On the Road with Jesus (Luke 24:13-35)

Luke 24v13-35 Road to Emmaus 01

With the COVID-19 restrictions in place I’m seeing a lot of people out for walks. It’s good to see because getting outside and engaging in some exercise helps both our physical and mental health. There is also a social aspect to walking with someone which is very important for us. When other ways of socially connecting have been cut off, walking with someone can have a lot of benefits for us.

Sometimes I wonder what people talk about while they walk. They might be catching up on what’s been happening in their lives, talking about who has been doing what, or maybe discussing the weather. I wonder whether their conversations ever go deeper to the more meaningful things such as their struggles or hopes, their joys or disappointments, maybe even to questions of faith.

I can understand why two of Jesus’ disciples, as they were walking the 11 or 12 kilometres from Jerusalem to Emmaus, were discussing the events of Jesus’ suffering, death and the rumours of his resurrection (Luke 24:13-35). It was the day of Jesus’ resurrection and they had a lot to process. Their conversation began with the events that had happened, but when Jesus turned up, even though they didn’t recognise him, he took the conversation to a whole different level. We read in verse 27 that,

Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (NLT)

Jesus didn’t just talk with them about what had happened. Jesus talked with them about the meaning behind his suffering, death and resurrection from the grave. Luke tells us that Jesus explained the meaning of Scriptures to them and how they pointed to him. The word Luke uses is the word from which we get our English word hermeneutic which is about interpreting or finding the meaning of something. In ‘opening’ the Scriptures to the disciples (v32 NIV) Jesus was interpreting the words of the Bible for them and giving these new meaning for the disciples’ lives.

As we journey through the impact that COVID-19 is having on our world, this story is significant for us in a few ways. Firstly, like these two disciples, we are moving into an uncertain future. They didn’t know what the future had for them after their teacher’s crucifixion and rumoured resurrection. The road to Emmaus can be understood as a metaphor for travelling into an uncertain future. In the same way, we don’t know how long the COVID-19 restrictions will be in place or what life will be like when the start to be relaxed. We are on our own road, travelling into an uncertain future.

Like the disciples, we do not travel alone. Our risen Lord Jesus walks with us into this uncertain future. We may not always recognise his presence, just like the two disciples in the story, but not recognising him doesn’t mean he’s not there. We might be feeling isolated and missing the contact with other people but Jesus continues to walk with us in a spiritual way as well as a more tangible way. As we live out our identity as the body of Christ in our relationships with each other, and as we remain connected as the Church, we embody Jesus’ presence with each other as we travel through this time together. As we walk together through these restrictions, Jesus walks with us, whether or not we recognise his presence.

As we travel with Jesus, we can be listening to him open up the words of Scripture for us. We can read the Bible as a book which communicates information to us about events of the past, kind of like the way the two disciples were talking about the events of Easter at the start of this story. However, there is much more to the Bible than that. This story is telling us that Jesus wants to open Scripture up for us and lead us into a deeper understanding of its meaning for us and our lives. Jesus did this for the disciples in the story as he opened their eyes to see how the writings of Moses and the prophets pointed to himself. Jesus wants to do the same thing for us. He wants to open our eyes so we can see that the Bible is more than stories about the past. All of Scripture points us to Jesus and the meaning behind his suffering, death and resurrection so we can live in the reality of this good news.

Like the disciples, when Jesus opens Scripture to show us how it points to him, he changes our lives. At the start of their walk to Emmaus, I imagine the disciples would have been sad about the death of their teacher, afraid of the people who had killed him, uncertain about what they were going to do next and confused about what it all meant for them. After their walk with Jesus, though, their lives had turned around. They were full of faith, hope and love as they went back to tell the other disciples about what had happened. Jesus wants to make the same changes in our lives. He wants to fill us with faith, hope, love and the other fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) as he opens the words of Scripture for us and speaks his good news to us. Jesus does all this by his Holy Spirit who breathes resurrection life into us through the words of the Bible and his gospel.

When we last met together in worship about 5 weeks ago, I was reflecting on the story of Saul anointing David (1 Samuel 16:1-13) and I suggested that this time under the COVID-19 restrictions might be giving us an opportunity to peel back the external layers of the way we think of ‘church’ and re-discover what is at the heart of being Church. This story of the disciple’s walk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus gives us a picture of the heart of being church: walking with Jesus, listening to him open up Scripture for us and living in the reality of the gospel. It doesn’t mean that we have to do a Bible study every time we go for a walk. What it might mean, though, is changing how we read the Bible. It’s not just information or stories from the past. Instead, the Bible points us to Jesus who was born, suffered, died and is risen again to give us life! At the heart of being Church is walking with Jesus, listening to him talk to us through Scripture, hearing the good news he has for us, and living in the faith, hope and love that they give.

This week, I encourage you to go for a walk with someone. As you walk, talk about what’s going on in your lives, but also include Jesus in your walk as you discuss the deeper things of life and share the good news of Jesus with each other.

More to think about & discuss:

  • If you go for a walk with another person, what might you usually talk about?
  • If you were walking with Jesus, what might you like to talk with him about? What do you think he might want to talk about with you?
  • When you read the Bible, do you tend to read it more as information or do you listen for what God might be saying to us through those words? Why do you read it that way?
  • How might it change the way you read your Bible if you looked for what it said to you about Jesus and his good news for you?
  • How can you find time this week, either on your own or with a few other people, to read your Bible and look for the good news that God is saying to you through it?
  • Who is someone with whom you can go for a walk this week to talk about the deeper things of life?

The Way of Love (Ephesians 4:25-5:2)

Ephesians 5v2 walk in love 01

I have to be careful where I step at the moment.

We have had a lot of rain in Adelaide recently and there is a fair bit of mud around. When I walk from our home to the church, it is easy to walk through some muddy puddles and then carry it on my shoes wherever I go during the day. A few weeks ago when I arrived for worship on Sunday morning I had actually walked in something on my way over to the church. I’m going to assume it was mud, but I really didn’t to smell it to find out for sure. I had to clean the bottom of my shoes before the service started because I didn’t want to leave muddy footprints all around the sanctuary.

That’s the thing with mud – it sticks.

Usually we think of mud sticking as a bad thing. When I was contemplating these words from Paul in Ephesians 5:1,2 though, I started wondering whether we can think about mud sticking in a good way.

The words the NIV translate as ‘walk in the way of love’ and the NLT interpret as ‘live a life filled with love’ are simply ‘walk in love’ in the Greek New Testament. Both the NIV and the NLT translations are good, but I really like the picture of ‘walking in love’ the way that we might walk in mud.

One reason is that if we are going to walk in God’s love, we actually need to get into it like a muddy puddle that’s full of God’s goodness and grace. Last Saturday afternoon, my two young sons and I pulled on our boots and spent some time walking through and jumping around in some mud outside our house. Maybe that’s what Paul is saying God wants us to do with the love he has for us in Jesus. Maybe God’s love isn’t something to theorize or theologize about, but to walk through, jump around in, splashing in its goodness so we’re covered in it. It’s a similar idea to what we looked at a couple of weeks ago from Ephesians 3:18 – that God’s love for us in Jesus is so wide, long, high and deep that we can spend our whole lives exploring its goodness and never reach its limits.

To walk in God’s love starts with having both feet in his love. But it doesn’t stop there.

The next aspect of walking in God’s love is that we carry it with us wherever we go and whatever we do. Just like the mud we were walking through stuck to our shoes and boots, when we walk in God’s love it sticks with us. It covers us and even becomes part of who we are. Paul says we are God’s ‘dearly loved children’ (5:1 NIV). Through Jesus, God has given us new identities as people he has adopted into his family and who he loves. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we go and do as people whom God loves enough to give his Son for us. Like mud that sticks to our shoes or boots, this truth sticks to us our whole lives as we live it out in our relationships with others.

The entire Bible points us to the reality of God’s love so we can walk in it with our relationship with him and with others. In Ephesians 4, Paul gives us some specific ways in which we can walk in God’s love with others:

  • Putting off falsehood (v25) – not just telling lies but living in open, honest and authentic relationships with others
  • Not letting the sun go down on our anger (v26) – whether we take this literally or metaphorically, it means working our issues out with others
  • Doing something useful with our hands so we can give generously to others (v28) – this gives us whole new way to think about our work as a way to love others
  • Using our words to build others up and benefit them (v29), not knock them down
  • Getting rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice (v31) – I wonder why our congregation laughed when I said that these never happen in our church
  • Being kind, compassionate and forgiving to others (v32)

It’s worth spending some time contemplating these and asking God to show us where he wants to challenge us in our lives and in our relationships. Living in a congregation like this would be great, but I don’t think many of us actually live up to the love Paul describes.

When we are challenged by Paul’s words, we need to go back to the muddy puddle of God’s love for us. Too often we try to do better by ourselves and then get frustrated or guilty when we keep doing the same things. Instead, Jesus teaches us to remain in his love (John 15:9). Using the image of God’s love being a muddy puddle, when we’re falling short of being the people and community God wants us to be, we need to go back to the love God has for us in Jesus to walk through and jump around in some more. As we get covered more and more with the sticky mud of God’s love for us in Jesus, it will cling to us and we will naturally carry it with us in our lives.

Ephesians 5:1,2 is one of my most favourite discipleship texts because this is what following Jesus is all about: walking in God’s love for us in Jesus so it sticks to us and we carry it with us into every circumstance of life. Especially as we talk about and plan the future of our ministry to young people, it is good for us to be keeping Paul’s words in mind. Our culture is teaching us and our young people to live in a way that is all about us and what we get, the exact opposite of the way of love Paul points us to. Jesus tells us that if we live this way, our destination is destruction, but if we walk in the way of God’s love, then we find life to the full (Matthew 7:13,14; John 10:10). Where will our young people learn to walk in love if it’s not from us?

So, which way are we walking? Do we walk our own ways, heading in our own directions, trying to find our own way through life? Or are we walking in love, stomping around in God’s infinite and perfect love for us, and carrying it everywhere we go, in everything we do?

Walking in love brought Jesus to life that is stronger than death. This is the path he leads us to as he calls us to follow him. When we get lost along the way, then maybe it’s time to jump in muddy puddles, remembering that when we walk in the love God has for us in Jesus, it really sticks!

Walking with Jesus (Luke 24:13-35)

Walking With Jesus 01

What do you reckon it would be like to go for a walk with Jesus?

I don’t mean some sort of ‘spiritual’ journey or having a vague idea that Jesus is with us. I mean a real, physical, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other walk. It might be down the road to the shops, through a national park, a couple of blocks to work, or even around the block. What would it be like to walk with Jesus?

It surprises me that the two disciples didn’t recognise Jesus while he walked with them in this story. There are a range of ways people try to explain their lack of recognition, but I wonder how often we go through life with Jesus walking next to us and we just don’t recognise him either…

This story is a great picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: walking with him through life and recognising that he walks with us. As they walked together, Jesus and the disciples talked together as he opened up the words of Scripture for them so they could understand that God’s chosen Messiah had to suffer, die and rise again from the grave (vv 25-27). This caused the disciples hearts to burn within them (v32) as they grew in their understanding of God’s grace for them and as they began to make sense of what had happened to them through their growing faith in Jesus.

What if walking with Jesus and listening to him as he opens up God’s word for us could do the same for us?

There was a time in the early years of my ministry when I was really struggling. For more than a year I battled on the best I could but things were overwhelming me. So I started getting out of bed and going for a walk each morning. As I walked, I would talk to Jesus about what was going on in my life – the things I was struggling with, the things that were overwhelming me, the mistakes I was making, the help I needed. I didn’t talk out loud, but it was still a real conversation as I talked with Jesus in my head. Then I listened to what Jesus had to say to me by reading a couple chapters of my Bible over breakfast. I was surprised how often what I was reading would speak into what was going on in my life. Over time, things got better as I relied on Jesus’ help more and more, and God changed me through what he was saying to me in his Word. I learned from first-hand experience that walking closer with Jesus by talking to him about what’s going on in our lives and listening to him talk to us through his word really makes a difference in our lives.

The promise of this story from Luke’s gospel is that Jesus walks with us to talk to us through his word, to help us make sense of what’s going on in our lives through his suffering, death and resurrection, so we can find grace, hope and joy in his presence with us.

It was only when Jesus blessed and broke the bread at their meal at the end of the day that the disciples recognised Jesus. In the same way, Jesus makes his presence known to us as he gives himself to us in the breaking of bread in the meal we know as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. This same Jesus whose body was broken and whose blood was shed on the cross, this same Jesus who is risen from the grace and who has defeated death, this same Jesus is the one who comes to us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion to make himself known to us as the one who physically walks with us through life. Just as the disciples recognised Jesus when he gave them that meal, so we can recognise Jesus with us as he gives himself to us as a real and present flesh and blood person in the Lord’s Supper. It is his promise and his assurance that he literally walks with us through the ups and downs of our lives, through the good times and the bad, to help us find grace and peace, joy and hope in his presence with us.

So I’m going to ask again: what would it be like to go for a walk with Jesus? How might our lives and our community be different if we lived like Jesus was actually walking with us, speaking grace and truth into our lives, our relationships and our community through his word?

Because what this story says to me is that Jesus really is walking with us, every step of the way.

More to think about:

  • What do you think it would be like to go for a walk with Jesus?
  • Christians often talk about Jesus being with us, but do we live like that’s a reality or like Jesus is actually distant? One way to think about that is ask yourself: would you live your life differently if Jesus was actually walking with you every moment of every day?
  • In the story from Luke 24, Jesus began his conversation with the two disciples by asking them what they were discussing (v17). If Jesus asked you what was going on with you, what would you say to him?
  • Jesus opened up Scripture to his disciples to help them understand God’s plan of redemption, but also to help them make sense of what they had experienced & to find God’s grace in their experiences. Do you think that God’s word can help you make sense of your experiences & find his grace in them? How can we help you open up God’s word to find grace & truth for your own life in it?
  • Jesus made himself known to the disciples as he blessed, broke & then gave bread to them. How can the gift of Holy Communion help us recognise Jesus’ presence with us?