On the road…again

Luke 24

Here’s the audio – listen along!

What are the songs you know with “road” in the title?  I’ve been singing “Country Roads” by John Denver. Anyone got another one? In the book of Luke, so much of the story of Jesus happens on the road. Mary and Joseph hit the road to Bethlehem where Mary gives birth to Jesus. The story of the Good Samaritan all happens on a road. And for weeks before his crucifixion, we’ve been on the road with Jesus as he traveled toward Jerusalem.

Now, today’s setting for the story is after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It’s the aftermath of all that has happened in Jerusalem to Jesus.

I want you to take 2 minutes and read through this story again. What is one question or thought you have about this story? Where do you see yourself?

I love this story. It’s my favorite and I promise you it really is my favorite. And I think it’s my favorite because I can so readily see myself as the unnamed person right next to Cleopas on the road, armchair quarterbacking all the events that happened. I can see myself wishing to change the things I said or didn’t say. The things I did or did not do.

These 2 friends are in grief as they recount the events. And then Jesus joins them on the road. We don’t know why they don’t or can’t recognize Jesus when he joins them on the road. Had he changed in appearance after the resurrection? Was their grief so great they couldn’t even recognize their friend? Were they so certain of his death that they just couldn’t fathom Jesus joining them on the road? It’s all possible, isn’t it?

I think Jesus even shows his hand by explaining scripture to them. Certainly they would have recognized his “I can’t believe I have to tell you this again” tone.

Yet, the reason I see myself so readily in this story is because I miss seeing Jesus all the time. It’s the common thread throughout my life of faith: me blinking with wide amazement – once again –  when I realize that I have encountered Jesus. Sometimes, if I’m lucky it’s in the moment. But most of the time it’s well after. Do you have those moments too?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus meets these 2 people on the road and they don’t recognize him. But isn’t it fascinating when they do recognize him? It’s at the most Jesus-y moment of the whole story – when he takes the bread and breaks it and blesses it. Of course that’s when they recognize him, right? But wait. Something happens before that: these 2 people, Cleopas and the other unnamed person, they invited a stranger in to eat and to stay the night. They didn’t know they were inviting Jesus, they’re friend, in for a meal.

Jesus was revealed to them only after they acted like the disciples he taught them to be. To reach out to a stranger.

]This is the sneaky work of Jesus. He shows up at the meal because they invited him to eat with them. It’s the kind of behavior that got him killed, you know. “He eats with sinners and tax collectors.”

This is our task. It’s to reach out to those we don’t know and dare to see Jesus in them and to even be criticized for it. And then we invite them in to share a table and eat a meal together, some of the most vulnerable activity we do together. And that’s where Jesus shows up. When you’ve extended hospitality to strangers. When you take a risk. When you show love not expecting Jesus to be there.

Maybe you’ll get brave and invite someone to sit with you at lunch.

Maybe you’ll stop eating in your car in between stops and instead make the time to eat with a co-worker or a client.

Maybe you’ll actually go knock on your neighbor’s door and ask them to dinner and finally learn their names.

It’s in the act of extending hospitality. That’s where we see Jesus. That’s where it all makes sense that has us saying, “couldn’t ya just feel it when he was talking?”

Jesus meets us on the road, wherever in life we might be. Jesus invites us into taking risks and discovering he is there, right in the midst of it all. Isn’t this just the best news?