanding. Believing does not come by sight. Believing comes by hearing. Cleopas and the other disciple, any other disciple, including you, must first be hearing the Word of Christ for you.
That’s why Jesus happens upon people walking this road. He happens upon us to preach to us, open the scriptures before us and let the Word work on us. He sets before us His cross. He sets before you His cross; His suffering, death and burial. He interprets it for you. Jesus does not leave you to your own understandings. Jesus does not leave you to your own judgments. He draws near with His Word. He forgives sins. He is gentle and kind and merciful and loving. In Jesus God reconciles Himself to us. In Jesus God makes things right. This making things right happens in baptism under water. It happens in catechesis, bible study. the historic liturgy, the hymns we sing, the readings we hear, the lessons we learn.
And it happens at the table. The whole point of our text is that we are led to the table. The whole point of the gospel of Luke is that we are led to the table. Everything has been leading us to this table where Jesus is both host and meal. It’s for this reason He died and for this reason He’s risen, that He be for us, for you, the bread of life. For man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. That word is a life-giving Word. That word is a Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, suffered the pains of the cross, died our death and rose from the dead in order to bring life and immortality to light, to give understanding to the confounded and comfort to the afflicted, to draw near the lonely and to raise up the downtrodden. Jesus happens upon the road to Emmaus, the road we all walk as we strive to get by, so that through His death and resurrection we may be brought to the table and recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Jesus opens us to the Word and the Word leads us to the supper.
Knowing without Seeing
Previously, before the Word came to our hearts we saw but did not know. Now that the Word Himself has come, now that we have heard His voice and recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, we know though we do not see. For just as Cleopas recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread and then saw him no more, so also do we Christians recognize Jesus in the Supper. Though we do not see Him we believe in Him. Believing in Him we love Him. We love Him because His Word has laid hold of our hearts and washed away the anxieties of this world, the devil’s afflictions and even our own sins. Jesus has happened to us and we rejoice! Jesus has happened to us and we are forgiven. Jesus has happened to us and we are given to eat and to drink more of Him, to draw nearer to His bosom and recline, even rest, in Him as the disciples of the Lord are bidden to do.
Knowing without seeing we are confident that the Lord Himself abides with us and gives meaning to our daily routines. Having been washed, sanctified and justified by His Name through water and the Word, we Christians are no longer lost wandering about the road without purpose. But we have been called. We’ve been given a vocation in which we are to remain steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain! (1 Cor. 15:58). Therefore what we say and what we do if done in faith according to the Word of the Lord is truly good, right and salutary, not for us but for our neighbor. Our purpose and meaning in life flows from Christ to us through the Word and the sacraments and then from us to others as we love and serve our neighbor. We do not see what we give, we do not feel the benefits and often times are not given to behold the fruit of our work. But knowing without seeing we trust that the Lord is with us. We hold firm His Word in our hearts and seek to understand the world we live according to what our redeemer has revealed. And all along we are like Cleopas and the other disciple – we await the Lord’s reappearing.
Back to Jerusalem with Joy
Beloved in the Lord, the road to Emmaus was not a long road and it was a road these men quickly travelled back to Jerusalem. Such a road we also find ourselves. Some are walking away from Jerusalem, dejected and despairing, suffering without the Word of the resurrected Christ. Others run with Cleopas back to the Holy City with joy in the hearts and the divine message on their lips. This I pray, is the direction you are going – back to Jersalem, back to Zion, back to the city of peace for it is the destination of all who hear and believe and are baptized. We’re marching to Zion, marching to the city of our God, trampling over devils and demons, sharing the message of Christ with all who cross our path, reaching down to lift up the suffering and joining them with us, binding wounds with the gospel of our God, comforting hearts with the sure and certain hope of eternal life, calling the nations to turn around, and turn back to the Lord their God, to walk with us rather than against us, to hear the Word of the Lord and be saved. For our joy cannot be contained. Our message will not be silenced. Our mission will never cease, not until that day when we reach our journey’s end, not until that day when the Savior calls us home and we enter finally and forever the great assembly of saints and angles, joining with the whole heavenly host and singing, “This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia! For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!