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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

“Questions Of Recognition”

Third Sunday of Easter

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Luke 24:15-35

One of the requirements of the Boy Scouts that I remember was the 14-mil hike. The day Myron Weston and I took that hike was quite a few years ago. It wasn’t a very life-changing event but I still remember it very well. All the scouts walked to Sugar Loaf Mountain and back because it was 7 miles out of town. So, one Saturday morning Myron and I set out on our 14-mile hike.

Maybe I remember that day because the walk to Sugar Loaf was pretty tiring. (As I mentioned before, when you live on Lake Superior, any direction you go away from it had to be uphill.)

Maybe I remember that day because of our meal. Myron brought the stuff for sandwiches, and I brought potato chips and pop. (People don’t drink soda in Michigan – they drink pop!) Well, he brought hot dogs for sandwiches, but being Tenderfoot Scouts, we didn’t have any matches to start a fire to roast them. We tried rubbing sticks together and hitting stones together, but we couldn’t start a fire. We thought that hot dogs were raw meat and we didn’t dare eat them unless we could cook ‘em. (My mother explained how dumb I was when I got home, but that’s another story.) So, we ate the buns and chips and drank the pop – not one of my most memorable meals!

Maybe I remember that day because of the walk back to town. We were tired, our feet hurt, and we were tired of walking. Myron even suggested that we hitchhike back. (I think it was Myron that suggested that.) Anyway, we completed our 14-mile hike, had a lousy lunch, and I don’t think the experience did anything in particular for us.

In our Gospel lesson for today we read about 2 other people who took a 14-mile hike: 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and 7 miles back. But their experience was quite different from mine. First of all, Jesus joined them on the way. Secondly, they had the most memorable meal of their whole life! When Jesus took the bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them, and their eyes were opened and they recognized Him – wow! Who would ever forget a meal like that? And thirdly, their trip back to Jerusalem was pure joy. I think they used the “Scout’s Pace”: half walking and half running!

They had seen the risen Lord! They recognized Jesus – not just as a person, but for who He really is! And they couldn’t keep that Good News to themselves. I expect this was the greatest day of their lives! Their 14-mile hike was the highlight of their lives, because they recognized Him.

In our lives, recognition is necessary too. And I’d like to pose 3 questions of recognition for us:

1. Do we recognize who Jesus really is?

2. Do we recognize Jesus when we see Him?

3. Are we recognized as followers of Jesus?

First, do we recognize who Jesus really is? Those two disciples on the road to Emmaus that first Easter Sunday didn’t, did they? They had thought they did. They had seen that He was a prophet, mighty in word and deed. They said they had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. But the Chief Priests and the rulers had delivered Him up to be crucified. And besides, this was now the 3rd day since all that happened. Some of the women had said that they found the tomb empty, and an angel told them that Jesus was alive, but Peter and John had gone and found the empty tomb alright, but they didn’t see Jesus.

The two were discussing what happened, and who was Jesus anyway? So, Jesus said to them, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Luke doesn’t tell us which Scriptures Jesus used to explain the prophecies of the Christ which were given over the centuries. But we can find many that speak concerning His suffering, death, and resurrection.

  • Moses wrote that no bone would be broken.

  • David wrote that He would be betrayed by a friend, accused by false witnesses, that His hands and feet would be pierced, that He would be mocked and insulted, while His friends stood afar off, that they would cast lots for His clothes, that He would be given vinegar and gall and that He would pray for His enemies. Davide also prophesied that He would not remain in the grave.

  • Isaiah told that He would be scourged and spit upon, that He would be silent when He was accused, and that He would die with transgressors but be buried with the rich.

  • Amos said that the sun would be darkened at noon on that day.

  • And Zechariah foretold that He would be sold for 30 pieces of silver, and the money would buy the Potter’s Field.

These might well be some of the Scriptures that Jesus opened to them as they walked along the road together. He showed them that He is the Christ, the promised Messiah – true man so He could die for our sins, and true God so His death had merit – worth – could pay the price of sin. Peter had said it well when he confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Now, if we know who Jesus really is, then I would have a 2nd question: Do we recognize Jesus when we see Him? I don’t mean, do we recognize Him in pictures – the one with the long hair and the beard. No, I mean, do we recognize Him? Or didn’t you realize that we see Him? He says we do!

Listen to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne, and He will say (to those who believe in Him), ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we do all these things?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’” (Matt. 25:30-26:5) Then He will say (to those who did not believe in Him), “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

That’s a hard saying, isn’t it? If I understand Him, He’s saying that He relates so closely to those who need our love, our support, our forgiveness, our help, that when we minister to them as we should, we actually minister to Jesus – or we fail Him!

Remember the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus? He was persecuting Jesus’ followers and was on his way to take any he could find as prisoners to Jerusalem. When a light flashed, he fell to the ground and a voice said, “Why do you persecute me?” And Paul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” Jesus replied. If a Christian is persecuted, Jesus says that He is persecuted!

There’s another way in which we may fail to recognize Him, just as the two on the way to Emmaus did. A week before they had been happy Christians, probably shouting “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday. But then everything went wrong.

Jesus has a lot of friends like that today, who are just as discouraged and bewildered as those two were. Maybe you know one of them. Maybe you are one of them.

These discouraged people can’t pray right, they can’t get anything out of the Bible, they can’t believe as they ought to, nor love God as they should. They can’t live as they should. Sometimes life gets so heavy and so bitter they’d like to get away from it all – maybe even welcome death.

But listen! Jesus walks with us on our way through life. Sometimes we fail to recognize Him just like those on the road to Emmaus did. But He’s in our troubles. He’s present in our doubts. He knows what He’s doing, and He knows what we can endure. It’s the poor in spirit that He calls blessed. He went all the way for us; He’ll go all the way with us!

Now, I said I had 3 questions concerning recognition:

1. Do we recognize who Jesus really is?

2. Do we recognize Jesus when we see Him?

3. Are we recognized as followers of Jesus?

You see, if there’s a problem with Christianity, it’s not that it’s irrelevant, but that Christians so often give the impression that it doesn’t relate to life today. The Gospel hasn’t failed; we have failed in our presentation of it, our demonstration of it. The communication of the Gospel breaks down at the action level.

Our job, then, is to be ambassadors of Christ to a world that is mostly indifferent, disinterested, hostile, and yet in desperate need. We surely know that, generally speaking, our modern world isn’t lying awake at night looking for a gracious God. In general, it couldn’t care less. But our modern world is longing and looking for gracious neighbors.

In His parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus explains what it means to be a good neighbor, and then says, “Go, and do likewise.”

The Apostle John begins his Gospel by writing, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” But apparently the Word wasn’t enough for even God to communicate with mankind, because a few verses later John adds, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Word was mad flesh in Jesus Christ. That’s relevant!! Today!

The world doesn’t want to hear our words, but it is looking for love. Words are necessary; the Gospel has to be told. But words aren’t enough. Our lives need to reflect what we profess. That’s God’s way. That’s what makes His Good News relate to people’s lives today. He’s the one that said, “Go, and do likewise.”

We hear the two that were walking along the road that first Easter Day talking about the past events. They say, “We had hoped.” But Jesus Himself is there in the present tense. Charles Sheldon wrote a book entitles, “In His Steps.” It’s the story of a church that was transformed when the people begin to ask, “What would Jesus do? I want to do what He would do if He were here.”

That’s an interesting question, but it’s not theologically correct, is it? The question isn’t, “What would Jesus do if He were here?” He is here! The real question is, “What are you doing, Jesus? And how can I be part of it?”

That’s the question for those who recognize who He is, and where He is – and want to be recognized as one of His own. May God help us to live for Him!


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