“They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32
We are still within the Easter Season and hearing about the disciples experiencing the Risen Christ.
All four gospels – Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John – want the readers and hearers of their respective gospel to know who Jesus truly is.
Today from Luke’s Gospel we see two disciples of Jesus leaving Jerusalem and walking to Emmaus.
It is still Easter Sunday but those two seemed to have gathered their things and are headed to Emmaus, which may have been their home. Everything they hoped for lies in ruin. They are sad and defeated even though they heard of women having gone to the tomb, saw that Jesus’ body was gone and they met some angels who told them Jesus was alive. Some of the disciples went to the tomb and it was as the women said but they did not see him. These two on the road were astounded by what the women had said.
Astounded means more than surprised. It is closer to amazement and borders on being incredible – not totally believable.
Given these two disciples left Jerusalem sad and dejected suggests they did not believe the women who reported, ‘Jesus is alive.’
This is the challenge for us all. We hear scripture’s accounts of the resurrection of Jesus but are we more astounded than convinced? It is amazing, but also shocking and bewildering. Can it really be true?
First century people were not that different from us. They knew what it means to be dead. The dead stay dead. They don’t come back to life.
So these two disciples on the road to Emmaus had heard that Jesus was alive but they did not believe it.
They pack up their things and leave town, sad and defeated. Their hopes that Jesus was the messiah who would redeem Israel were dashed. He was not the messiah because he was crucified, dead, and was buried.
In Easter we hear these stories of scripture telling us that Jesus was raised from the dead. We leave church and go home. What is our conversation either with our self or with others along the way about what we have heard from the Gospel?
Are we astounded? Shocked? Amazed? Do we think this is all too good to be true? Do we think it is too much to believe?
Do we wish it were true but conclude it is simply too astounding?
Well, Luke is quite willing to have two disciples react that way. The two on the road to Emmaus are astounded and not able to accept what the women reported. They are convinced of the reality of Christ’s crucifixion but of his resurrection they are astounded but not convinced. They leave for home. They have given up. It is over. What they had hoped for did not come to pass. Their teacher, who they thought was the messiah, was no messiah after all. He was killed. And the messiah can’t be killed, so obviously, they had to conclude, Jesus was not the messiah. He was mighty in deed and word, who they hoped would redeem God’s people, but he was handed over, crucified, and died. And their hopes died with him.
Last week we heard about Thomas and his insistence that unless he saw the scars in the hands and side of Jesus, he would not believe. We talked about that Thomas was allowed his doubts and we too can have our doubts about Jesus being raised from the dead.
We can honour our doubts. However, Thomas did not stay with his doubts. He is called Doubting Thomas but the truth is Thomas did not remain a doubting person. He was with the disciples in the room. It is kind of like saying, Thomas went to church – he gathered with the others. And his gathering with them meant he was present when Jesus appeared a second time to those in the room. Thomas saw Jesus, Jesus spoke to him, and as far as we know Thomas did not put his hand into the scars of Jesus’ hand and side, but he was convinced of Jesus being raised from the dead, and confessed, My Lord and my God.
It is ok to doubt but we are also shown the example of showing up and truly seeking to know for ourselves who Jesus is.
It is Jesus himself who convinces Thomas. We need to move from doubt to belief.
We will see that it is Jesus too who will convince the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that he has been raised from the dead.
He does so in a unique way. He appears to them and walks with them on the road. They don’t recognize him. He is interested in their situation. He wants to know what is bothering them, what they are discussing as they walk along.
A good way to read scripture is to put yourself in the stories. What road are you walking on and what are you pondering? What is bothering you? What questions do you have about the person of Jesus? What astounds you but leaves you unsure of who he is? Hear his question, ‘What are you discussing?’ ‘What are you wondering about?’ ‘What do you want to ask me?’
Jesus does something very ordinary and quite extraordinary with the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus – he opens to them the scriptures.