On that first Easter day the women went to the tomb and were greeted not by death but by life. They were directed not to weeping but called to not be afraid. After this, in Luke’s Gospel we find a radically different account of something that transpires and only he records it for us. It is something which happens not with the 11 disciples in the upper room but to two previously unknown, at least to us, disciples. Tradition says Cleopas was actual named Clopas and was the brother of Joseph, and so an uncle of Jesus. The other disciple, who is not named, was his son Simeon. He later becomes the head of the church in Jerusalem. These two are heading home after a bizarre and terrifying time in Jerusalem. On their way back to Emmaus they are talking about all the things that happened, about the shocking turn of events where the Messiah was handed over to the authorities to be brutally beaten and executed. They know it all. They even heard about what the women had said concerning the empty tomb. They are returning to whatever life they had outside of these events and wondering what it all could mean, speculating about their future and what happens next.
Now, along the way Jesus draws near to them. We are told in the text the eyes of these two were kept from recognizing Him. They see their Lord as a simple stranger who comes along side of them and joins them on their journey. He asks them what they are talking about. They seem shocked that this man does not know. How could anyone leaving the city not know what had happened? From the shouts of Palm Sunday to the terror of Good Friday, how could He be ignorant of it all. There is some irony in Cleopas reply, at least for the readers of the text. He asks, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem?” Indeed, He is only a visitor. Jesus is only a visitor who came in flesh and blood and would not be deterred from His mission. Our Lord is only a visitor whose work is about to be completed.
So, they do not know who this is. They do not know precisely what is unfolding in their presence. They continue to walk along with this man telling Him all the things that had happened from the crucifixion to the appearance of angels and the proclamation of the resurrection. Their story is filled with wonder and longing and a certain amount of doubt and hesitation. And what does Jesus do? Why, He leads them on what was probably the greatest Bible study ever given. He says to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke24:25-27). He demonstrates how the center, the key of Scripture, is Himself. It was all about His suffering, death and resurrection. The Scriptures are all about the great redeeming work of God leading to a cross and an empty tomb. They should not be surprised at what happened. They should be delighted in the Good News the women spoke for it was always leading to this moment.
The works of God are not aimless or random. We may not always understand them or see how they are intended to play out, but God remains God. He is the director of the seasons and establishes the parameters of all matters under Heaven. So, the movements of His great work in our midst are leading somewhere. It has a purpose, an end goal to which everything is driving. And as they walk along, as they hear the testimony of the Word of God, as they marvel at the fulfilled promises of God, they are being led somewhere, being directed to a destination which is crucial for all disciples of our Lord.
The destination to which this great truth of the Word of God is leading is a fellowship, a gathering of the disciples together. They get to a fork in the road and these disciples are going to head into the village of Emmaus. Jesus acts like He is going on down the road by Himself. He pretends he does not know where this is going to end up. But their conversation over the Word, their growth in understanding and conviction of the promises of God will not allow them to just part ways. Something has happened to them. Something has changed. This cannot end at a parting in the road. So, they urge Him strongly saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent” (Luke 24:29). Their destination is a gathering around a table, a feasting together. Though they did not know this is where it would end or who it was that was with them, it seemed as if it had to end here, it was leading here. It was about fellowship.
So, it is with us as well. The gift of faith and the blessings of Law and Gospel have taken ahold of you. The Word of God has condemned you as a sinner over and again. It has stripped you of your pride and selfish desires. Into your brokenness the Word then speaks something sweet and reviving. It heals you in the promises of Christ alone. It speaks of salvation found outside of yourself in His love for you. This Word burns in our hearts and leads us to a destination. It is not just something you have to hold on to all by yourself. The Word it brings you together. It calls you into a fellowship. It not only pulls you into a relationship with Jesus but into relationships with one another.
This great destination of the people of God is especially coveted in our day. For it is not the Word of God that is being kept from us, not the journey of the faith that is halted, but the fellowship, the gathering together, the feasting with one another which has been put on hold. Just as we think we may gather again, the destination gets pushed farther away from us, always just outside our reach. We feel disconnected, separated from something crucial because we do not all gather here together. I would love to tell you it is all right, that we can just do church via live-stream or through this recorded video. But you know it is a lie. You know something crucial is missing, something we all long for desperately is kept from us. For the faith, our faith in Christ, calls us into a fellowship, a real gathering void of social distancing precautions around the gifts of our God.
As these two disciples sit with our Lord at their destination, what does He do? He takes the bread, He blesses it, He breaks it and then He gives it to them. In that moment, in the breaking of the bread, in the celebration of the fellowship with them, their eyes are opened. In that instant they can see who was with them all along. And just like that He vanishes from their sight. It is as if He was leading them the whole way, leading them to exactly what we long for today, into a fellowship where we sit with our Lord and receive His blessings in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus does for them exactly what He continues to do for us today. He gives them fellowship with Him, fellowship with the Father, fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, fellowship with those who have gone before us, and fellowship with the whole Christian Church on earth in the breaking of the bread. This is why we desire to gather as His Church. This is why our hearts burn and we long for the Lord’s Supper.
But here is the good news my friends. For though we long for this fellowship, though we desperately desire to be together once again, to gather and receive His gifts and sing His praises, He has never left you. He has never pulled away from you, never worried about keeping distance from you. He has been with you the whole time, journeying along with you, proclaiming to you the free gifts of hope and life in what He has done for you. And He promises to bring us together again to receive a foretaste of the feast to come. For this journey is not yet over. It is leading toward an eternal fellowship where there will be no separation, no lack of love, no sin or shame or suffering. He is bringing you to an eternal glory of life and salvation. All glory be to God. Amen.