A seat in the Abbey or a place in the crowd

Easter 3a – Sunday 8th May 2011
Luke 24: 13-35

That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.

Of all the passages in the Bible this is the one I have most difficulty with. I have just one problem. I have just one dilemma. I only have one question.

How come they didn’t recognise Jesus?

It’s not rocket science. Beard, long hair, blue eyes, nail holes – ok that might be a four word list that’s highly stereotypical, but you get the point I’m making.

Now I know you’re going to say, “Don’t forget the last sentence up there – but God kept them from recognizing him.”

Yes, I know, but what’s the point? Was this some sort of spiritual test? Was it a celestial time and motion study? How did Cleopas and the other guy (makes me laugh how they keep you guessing who it might be) get chosen for this assignment?

Whilst the two disciples on the road to Emmaus weren’t bone fide ‘original twelve’ disciples, they were still followers of Jesus. Presumably they had met him at least once. These are four translations of that first part of verse 13, and most of the rest are similar to these:

Now that same day two of them… – NIV
That same day two of Jesus’ followers… – NLT
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus… – KJV
On the same day, two of Jesus’ disciples… – God’s Word Translation

But what if…
…they never had met him?

Sven Goran ErikssonI’m writing this in a hurry. Excuse any typo’s that creep in. But in an hour I’m off to watch Leicester City play at Doncaster. Did you know I’m Leicester’s biggest fan? I’m one of Sven’s devoted followers (for those of you not quite up on this one, Sven Goran Eriksson is the Leicester manager). I’m a pinning my hopes on a Paul Gallagher hat-trick. I’m a disciple, a devotee, a follower, a believer. But you know what? I’ve never met Sven. Never been in the same room as him. Only ever seen him in a suit … or a track suit. What if he got on a train and sat next to me wearing jeans and a polo shirt? Or a tweed jacket and plus nines? Would I recognise him?

You see what I’m saying. They might have been disciples, followers and ‘two of them’, but there quite possibly been hundreds ‘of them’, maybe even thousands. Not everyone would have been on first name terms, not everyone would have had their own private relationship with Jesus.

For me the beauty of this passage is that it brings the resurrection home to me. It’s not where Jesus mixed it with ‘the women’, or ‘the disciples’. It’s where he met two of his followers, perhaps two of us.

William and Catherine kissDid you catch the royal wedding yesterday? I thought there was a mixed contrast between the shots inside Westminister Abbey, where William and Catherine were surrounded by their families, Commonwealth and political leaders, their friends and other people of good standing, and the interaction outside the service. Did you see when William and Harry went walk about the night before and met the people camped outside Clarence House? Did you see when William and Catherine came out on the balcony at Buckingham Palace and she said ‘Wow!’ when she saw the crowds. Did you hear the reception from the crowds that lined The Mall, Horseguards Parade, Whitehall and other vantage points of the procession? Did you see the joy of the people when William and Catherine drove out of The Palace in his dad’s Aston Martin sports car? This is where the Royalty met the people.

Is the road to Emmaus also where Royalty met the people? Where the Son of God came alongside his children? Where the King of kings walked with his beloved ones?
Read too much into the gospel accounts and you get Jesus just meeting ‘the eleven’, ‘the women’, the inner circle. There’s an exclusivity to the man of God, a strictly controlled invitation list.

Behold the beauty of the Emmaus road and you see Jesus mingling with the crowd. You understand the point of it all, the scales falling from our eyes, the barriers being broken down, the bridge being built. Yes, for me, this is the reading that pulls me alongside God, makes him so real, so immediate, so personal.

Why did God keep the two followers from recognising Jesus? Because isn’t that just what life is like? We encounter Jesus at those moments when we least expect to and it can be the greatest blessing we ever receive.

Leicester City FCRight I’m off to meet Sven and the boys. Hope I recognise him.

Happy days.


About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Lectionary and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A seat in the Abbey or a place in the crowd

  1. David J Goss says:

    Seems it actually happened! – Reported in today’s “Doncaster Free Press” newspaper. – Sven was out walking in Doncaster’s Elmfield park on Saturday morning before the match. A local children’s team, “Hyde Park Knights,” were there having a kickabout. One of the Dad’s spotted Sven, realised it was him, approached him and asked if he would be photographed with the Knights. – Photo in today’s newspaper.

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