Worship at Home – Sunday 26th April

IMG_0543
Hucclecote Methodist Church

Welcome to Worship at Home

Click here for the Worship at Home Service Sheet

Everyone seems to be getting into recording or live streaming. Well, this is my first attempt at recording a video. This is me giving my reflection on Luke 24:13-35, the text of which you can read below. Let me know whether I should inflict on you further videos in the future!

First, listen to Phil Summers telling the story of the Emmaus Road:

 

Year A Easter 3, Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4,12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

Walking with Jesus

This has always been one of my favourite stories from Luke’s gospel. It tells of two disciples waling along a road to the village of Emmaus near Jerusalem on the same day as the resurrection. It was that same morning when the women from Galilee had visited the tomb in the early morning and found the stone rolled away from the tomb entrance (Luke 24 1-12). One of the disciples was called Cleopas, but we are not told the name of the other.

As these two walked along they were, as you might expect, talking about everything that had happened over the last three days, and as they walked and talked they met with a man on the road whom they did not recognise. In days long before social distancing was a thing he came up to them and asked them what they had been discussing! “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” he asked. This might seem a bit nosy really but if you have a long way to walk you may as well be companions on the road and join in the discussion together. 

The two looked at him rather sadly and with some surprise: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know about the things that have taken place there in the last few days?”, they ask. And then they go on to tell him all about this Jesus, from Nazareth who had been such an amazing prophet and teacher and for whom they had had such high hopes of him being the new king of Israel, the one who would restore Israel to glory. 

And they told him how all these hopes had come crashing down as he had fallen out with the chief priests and leaders who had handed him over to be crucified. How they had witnessed his excruciating death nailed to a cross and how on this third day after, the women going to the tomb to dress and spice the body had found it empty. And how they had come running back with tales of how they had seen an angel who had told them that Jesus had risen from the dead, and how the disciples had then gone down to the tomb themselves to check on this story, and had found it just as the women had said.

Then this stranger reacts rather strangely as it turns out he is not ignorant of all this at all. He berates them for foolishness and then as they walk together he explains why it was necessary for all these things to happen in order to fulfil everything the the scriptures had foretold. 

When the company arrive at their destination the two disciples urge the stranger to stay with them overnight. And then later, as he breaks bread before them, their eyes are opened to realise that this was Jesus himself standing among them who had been walking and talking with them along the road!

This is an amazing story but it raises so many questions.

Perhaps the first is: Who are these two disciples walking along the road? Cleopas hasn’t been mentioned before has he? He wasn’t one of the 12 and we don’t know the name of the other but they certainly seem to have been in the inner circle with the others. We know that the number of disciples had grown by this time because a bit earlier, when Mary and the other women had returned from the garden we are told that they “told this to the eleven and to all the rest” (verse 8). So it is likely that these two were amongst the “all the rest”.

Then we might ask: Why didn’t they recognise Jesus when he came and walked with them?

There are several possible answers to this.The first is about expectation: – have you ever looked at one of those ‘optical illusion’ pictures – where you think you see something and then, suddenly, your perception changes and you see something completely different?

Our brains tend to interpret the information we get through our senses according to what we have been used to expecting. That’s why a lot of optical illusions work – our brains find it difficult to make sense of unexpected or ambiguous information. So maybe they failed to recognise Jesus simply because they were not expecting to see him walking along the road with them after having watched Him die so cruelly on the cross only 3 days previously. 

Then there are the possible effects of shock, disappointment and grief. They were certainly shattered. They say “We had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel”. In those words ‘we had hoped’, you can hear the disappointment and the disbelief that Jesus had, in the end, failed to rescue Israel from the pagan, occupying power of Rome.  Maybe they failed to recognise him because they were so sad that they walked with their heads down and never really looked at Jesus to see who it was that was walking with them. Grief can affect our ability to see and understand things clearly. Luke simply says that they were kept from recognising Him, as if it was God’s purpose not to let them realise quite yet, and no doubt it was.

But I think it was more than the effects of grief and disappointment. I think it’s likely that there was something different about a resurrected Jesus. Paul talks of the resurrection of Jesus being the ‘first fruits’ of a general resurrection that we will all participate in (1 Cor 15:20), at which time we will be re-created in a new “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44). Perhaps this act of re-creation is what accounts for people failing to recognise him immediately after the resurrection.

But what about us? Do we also sometimes fail to recognise Jesus when he is right there with us?

As Christians we believe that Jesus is active in all of the world but often it seems that we fail to notice His presence there. Many people say that they only realise what Jesus had been doing in their lives and in the world around them when they looked back on their experience. They didn’t see it at the time. Sometimes new Christians say that it was only when they became Christians that they realised that He had been there all the time and had an influence on their lives. 

But Jesus is always here with us in our everyday lives. If we open our eyes we can see him at work in those who work on his behalf, whenever love is shown.

I wonder, how has Jesus been working in your life – have you recognised him recently?

As the two disciples walk along, they are feeling very unhappy. But then Jesus walks alongside them and explains to them why the Messiah had to suffer and die, using scripture to explain how all the events were leading to this moment. 

Jesus shows them that the scriptures showed a common pattern in how God deals with his people. He would have shown them how God’s purpose in creation was the emergence of a Holy people dedicated to his service and how, in a world which organises itself to oppose God’s will, this purpose could only be achieved through humiliation and suffering.

I wonder why it is that Jesus, the Messiah, had to die?

Maybe it was so that He could rise again. In order for there’re to be resurrection there first has to be death and it must be real.  Some Christians believe that he accepted death as a punishment for the sins of all people, or to take upon himself the humiliation and suffering of all God’s people instead of us. 

Perhaps someone as outspoken as Jesus was inevitably going to be put to death by the powers that be. Other people think it was to show us an example of perfect love and grace: – love that leads to a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for those you love, and grace that is a willingness to make that ultimate sacrifice even for those who do not deserve it or who refuse to love you back. The Methodist catechism tells us that “Jesus Christ suffered death and was raised again for us so that we might live for him” (p8 14).

Perhaps the important point is that by his death and resurrection Christ defeated the powers of evil. We tend to think that death is the worst thing that can happen, but Jesus proved that death is not the end of life but an event on the journey of life. A milestone along the way. This can be a comfort to us in times of death even though we still suffer the pain and grief of loss.

As they came near to the village of Emmaus, the stranger walks ahead as if he were going on. But the two disciples urge him to stay as evening was coming on. Travelling at night in the dark could be dangerous and it was customary to offer hospitality to travellers.

This was important because it wasn’t on the road, despite all Jesus had said to them, that they came to recognise Jesus themselves. It was later, as He broke the bread for the meal, that their eyes were opened and they recognised Jesus. It is as he breaks the bread that they see and they believe.

It is interesting that it is in this intimate meeting with Jesus that they come to understand who he is. The understanding didn’t come through intellectual understanding, through the telling and explaining on the road, it came through an intimate meeting with him, engaging with something that was so familiar. And this meeting only came about because they first invited him in. In the same way we only really know Jesus when we invite him in – to our homes, our work, our joys and sorrows and our lives. 

Once the gathered company had recognised Him he could be seen no longer, but they had no doubt at all and they went rushing back to tell the others – who had already seen Him for themselves.

It can be like that for us. We may learn about Jesus and gain knowledge of the things he said and did in Sunday school, in school RE lessons, in Bible study, or during Worship – but that is not enough for us to truly recognise him, embrace him and become a true follower or disciple. There are many ways though in which we can come to recognise him. For the disciples it was that moment as he broke the bread and shared the wine. For John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, it was having his heart “Strangely warmed” as he heard a particular reading at a meeting. Our personal recognition of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour can occur in all kinds of circumstances, but it is when something happens that makes us recognise Jesus in our life that our understanding goes from our heads to our hearts. That is the moment when we truly believe in Him as these disciples did. And that is when we begin to become truly the people he has called us to be.

At this time we cannot invite each other into our home but we can still invite Jesus in. So as we now live this resurrection life, let us never stop seeking Jesus in our own lives, looking for him in the world around us and seeking him for others as well.

 

Live Streamed Service

Wesley’s Chapel London who will live-stream from the chapel (the Minister lives on the premises)

Sundays 11am

Click here to go to the service

Published by andrewpbiggs

Methodist minister currently serving the Gloucestershire Circuit. Married to Julie. Enjoy reading and playing the guitar badly.

4 thoughts on “Worship at Home – Sunday 26th April

  1. Thank you Andrew. The video worked well and the cat seemed to like it too! Please use the video presentation again

  2. Thank you for your reflections on Walking with Jesus. I haven’t watched your video but I hope you will continue to include your cat in the proceedings! Whatever our circumstances we have the certain knowledge that Jesus is always with us!! Sue

  3. Thank you Andrew for your presentation today – most heartening in these challenging times. With my visual and low energy difficulties it was was wonderful to be able to listen freely at a time I felt up to it. I look forward to hearing more. May God bless you and your family.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: