Moments of Knowing – The Emmaus Experience
Sermon of Easter 3 – Moments of Knowing
We are in Eastertide, a 50 day period that celebrates the truth of Easter and recalls the early church. We hear a series of readings recounting Jesus post resurrection appearances and teachings, and a series of readings describing the birth and life of the early church in Acts, culminating in the day of Pentecost on June 4th.
Reading wise we will go forward in Acts and then come back to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. My first 2 sermons in this season are on Peter’s great sermon it the market place after the coming of the spirit at Pentecost.
Accordingly, we heard last week of the transformative impact of knowing Jesus Christ Crucified on Peter. We read of Peter’s preaching in the marketplace as the evidence of man transformed by three things: forgiveness, by resurrection, ad by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Those same three things transform us
• practising and receiving forgiveness as a way of life
• really believing in the resurrection and the fact that Jesus has conquered death
• allowing the Holy Spirit into our lives
We also read of Thomas’s transformation. After earning him the sobriquet “Doubting Thomas” we see the transformed Thomas exclaiming, “My Lord and my God”. I give him credit for changing his mind!
Today we read two stories of the post-resurrection experience of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, and the crowd reactions to Peter’s preaching on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples hanging onto every word of Jesus, and the crows to every word of Peter
Last week I poke of forgiveness, resurrection and Holy Spirit
This week I am stressing Recognition, Conviction and Response
The verses I am focusing on are :
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Luke 24: 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[k] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?
Recognition, Conviction and Response
Burning hearts, and hearts cut to the core, a voice inside that says that nothing can be the same again – in both stories Luke, the author wants to convey to us that in meeting Jesus there is drama, an inner experience, a voice that says to us, “This is true, you really need to pay attention, and this might change your perspective on everything. Nothing can be the same again.”
If God were to speak to you now, would you be in a place to listen. I believe we are being spoken to by God in a similar way all the time, but we are not always in place to listen. Like the disciples on the road we are happy with our own conclusions and not ready to hear a new or bigger story. Like the crowd in the marketplace we are engrossed in our routine, in our day to day needs, and our self satisfaction that’s whatever has gone wrong in the word, it was nothing to do with us. If we hear that voice of God, our hearts will burn within us, and we will be cut to the heart.
The picture I used with this sermon is shown above. It is well known if you know your art. This is The Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio. This is the story we have just read, when, at the moment Jesus blesses and breaks the bread; they realize that their guest is, in fact, the Resurrected Christ. “And their eyes were opened and they knew him and he vanished out of their sight.” Behind them, the innkeeper gazes uncomprehendingly.
Caravaggio has chosen to represent one precise moment, namely that fraction of a second after the two apostles have realised that they are witnessing something of unimaginable power – the dead Jesus is back in their midst. He freezes that moment, renders it permanent in oil and canvass as if photographed by a journalist, and so enables us to take our time, to consider the moment and to try and experience for ourselves that sense of shock and astonishment that was felt by the two apostles: Things are not as I thought – Nothing can be the same again I need to make a decision. Now!
Painted in 1602, this is the height of the Counter-Reformation; when the church saw the need to communicate its message directly to the faithful. She was demanding from artist’s clarity of representation, not mystical representations but realistic, hard hitting attempts to capture the essence of the incident without too much interpretation. . Caravaggio’s realism was perfect for this. It contrasted with symbolic religious art up to that time which you needed great learning to interpret, and which told you what to believe..This so-called Mannerist painting was for educated elite, but Caravaggio was for everyone. Anyone can understand the drama of the moment here. And you are left to interpret the moment, yourself, the choice emphasised by his handling of light and shadow (chiaroscuro), in order to give force through a strong contrast of light and dark.
The question of who Jesus is, is also black and white….In this picture, if we contemplate it, we see the drama of recognising the real Jesus.
Note that Jesus doesn’t look like he “should” – at least he doesn’t look how my background led me to believe he looked. Jesus is not represented in a traditional, iconic in western medieval way – he is young, fresh faced and has no beard, is not dressed in pure white.
Before Jesus asks you to consider anything he said, he asks you to consider who he IS. Might he not be who you think him to be? Jesus is not a man of issues or causes. He is the personification of God, who dies so that you might become a child of God.
Jesus is not someone to play to back up your theology, your preferences and certainly not your prejudices. He is God, sovereign overall those things.
Jesus is not the one to go to help you maintain your status quo, and certainly not restore your past. Jesus changes everything – the disciples could not go back to their w agendas now, the only agenda was that of the risen Christ.
Consider the question: ask yourself the same Question that Jesus asked Peter: Who do you say I am? Have I ever answered that honestly? What agenda am I following, and asking God to rubber stamp?
And then, honestly and sincerely, consider the following course of action:-
1. Ask God for the gift of revelation and conviction. May seem odd and “circular”, but Jesus promised that if you seek, you will find, and ask, and you will receive. Recognition of God and faith in God through Christ is a gift. It doesn’t come from striving, but from humbly asking. It is not something you achieve, it is something you receive.
Neither the disciples on the road not the Jerusalem crowd achieved or merited anything; they just allowed a moment of realisation to happen.
2. Open your mind. The Holy Spirit is gentle and does not force himself. Jesus says, I stand at the door and knock. Jesus, the real Jesus, is seldom the construct of your mind – he doesn’t resemble the image you have of him. Caravaggio implies this – that doesn’t look like the iconic Jesus. The Jesus that the by spirit wants to introduce you to may be different to the one you think you know… The disciples were not meeting him for the first time – but they were meeting him anew.
Many of us in the church, me included have been travelling the road with Jesus for a long time. Sometimes the longer we have travelled the more we need to meet him anew. Sometimes when that happens we simply do not recognise him, usually because we are too obsessed with getting from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and brooding on the disappointment of vision within us. If you are tired and jaded and stale in your religious walk, open your heart to w new encounter with Jesus.
Knowing Jesus often requires changing your mind, no matter how old you are – that’s what repentance/changing your mind / metanoia means.
The Gift of Understanding – the ability to perceive the truth of God’s word
Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Spirit helps us to grasp the truth of our faith. It helps us to gain a deeper insight into God’s word. We also have to learn the limitations of our own understanding. Even as the disciples were not able to understand, we cannot understand what the future has in store for us. Understanding is related to the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit within us, far beyond anything we can acquire or achieve by our own effort. As a Christian community we must move inward with Him to a deeper and fuller understanding of this great gift.
Come, Spirit of God, with wisdom and understanding, with knowledge and fortitude, with justice and mercy, with courage and commitment, with vision and insight.
May we be blessed this day and every day by the God who has loved us into life
Give us life according to your promise
Give us life according to your justice
Give us life according to your word