Hi, my name is Ian. I am a second year student at St. John’s College. I came to Auckland from Malaysia. After 20 years, we moved down to Christchurch right after the earthquake and came back to Auckland last year. It has been a journey. Our Gospel reading today is about a journey too, a journey of two of Jesus’ disciples on the road to Emmaus. I will compare the journey of these two disciples to my own Christian walk and come up with three key points for us today. So, let us get started.
These two disciples witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, a mighty prophet, God’s chosen One whom they had hoped would redeem Israel and set them free from the pagan rule. But Jesus was crucified, dead and gone and so was the disciples’ hope. They were walking away from the grave of someone who meant very much to them. This was a journey of grief, discouragement and disillusion, a journey away from Jerusalem, away from the fellowship of God’s people. Verse thirteen reads, ‘they were going to a village about seven miles away from Jerusalem.’ Verse fifteen, ‘they were talking and discussing’, according to Bible commentary, the discussion seems to have been intense which suggests strong debate and dispute.
Right at this moment, in verse seventeen, we read, ‘Jesus said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” Jesus asked them, “What things?” Why did Jesus ask these obvious questions? What was He up to? He obviously knew all the answers better than anyone else.
About seven years ago, in Auckland, I asked a weird question myself. The question was so spiritual that I suspected it might have been from the Holy Spirit. This happened when, as a Christian, I belonged and was involved in a wonderful church, married to a beautiful Christian lady, had two lovely children, settled in a job that offered a perfect balance of responsibility and pay cheque, ideal for our mortgage and holiday. It was perfect. Except, I was bothered by a question, ‘Is this all that is to it? A perfect life?’ At the time, I was reading the book of James which talks about the trials of many kinds. But, I sure did not have any trial, persecution or suffering in my life as a Christian. So what was the problem? The problem was God cared about me too much to leave me as I was, even in my perceived ‘perfect life.’ The Holy Spirit cared enough about me to ask the honest question.
So why did Jesus ask the disciples those obvious questions? Jesus cared about the two disciples who were discouraged and confused on their journey and helped by asking them questions that empowered them to be honest and to deal with their many struggles.
Jesus also cared about me too much to just leave me as I was, in my temporal ‘perfect’ state of life, by challenging me with an honest and soul searching question to deal with my spiritual complacency.
This same Jesus cares so much about each and every one of you no matter where you are on your life journey. He is asking you to be real and to be honest with your issues.
My second point is this; Jesus was right there with them throughout their journey. Verse 15 reads, ‘While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them.’ After Jesus prompted the two disciples to talk about what had happened, they replied that all the things that had happened were about Jesus of Nazareth. From all that Jesus had done and said, His crucifixion by the religious leaders, the women’s testimonies and the vision of angels, Jesus was right there through it all. But they did not see Him. Verse 25, then Jesus said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!’ Verse 27, ‘Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them the things about Himself in all the scriptures.’ Verse 32, The two disciples 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?”
In my case, while I was challenged living my ‘perfect life’ in Auckland during 2010, an earthquake in Christchurch struck and it caught my attention. In the midst of the millions of questions I had at the time, a scripture came to my mind. It was Genesis chapter 12, verse 1, where God called Abraham to leave his country and his father’s house to go to the land that God would show him. My heart was stirred to leave Auckland and head down to Christchurch. It was crazy. Everyone in my life was against the idea including myself. After the second earthquake, the stirring in my heart grew stronger. So, we left our ‘perfect’ life in Auckland to go down to Christchurch.
All the things that happened around the two disciples along their journey did not help them to see Jesus. What did Jesus do? Jesus brought them back to the scriptures. It was when the scriptures were interpreted and opened to them by Jesus that their hearts were burning. They came to life. This was what Jesus referred to when He said to the two disciples, ‘how slow of heart to believe’ they were.
From my journey of relocating from Auckland to Christchurch, my own reasoning, and all the people around me: my employer, colleages, customers, my parents, my church’s pastor, my friends in the church, with the best of intention, could not help me to hear the voice of Jesus. It was the scripture about Abraham which stirred my heart and directed my path. This is a journey travelled only by faith and not by sight. In our journeys we are surrounded by many voices; our own and other people’s, but only through the scriptures received by faith can we believe in our hearts that Jesus is with us every step of our journey.
This leads us to the third and final point of the journey. Jesus reveals Himself to the two disciples. In the beginning at verse 16 it says, ‘but their eyes were kept from recognising Jesus’, then in verse 31, ‘their eyes were opened, and they recognised him.’ To recognise Jesus as the Lord and God is a divine revelation. Unless God reveals Himself, the two disciples could not have recognised Him. Jesus was the One who went after the two disciples who were moving away from Him at the beginning of this journey. Jesus was the One who had kept them from recognising Himself. If Jesus had revealed Himself right at the beginning, that would have changed the whole journey. Their whole journey would have been cut short; there would have been less conversation and fellowship among them with less or no interpretation and opening up of the scriptures by Jesus to the disciples. The two disciples would have had no choice but to snap out of their situations and drop to the ground in worship of their Lord and God.
In Verse 28 and 29, Jesus even walked ahead as if he were going on His own journey, allowing the two disciples free choice to invite Jesus when they urged Him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So Jesus went in to stay with them.’ Yes, Jesus was in the active role, but He also invited the disciples to play their parts in this journey. It was this partnership in the whole journey which led to the most exciting part in verse 30 and 31, ‘When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him; and he vanished from their sight.’ This was the icing on the cake. Important and impactful as it was to recognise Jesus, it was simply a part of the journey which illuminated the whole journey. They got up and returned to Jerusalem to testify to the rest of Jesus’ disciples that ‘The Lord has risen indeed!’
On my journey, it was not until we settled in Christchurch and attended an Anglican church down there on Sunday for the very first time in our lives, that I recognised the voice of Jesus. It was in the sermon on that Sunday when the vicar preached on Genesis chapter 12, verse 1, where God called Abraham to leave his country and his father’s house to go to the land that God would show him. I heard God spoke to me right there and then as clearly as I know that I am standing here and preaching in front of you.
In conclusion, no matter where we are on our journey, whether going through the toughest season of our lives or the best time of our lives, be real and honest about it because Jesus cares about every part of it.
He is there every single step of our journeys. There are trials of many kinds and temptations from all directions of the world. But take heart! The Scriptures will testify with the Holy Spirit’s in our hearts that Jesus is with us on our journeys.
As we are faithfully journeying along, Jesus will reveal Himself to us with a glimpse or a spark to strengthen and empower us to testify to and encourage others on their journeys. Amen!