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02.14.2021 Divine Digestif, Luke 24:13-36, 49, Sermon Summary

by on February 16, 2021

Our last “dining with Jesus” worship falls today on Transfiguration Sunday. This commemoration precedes the beginning of Lent each year. The reason Transfiguration Sunday always appears before Lent is because it is a preview of Jesus’ resurrection. The purpose is to motivate us during the upcoming Lenten fast. Our passage can be read same way.

In contrast to last week’s meal, this meal was the one that captivated the early church. This is why they broke bread every week in worship and daily in their homes and with others. In this meal the resurrected Christ is made known. The Last Supper remembers Jesus. It first looks back before anywhere else. This “first supper” encounters Christ. It first looks around and then looks ahead at the Resurrected Lord. 

Today the phrase which stands out to me is: “They stood still, looking sad.” I’ve always assumed the two disciples showed sadness because of their grief, confusion, or shock. Certainly there is some of that. 

But Luke uses a specific and rare word (skythropos) to describe them. It means, “gloomy, sullen, downcast.” The only other place it appears in the Newer Testament is on the lips of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount related to fasting. He commands his disciples not to let their faces appear this way, for that is what hypocrites do. (See Matthew 6:16) Their faces are disfigured in their resentful obedience.

What Luke’s word suggests to me is that deep inside—maybe because of previous disappointments? or because Jesus had told them? or because the Scriptures had taught them?—they knew that God was behind Jesus’ death. It may be unconscious now, perhaps due to grief and confusion, but God was behind his death. They didn’t like that. And it showed on their faces.

This is true for many of us. We have a hunch God is behind the events in our lives. It may be unconscious—perhaps due to pain, anger, injustice, or confusion. We’ve had to accept difficult realities. But we’ve heard God is still God and we’re asked to believe.

The two on Road to Emmaus were asked to believe several times. When they report that, “It’s been three days . . .” they must be aware that the third day is a symbol from the Scriptures that God is about to intervene. They report that the women couldn’t find Jesus’ body. But women’s testimony was insufficient on its own in those days. The women reported a vision of angels saying Jesus was alive. But that would still be hearsay. Then they say “some of us went and found it as described.” But that is still inconclusive.

These two had not seen. They had only heard. But they were being asked to believe. Their situation causes me to think of what Jesus will say to Thomas a week later: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” That wasn’t Thomas. That wasn’t these two. And sometimes that’s not us. 

They and we are “slow of heart to believe,” in Jesus’ words. So Jesus reminds them from the Scriptures as he interprets them around his death. Then their hearts begin to “burn within them” as they begin to believe. But they don’t fully realize what Jesus is saying until they recognize him. And they don’t fully recognize him until he breaks the bread. When they finally do realize and finally do recognize, Jesus disappears.

They had been asked to believe. They had been led to belief. They believed. And then that’s all they were left with—an encounter with the risen Christ around a meal. 

Now we are asked to believe. Whatever trials we are facing, whatever hardships we are enduring, God is yet behind them. And the promise of resurrection waits to be fulfilled. 

Michelangelo Caravaggio painted this sermon in 1601. It is called “Supper at Emmaus”, and depicts the moment of the disciples’ recognition. Jesus has just set the bread down before them. The disciples are astonished. One is pushing back his chair. The other has his hands outstretched as if to maintain his balance. Both are leaning in to Jesus. They believe! Caravaggio wants us to believe also. 

The painting is life-size. It leaves a space at the table for us. Jesus’s one hand reaches out to us while the other reaches for a third piece of bread. The disciple’s outstretched arms span the distance between Jesus and us. The basket of fruit is about to topple off the table unless we enter the painting and grab it. Just as these disciples were asked to believe, so are we.

Luke closes the day with the disciples all together offering hearsay evidence to one another. “He has appeared to Simon!” “He appeared to us in Emmaus!” Then Jesus comes again and shares another meal of fish. He again opens the Scriptures to them. Then he promises them the Holy Spirit.

Today we also encounter Jesus in the breaking of bread, in the sharing of fish, and in the divine digestif—a drink of Spirit concluding a meal to help us to digest until we dine with Jesus again. 

Lord, we celebrate special times of breaking bread as the church, and we trust in your promise to reveal yourself in such celebrations. But you are sovereign to reveal yourself in the breaking of any bread, in the pouring of any cup, in the fellowship of any who desire your presence. And so we pray your Spirit will prompt our curiosity and meet our need for you at every meal we enjoy. Amen

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