Ever gotten in over your head trying to fix something? Happened to me this week. I went to heat up a cup of coffee for the fourth time when our microwave flashed “E F-6.” Wasn’t sure what that meant, but it didn’t sound good. For the record, I cave-in a lot easier than Dixie when it comes to home repair. In fact, any flashing light would send me to a repair shop. But not my wife. Flashing error signs have never unnerved her. So she just rolled up her sleeves and went to work. Within minutes she had the bolts, metal covers, and basically the guts from the belly of our microwave exposed. Fortunately, she located the instructions that came with the microwave. Unfortunately, neither she nor I could make heads or tails out of them. After nearly an eternity, I heard the sweetest words known man. Maybe we should call the repair shop. A chipper young man arrived and in no time our demon-possessed microwave was fully clothed and back in its right mind.
That’s sort of the picture that emerges in the Gospel lesson for today. The Emmaus travelers can’t seem to fix something. The E F-6 is flashing. Their hope is broken beyond repair. Actually, it has flatlined and the guts of their faith have been turned inside out. If they’d had a Traveler’s Journal, you would have noticed key words from their conversations—He was a Prophet. Mighty before God and all the people. Chief priests and rulers. Condemned to Death. Got Crucified. Empty tomb, missing body. Angels saying, ‘He’s alive.’ They’ve got a lot of pieces on the table and they can’t figure it out. Fortunately, they have the instructions. Unfortunately, it’s no better than microwave instructions; they can’t make sense of it. These travelers certainly would have had a working knowledge of Jewish Scripture. They would have heard it read every Sabbath. But even with the Scriptures at hand, they can’t seem to put the pieces together. They can’t fix their broken, crushed hope.
Like Dixie and me this week who watched the repair instructions on YouTube and had written instructions for our broken microwave, in the end we needed a repair person. And so did they. They needed the Repairer of Souls to sort all of this out. And that’s when the story gets crazy interesting. For, from out of nowhere, a stranger “happens” to bump into these sad-sack travelers. They have no clue who this Stranger is but they sure give him an earful when he asks to get into their conversation.
“Are you kidding, me?” they ask incredulously of the Stranger. Are you the only visitor coming from Jerusalem who’s clueless about this weekend?” Jesus, of course, plays along with them. “What are you talking about?” he asks. So, they dump all of these conflicting pieces of dashed hope before him. The least they could do, they apparently think, is to educate this Stranger so he too can be sad and depressed with them.
What they don’t realize of course, is that the real Repairman has just shown up. He sees all of the pieces of their dark weekend; he sees he all the pieces of their dashed hope and then he does the unthinkable. He begins to quote the instructions from God’s book to them so they can understand. We don’t know the exact places from the Law and the Prophets Jesus cited, but apparently, he covers all the bases. For the first time, it starts to make sense.
I’d like to think that maybe he quoted from the Prophet Isaiah where he says,
He was despised and we esteemed him not.
Surely, he has borne our sorrows . . .
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
Upon him was the chastisement that
brought us peace, and with his stripes
We are healed.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
And they made his grave with the wicked
And with a rich man in his death
Although he had done no violence,
And there was no deceit in his mouth.
As he opens the Scripture to them, they feel their hearts on fire and hope awakening. They start to get it. The terrible pieces of the weekend begin to make sense and their minds race. This horrible weekend was planned? . . . by God? . . . He did all of that for me? So, you can understand why they won’t let the Stranger leave them when they finally reach Emmaus. Stay with us, they urge him, for evening is at hand and the day is past.
The story ends with this Stranger joining them for supper. He takes the Bread and blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. And in that simple, common action, illumination flashes and their eyes open wide as saucers and they know. They know who the Stranger is. Jesus has come back to them.
If that’s the story, what is Luke teaching us from this simple account of two travelers? I do not know all of what his story teaches, but I do know this. We are all travelers. Sometimes we’re sad travelers; sometimes we’re confused travelers, sometimes joyful travelers. But when we gather here, it’s as if the Stranger joins us. As we hear the Scriptures read, He speaks to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He becomes our Interpreter of the Instructions in the Scriptures. And in his presence things start to make sense. We start to get it. He once again kindles our hearts and awakens hope. And we know that we are not traveling alone. In a flash our eyes are opened and we know who the Stranger is. He has come back to be our Fellow-Traveler and our Lord. And he will travel the road with us—no matter it takes us—and he’ll lead us safely home.
I know one more thing about this story. Every time we gather, the wine is served and then the Bread is blessed by our Lord, broken in his memory, and given freely to us in His name. And as we eat, we remember that we are members of His Body—the Body of Christ. And his life is so precious that even a single crumb from his Table will make us whole. And when we leave, we hear these words, “Go out to love and serve the Lord!” May God send us as a fellow-traveler to someone this week who needs a friend to kindle their hearts and awaken hope in them.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, stay with us for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, page 72