The Road to Emmaus: Jesus shared with the two disciples along the road. “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?” They recognised Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Now, as they gather together in Jerusalem, Jesus himself stands among them: “Peace be with you!”
The meal that the two disciples shared at Emmaus was about hospitality and welcome; this new meal that they now all share together in Jerusalem is about mission and ministry.
Resurrection: is not just “life after death” or “going to heaven” when you die.
In the Jewish world of the first century it meant a new embodied life in God’s new world, or life after “life after death.” In an act of new creation parallel to the first, God will make a new type of material, no longer subject to death, out of the old one. This new body will belong in both dimensions of God’s world – in both heaven and earth.
At the moment our bodies are earthly only. This was also true of Jesus before he died. But now, the new resurrected body of Jesus is at home in both earth and heaven. Our normal way of thinking about reality does not let us fit in this richer vision of reality – but allowing the transformation of our minds is part of the challenge of the gospel. For too long, we have tried to fit the renewed vision of the world that the gospel provides into a narrow and upside-down understanding of the world as it is, rather than the world as it is meant to be.
- Easter 3B (Luke 24:35-48)
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Generated Transcript from Vigil Mass
This is the third of the stories about the resurrection of Jesus, we have in this 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The first is set at the tomb; it’s early in the morning. The women go to the tomb to do what they needed to do to prepare the body of Jesus for final burial, in that two-stage system that was the Jewish custom. The tomb, of course, is empty and Peter goes and looks for himself and he sees the cloths all rolled up all by themselves. So there isn’t yet a lot of faith; there isn’t yet a lot of belief.
And then we have this beautiful story of the two disciples, one named Cleopas, the other unnamed, walking on their way away from Jerusalem. They’ve given up. There’s no point in hanging around. Everything has seemed to turn to nothing.
They say in their story, our own hope had been that Jesus was the long-prophesied Messiah, but that doesn’t seem to be the case because he didn’t do what the Messiah was meant to do, and so they walk along downcast until Jesus himself walks among them.
And then he begins to point out the ways through the Hebrew scriptures, that all the prophecies would point to the Messiah being exactly as Jesus was and it was only when they stopped for dinner, Jesus attempts to continue on his journey and they press him to stay, to have something to eat with them. And then as he breaks bread for them, they recognize him. Their eyes are opened and they are able to look back: Did not our hearts burn within us as he shared along the way?
Now he’s back among them again. They’ve run back to Jerusalem to tell their story and of what had happened along the road. There’s apparently been another appearance of Jesus in the meantime, they said yes, you know, Peter has also seen him, but there’s still something strange about this resurrected body of Jesus. Because the disciples, the ones that had been with him all this time, they journeyed with him; they’d shared so many meals; they’d shared so many stories; they’d been there, kind of preparing the way for him; they’ve been chastised by Jesus. They’ve been formed by him. They’d fallen in love with him, and yet he seemed to be different.
You know, there’s something about what he’s now become that they’re not able initially to recognize him, even on a long journey wandering along the road so there’s something different about the body of Jesus and specifically the resurrected body of Jesus.
And it’s important for us to grapple with that and to struggle with that, because the whole point of the resurrection doesn’t make a lot of sense. Until we do actually spend time trying to work out what on earth or in heaven is this all about? What does the resurrected body of Jesus mean? Because when we think of resurrection, it often seems to be just more about that sense of just this longing, this hope that you know: We pray for someone who has died that they will live forever in heaven. But no.
That’s not in any way what resurrection is about, and within 1st century Judaism there certainly wasn’t the hope and expectancy of what resurrection meant. They did look forward to resurrection. There are those readings that you find in the Prophet Ezekiel and in other places in the scriptyres that point to this longing and this desire that all of Israel would be changed and transformed into a new creation.
But they didn’t expect that it would happen in one particular individual in the midst of history, they expected that all of that would wait until the end of history, when God would with this sovereign work and act complete this new work of creation. This transformation that we so long for. And this seems to be precisely what has happened in the case for Jesus. He has died, yes, and in this new moment in this dawning on the third day, the body that he now possesses is not just the resuscitated old body that he had. This is something new.
This is something different. The body that Jesus now has is this new creation, the resurrected body, is something radically different because the thing about us is that how places?
This is here in the tangible, in the physical, and in this present reality of life on Earth.
But what Jesus is experiencing in this moment is that he’s changed to transformed, to be able to be physically present here on Earth, but also to be at home in heaven and heaven.
This is not just another place or somewhere up there that you know you can get on an Elon Musk rocket and fly to go up to visit God up there in in heaven. Heaven is God’s place, it’s his space and there are those places in our creation where Heaven and Earth come together.
The temple and various of the sacred mountains were those places within Judaism and often within Christianity, particularly in Celtic Christianity, where you have that sense of the thin spaces, those places where there seems to be that sense of both heaven and earth occupying the same space in the same place at the same time, and so for us it is that experience of in seeing the resurrected body of Jesus.
As we see this new creation, so resurrection is not just about life after death, it’s about the transformed life after life after death. It’s about the new creation that it’s only when we get to the final two chapters of the Bible, in Revelation 21 and 22 that we see this complete and utter transformation.
St Paul tries to get to it in First Corinthians 15 when he spends that whole chapter trying to unpack and explain what this new creation is going to be all about, but it requires us to put aside so many of those ideas that we brought into the church from Greek mythology and Greek philosophy rather than.
From the reflection and meditation upon the Hebrew scriptures, that’s what’s essential for us is resurrected people. We haven’t experienced it yet, but that’s our longing. St Paul will tell us that, this is the first fruits of that the resurrection of Jesus is meant for us to be this sign of hope, because one day also we will receive this sovereign work of God to create new bodies for us as well, bodies that can possess life both in heaven and on earth in the new creation.
That God will bring to the world in the at the end of all things. But in the in between Jesus gives us this mission. He commissions this group of disciples to do something quite extraordinary. First, he has to open them to the place of him as the Messiah as the anointed one within all of the scriptures, just as he did with the two disciples as they went along the road to Emmaus.
And he begins by telling the story of what happened in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and in the Psalms a threefold division that is present within the Hebrew scriptures.
And then he opens their minds to see the way that Jesus is actually present in all of those pages of Scripture as well, in all of the Old Testament stories we get the hint of this longing. I remember some years ago just being really annoyed with St Luke as I was pondering upon this passage and meditating upon it. And thinking for goodness sake, Luke, why didn’t you write down what Jesus explained?
Why didn’t you tell us that the precise way in which Jesus is indeed being revealed across the pages of the Hebrew Bible? Why didn’t you do the church a service and a favor by offering that to us? And as I continue to pray on this particular day, and to ponder this.
I began to think about the Scriptures and I began to think about the story of creation and I began to think about the particular characters like Abraham and his sons, and then the story of Moses in the whole experience of the Exodus from Egypt and then the story of the revelation that God had revealed to them on that promised mountain and then the way that they took possession of the promised land. And then the way that the judges had completely mucked things up and stuffed everything around. And then this longing for a King and the first King of Saul. And then that David was the one who began to be the one who had a heart after God’s own heart. And then that things began to fall apart, and the reign of Solomon. And his sons, and it suddenly dawned on me that God was doing the same thing for me, that were all able as we reflect upon scripture. It is to have our hearts burn within us. We’re all able to have God teach us precisely that God is whining and longing for us to understand the way that this story is indeed being unfolded and told within our own lives.
And so then Jesus commissions this group, his disciples are commissioned: the church. There’s this precise thing he tells us that I want you to announce and to preach to all nations, repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Such a timely message for us.
This is not a personal message, only. It is personal and it does impact upon every one of our lives.
That every one of us is required to bring about within our lives, that sense of letting go of those grudges from the past. Letting go of those resentments, stopping, holding on to all of those things that have defined us in the.
Past, but it’s also meant to be what the church is about that we’re meant to be this bastion of safety and protection that we’re meant to be this community that practices this reconciliation and forgiveness that the world won’t be healed and the Kingdom of God won’t be announced and be able to be born.
Within our world, until the church becomes a source of forgiveness. It’s the source of that reconciliation and repentance. That’s our longing.
As we move through this season of Easter, this longing that we will indeed be open to the power of the spirit, being at work within us, because the final lines that we don’t hear now we have to wait until the feast of the Ascension to hear the final part of this Gospel.
But Jesus says, don’t worry as we wait. And as you pray in Jerusalem, I will pour my peace upon you. I will give you the power that you need to be able to proclaim this mission and to do what I need you to do as my people and as this church.
Let’s indeed continued to long for the Holy Spirit. To long that God will do that work among us; to open our hearts to see that need to bring about forgiveness and repentance within my life, within our lives. And then to do that work within the world.