Third Sunday of Easter
April 10, 2005
The Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
Sermon: "The Opening of our Eyes"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
On the first day of the week, two of Jesus' followers were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. 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?" He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he 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 recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The Opening of our Eyes
Third Sunday of Easter - April 10, 2005
Sight is such a wonderful gift. For instance, at this time of year we see the beauty of the world around us. Trees are beginning to bud. Flowers are blooming. The birds sport their spring plumage. It would be hard to describe this beauty to someone who could not see.
However, sight is not limited to simply the eye. There are other types of sight as well. Intuition is a form of sight. It is a sight of feeling more than physical. Intuition can prevent us from getting into trouble or prevent us from making a serious mistake. For example, someone tells us about a hot tip for the stock market. For some reason our radar goes up. We back away and we find out later the hot tip was not so hot after all. Sometimes our intuition fails us. The "confidence man" or "con artist" preys on peoples ability or rather their inability to find out their scheme. P. T. Barnum supposedly said it best, "There's a sucker born every minute." The point is this form of sight, while not physical, is still an important part of who we are in looking at the world around us.
Finally, there is a third form of sight, the spiritual. This form of sight opens our eyes to the spiritual nature of the world, even the universe, around us. Here we see and feel the presence of God. We know deep down there is something greater than we are. We sense God's presence in our hearts, in our lives, in our very being. This form of vision enhances the eyesight and intuition. For this form of sight looks beyond the physical and the feeling to the center and power behind life and creation itself. It is this sight that can create such incredible wonder and joy while looking at a flower, wiping away a tear, or holding a new born baby. For those who recognize this sight the universe has much deeper meaning.
What is amazing about the story of the road to Emmaus is the absence of any of these forms of sight at the beginning of the story. The two disciples are leaving Jerusalem. Their hearts are heavy and their hopes are dashed. They are discussing the events of the last week as they walk. Suddenly Jesus is walking with them. Their eyes do not perceive who he is. The scriptures say they were prevented from seeing the reality of who was with them. I wonder if their own nature prevented them from recognizing Jesus.
What do we mean by their own nature? I mean they were lost in themselves. They were lost in their own thoughts, their own feelings, their own ideas about what had happened in Jerusalem. These two had been followers of Jesus. They had heard the teachings. They had seen the signs and wonders. They really thought he was the Messiah. Yet, he is arrested like a common thief. He is tried for heresy and convicted. He is crucified in place of a murderer and buried with a stone in front of the grave. How can he be the Messiah? Yet, they have also heard the stories of the women and the disciples who ran to see the tomb. They are very confused. They are lost in their direction. They do not know what to believe. They don't know where to look for answers. Their emotions are running a marathon. Spiritually, they don't know what to believe.
As far as sight goes they are on overload.
We can probably think of times when we might have been on overload. Have we ever been so lost in thought that we have done something we normally would not have done? I remember one time I was in a hurry and I was thinking about a million and one things. I started to make some coffee. I put the water in the back. I scooped the coffee into the basket and turned the pot on. I came back to a mess. Brown water was everywhere. I was so lost in my thoughts I forgot to put in the filter. Coffee grounds blocked the basket and water was everywhere. One other example, how many of us have been walking down the street and been so absorbed with our own thoughts that we started to walk off the curb into traffic at the wrong time? We were oblivious to what was going on around us. If we can imagine these forms of blindness in our own lives then think about what it would have been like to be these two disciples. All of their hopes had been dashed. All of their dreams were gone. Here it is the third day and some crazy stories are being spread around. What does all this mean? What are we to do? What are we to think? What are we to believe?
These are the questions in their minds as they are walking. As they walk someone is suddenly with them. He asks a question that is so incredible it is hard to believe. There is no way this man could be Jesus and not know the events of the last week. But as they walk the stranger shares with them the salvation history of God. He tells them all about God's work beginning with Moses. He shares with them God's words through the prophets and how they have come true. He explains to them the role of the Messiah and yet they still do not see who He is.
When they reach their destination, the stranger moves to go on. Something in the way He spoke causes these men to invite Him to stay the night and eat with them. He refuses, as is the custom of the day. They insist for they want Him to stay. The stranger, after the second invitation, agrees. At the table when he breaks the bread they see. With their eyes they see Him as Jesus. In their intuition, they feel He is Jesus. Deep in their spirits; deep in the center of their being, they know He is Jesus. Through the breaking of the bread they know they are back in the presence of Jesus. He is Risen. He is alive. They are so overcome with joy they have to go back and tell the others. They are not blind any longer. They have walked with and eaten with the Risen Lord.
How are our eyes, physically, emotionally, and spiritually? How do we see the risen Lord? What happens when we see the bread being broken before our eyes? These are our questions today. They are even more pertinent this day. For today we baptize Keaton into the family of God.
We accept him into our family as a brother in Christ. We also accept the responsibility of teaching him about Christ. What will say to him as he grows older? Will we teach him to look for God in all of creation? Will we help him develop intuitive eyes that seek the presence of God in all people? Will we teach him to look for Christ in unseen places such as a deserted road while walking with a friend? Will we help him see the presence of Christ in all of our lives in the breaking of the bread? We have to ask ourselves these questions. It is critically important for our own lives, as well as, for all of our children. In just a few minutes we will proclaim our own faith as we say The Baptismal Covenant. It is a good time to ask ourselves what we believe. It is a good time to ask God to come and open our own eyes so that we might see the Risen Lord afresh this day. Open our eyes Lord to see you today. AMEN.