This morning we are taking a break from Matthew’s gospel to engage a story that may be familiar. It is late in the day on the Sunday we now call “Easter Sunday.” Two of Jesus’ followers are on their way home to the village of Emmaus. As they walk, they talk about what has happened in Jerusalem the past few days. At a crossroad, Jesus joins them, but they are prevented from recognizing him. This is where the story gets good.
Jesus wants to get in on the conversation so he asks the guys what they are talking about. Cleopus says, “Are you the only guy in town who hasn’t heard of the terrible things that have happened in the past few days?” Jesus plays dumb and asks, “What things?” Then the guys pour their hearts out about Jesus of Nazareth; the people’s prophet, sent from God…The religious leaders had him arrested and sentenced to death. “We thought he was the one – the Messiah and now he’s gone. And then, some women from our group went to the tomb this morning and said that angels told them Jesus was still alive! We don’t know what to think, so we’re just going home.”
Then Jesus says, “You foolish people! Do you not pay attention to your own faith?” As the trio continues on the road, Jesus explains scripture to them. He starts with Moses and goes through all the Prophets showing them how the Messiah was to be blessed by God, broken by the sins of humanity, and then resurrected to life eternal. Jesus – Blessed and Broken – for us.
Today I want us to see ourselves in the role of those two walking on the Emmaus Road. We have heard the stories; yet, we are not quite convinced. We walk along our faith journey, much like the pilgrims in today’s story, talking about everything that has happened and not really knowing how to process it or live with it. It seems like every Sunday morning Jesus finds us at a crossroad and asks us what we’re talking about. Then he says to us: “You foolish people! Pay attention to what I have been telling you all along. Really listen and change the way you live your lives.” Now, if we look back at Luke’s story we hear the very best part. When they get to Emmaus, the guys invite Jesus to stay with them for supper. Jesus sits down and he takes bread – he blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. Immediately, their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus. Hear the important part – Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread. What happens next is why this moment is so significant. They are filled with God’s grace at the breaking of the bread…they are able to see what they could not see before – the truth of Jesus. They realize how their hearts were on fire as they listened to this man explain scripture to them. They rush back to Jerusalem to tell their story – to give their testimony, their witness. Jesus really is alive! We saw him! We talked with him! He broke bread with us! They shared what had been revealed to them.
I can talk all day long about why I believe that Holy Communion is so important to us. I can cite plenty of statements from church history and United Methodist tradition about Holy Communion as a means of receiving God’s grace. I could talk about how receiving Holy Communion can be an evangelism moment as God works in a person when they come to the Lord’s Table. I can keep inviting you to attend our weekly communion services at 9:45 a.m. on the Sundays that are not regular “communion Sundays.” Luke does the best job of telling us why Holy Communion makes sense – because Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread. Is there really anything else we need to know?
Here’s the thing: it is not my job, nor is it within my power to change anyone’s mind about the sacrament of Holy Communion. My job is to testify to my personal experience and then let God do the hard work. My job is much like those two guys walking to Emmaus. They walked along the road with a lot of questions on their minds. Jesus came along and offered them answers. Then, Jesus revealed his divine identity to them in the breaking of the bread. After that, they had no choice but to run and tell anyone who would listen, that Jesus was alive! That is really all I can do… I have personally experienced the love of God and the forgiving grace of Jesus during the celebration of Holy Communion. I have found a connection with Jesus in this sacrament that is not found anywhere else. That’s it – that is my testimony to you… Jesus was blessed by God; he was broken by the sins of humanity; and he was raised from the dead – Jesus is alive and he is revealed to us in the breaking of the bread. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.