Walking Away? Luke 24:13-35
I just love this story from Luke. It speaks so clearly to the human condition, to our condition, it “hits the nail on the head”… because these two travelers, these two disciples on the road to Emmaus… are us. They are you and me.
I mean think about it: these two men had missed the significance of the greatest event in human history, because they couldn’t see beyond their grief and despair. All they could see was their own disappointment and discouragement. They couldn’t recognize Jesus walking right beside them... because all they could focus on was their hopelessness. And you and I can relate to that, can’t we? We’ve all been there and done that - some of us have actually earned the T-shirt! We’ve all allowed the problems and discouragements and disappointments of our own life, to get in the way of our walk with Christ. We’ve all failed (at some point) to recognize Christ as he walks right beside us.
Lord knows I’m guilty; and I’ll admit it! There have been so many times in my own life, when all I’ve wanted to do was run away. Times when all I wanted to do was turn my back on my problems and remove myself from whatever it was that was grieving me… times when I’ve just wanted to leave the disappointment and discouragement behind. Have you ever felt that way? Of course you have! We all have!
And that’s exactly what these two disciples were doing. They had HOPED Jesus would save Israel and redeem God’s people from bondage to Rome. But when it didn’t happen (or at least when it didn’t happen in the way they had expected it to happen), they walked away, they turned their backs on Jerusalem and set their sights on Emmaus.
I certainly don’t blame them. It’s easier to walk away sometimes isn’t it? And sometimes it’s even healthy... emotionally, and spiritually (and physically) to walk away from toxic people and situations.
But not always. Sometimes it’s just easier to say, “heck with it” and walk away. Especially - and mainly - when things don’t go our way. That’s one of the reasons the divorce rate so high this country. It’s easier to walk away than to stay and work out our problems. That’s why folks aren’t committed to anything anymore! If things get a little hairy... a touch uncomfortable, things get a little difficult... we walk!
Maybe that’s why there’s a general lack of commitment to the church these days. People get involved in church, and they find out that it’s actually gonna take a little work, it’s gonna take a little effort… that following Christ is not always easy... it can be messy, it can be difficult, it can be uncomfortable... so they jump ship… They walk away.
But there’s a problem with that... and the problem is… walking away does not work. You and I can’t just walk out on life! We can’t just turn our backs on our problems... because Jesus won’t let us. When we walk away, Jesus is walking right alongside us, reminding us of who and Whose we are.
Jesus was right there with these two disciples. In the middle of their despondency and discouragement, Jesus asked these two men, “what are you talking about... why are you so sad?”
And Cleopas said (with a certain amount of irritation in his voice I’m sure), “where in the world have you been? Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem? Don’t you know what happened? They crucified Jesus... but we were hoping he would save us. We were hoping he was the Messiah, the Redeemer!”
You can sense the frustration and disappointment, can’t you? Cleopas was angry, and hurt, and mourning the loss of his conception/perception of how things should have been.
And after letting Cleopas vent... Jesus reminded those two disciples that the Messiah was called to suffer and to die… according to the Scriptures… Scriptures those two disciples should have known!
Yet even after that... they still could not see Jesus. They still could not understand. They were still lost in their discouragement and despair.
But later that evening... everything changed! Over supper, Jesus offered a blessing, giving thanks... and suddenly… the disciples’ eyes were opened. They realized that the stranger was in fact… Jesus.
It’s funny how often in life, when we’re in the middle of our despair, we cannot see Jesus. But the moment we remember to be thankful - the moment we stop and count our blessings - we return to reality... and we can see that Jesus has been right beside us... all along.
The words Jesus had spoken to these two men on that road to Emmaus had “burned within their hearts.” So they jumped up and I hurried back to Jerusalem… and found the 11 disciples, and told them everything that had happened on the road to Emmaus... and how they had seen the risen Christ with their own eyes.
Once they came out of their despondency and self pity - and became thankful - they were transformed into true disciples of Christ. They had a story to tell, and they had a mission and a ministry to share. And you and I can relate, you and I can identify with these men.
Because we’re the same. As long as we’re focusing on ourselves, and on our own problems, and on our own disappointments, we won’t be able to see Jesus. We can walk with him, and talk with him... we can even hear his voice! But until the focus is off us... and until we stop WALKING AWAY long enough to be thankful... we can’t recognize Jesus for who he really is...
You know... the fact is, life’s not always easy. We all experience heartbreak and disappointment and discouragement.
But running away is not the answer. You and I are called to run to Jesus. We’re called to embrace the fellowship of believers, the body of Christ, the church. That’s what the church is here for. To hold us up, together, to encourage each of us as we share the strength, and purpose, and hope, that’s found in Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, it does not matter what kind of road you are traveling on at the moment. You can be walking on streets of gold, and all things can be coming up roses… or you could be walking thru the valley of the shadow of death, in grief and despair.
The Good News of the Gospel... is... Jesus is always with you. His Word promises (and our faith testifies to the fact), that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us... and that NOTHING in life, or in death, can separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing! And that’s the blessing and assurance of our faith.
Christ has risen… Christ has risen indeed.