You have to wonder what it was about the resurrected Jesus that made him look so different that people who knew and loved him weren’t able to recognize him when he appeared. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus when she saw him in the garden – she thought he was a gardener and asked him where they had moved Jesus’ body. Here on the road to Emmaus two followers of Jesus who clearly loved and were devoted to him didn’t recognize Jesus as he walked and talked with them for an entire afternoon. Why didn’t these people who loved Jesus so much recognize him? What kept them from seeing Jesus? Maybe the more important question is what keeps us from seeing Jesus?
Jesus has promised to be with us always and so what is it that keeps us from seeing him as part of our lives? What is it that keeps us from seeing Jesus at work in the world? Maybe what keeps us from seeing Jesus is the very same thing that kept these first followers from seeing Jesus and it wasn’t what Jesus looked like, it was the eyes through which they were seeing.
These disciples didn’t recognize Jesus because they were looking through their own doubt, disappointment and despair. They said that they had hoped Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. They had hoped he was going to be the Messiah and the one who would lead them out from under the oppression of Rome and into the kingdom of God. They had hoped, but now they were disappointed and disillusioned because things hadn’t turned out the way they hoped they would.
They were also filled with doubt. They doubted the message of the women who said that angels had told them that Jesus was alive. If these two had believed that message they would not have chosen to leave Jerusalem. They would have stayed with the other disciples to see what was going to happen next, but they didn’t stay. They were on their way home, disappointed that Jesus hadn’t been the Messiah, disillusioned that the kingdom he talked about hadn’t come and filled with doubt about him being alive. They were defeated and in despair and that is what kept them from seeing Jesus.
What often keeps us from seeing Jesus at work in our lives and present in our world is our own sense of disappointment, doubt and defeat. When our own lives don’t turn out the way we hoped they would, our disappointment leads us to ask, where is Jesus? When we see violence, injustice and persecution of Christians in the world we become disillusioned and wonder if the power of Christ is at work in the world today? Maybe we have been disappointed and disillusioned by the church and have come up feeling empty in the one place we thought we would feel fulfilled. Maybe we simply doubt that a man named Jesus every lived, died and rose again or doubt that a God who could bring Jesus back from the dead could really love me. Maybe it is all of these things combined that has filled our hearts and minds with despair so that even if Jesus was standing in front us in bodily form we would not recognize him.
What keeps us from seeing Jesus today are the very same things that kept Mary and these two disciples from seeing Jesus, a combination of doubt, disillusionment and defeat but notice that Jesus doesn’t leave them in their despair, he walked and talked with them until their eyes were opened. God didn’t leave them in their despair and God doesn’t leave us in ours either. Jesus keeps walking and talking with us to open our eyes and the eyes of our heart and this story shows us what we can do to help open our eyes.
The first thing we can do is turn to scripture, look at Luke 24:27. Jesus began to open their eyes by helping them see what the Messiah was all about from the scriptures. He went back to Moses and walked them through all the Old Testament and showed them what was said about the Messiah and how everything God said about the Messiah happened in Jesus. Jesus used the word of God to open their eyes and their hearts and God still uses his word to help us see Jesus and the presence and power of God in the world today.
I cannot emphasize enough how important the study of scripture is to our ability to see Jesus in our lives and in our world. Studies continue to show that the reading and reflection of Scripture is the most vital tool in faith development and that is exactly what we see here. Jesus didn’t jump up and down saying here I am, he took these disciples back to God’s word and through the scriptures helped them see that God was with them – literally. The Bible itself says that God’s word is living and active which means that when we read it, it does something in us. God’s word helps us see God at work throughout history and God at work today. So if we want to see Jesus in our lives or in our world, the place to start is in a Bible Study, Small Group or Sunday School Class.
The second thing these disciples did that helped them see Jesus was they invited Jesus to stay. When they did this, the first thing they were doing was being obedient to God’s word because God told his people to welcome the stranger. Leviticus 19:34. This was a call to treat the stranger as you would your own family. You were to care for them and offer them food and lodging. God told his people to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter. (Isaiah 58:17)
When the disciples invitee this man to stay with them for the evening they were faithfully living out God’s word and the more we live out the word of God, the more our eyes and hearts are opened to see Jesus and the power of God in the world, but that’s not all that happened. When they invited this man to stay with them, they were inviting God in the flesh, the Messiah, to be with them and he stayed. Any invitation we make to Jesus to be part of our lives is an invitation he will take us up on. When we invite Jesus into our lives – he enters. When we invite him into our hearts – he enters. When we invite him into our homes and families – he enters. Jesus said that whenever we open the door to him or invite him in that he will come in and eat with us. Revelation 3:20. If we invite Jesus into our lives – he will come and stay and when he does he overcomes our doubt, disappointment and despair so that we can see him.
While hearing the scriptures, faithfully living them out and inviting Jesus to stay all helped these disciples see Jesus, what finally opened their eyes was Jesus taking bread, blessing it, breaking it and giving it to them to eat. Now, these two disciples were not at Jesus’ last supper so we can’t assume that these actions of Jesus reminded them of that event, but they were familiar. Jesus had blessed and given people bread enough times that these actions were familiar. He fed crowds, he was invited to dinners, he ate with his followers and as the leader it was most likely Jesus who gave thanks and broke and gave out the bread. This was a familiar act that included familiar words. These were moments of worship and family and faith and in these simple moments they saw Jesus.
It is often in simple moments of worship, family and faith that we see Jesus. For us as a church, it is in the breaking of bread, in times of communion, that we can see Jesus. But it might also be times of prayer or singing. It might be saying grace as a family before you eat or just walking into church on a Sunday morning that we see Jesus and feel the power of God’s presence. Simple moments of worship, family and faith open our hearts to the presence of God and so we need to attend to these moments and make them an ongoing part of our lives. It is regular worship that opens our eyes. It is the habit of prayer and family traditions that open our hearts to the presence of God and so we need to commit ourselves to these moments and this way of life. The disciples were able to see Jesus because they had put themselves in similar places with him many times before and we will see Jesus if we will put ourselves in simple places where we can see him.
What overcomes our doubt, disappointment and despair is Scripture, inviting Jesus stay with us and simple moments of worship, faith and family. Giving ourselves to this way of life will open our eyes and the eyes of our heart so that we can see Jesus. It may not come instantly – these disciples show us it might be a journey, a process – but if we commit ourselves to these things, we will see him.
But it wasn’t just a familiar act that opened their eyes, it was also an act of service. They finally saw Jesus as he was serving them, literally breaking and giving them the bread. What helped them see Jesus was Jesus serving them and what helps us see Jesus is when the body of Christ serves which means one way we can help others see Jesus is by serving them. We are the hands and feet and voice of Jesus and when we serve someone we are giving them the opportunity to see Jesus. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked or invite the stranger in, we not only see Jesus but we are helping others see him. Serving others is one way we reveal the living Jesus to the world.
A few years ago when we set up serving our seniors, the goal wasn’t just to help those in need in our community – that is important, but it wasn’t our goal. The goal was to get the entire Church serving in one event because we believe that by serving together will reveal to the community the living presence of Jesus Christ. When we help our neighbors their eyes are opened. Their neighbors’ eyes are opened, the hearts of their families are opened and people see Jesus. So while the service and help we provide to our seniors is important and is one way we faithfully live out scripture, serving together as the body of Christ in the community also helps all those who live in Bellefonte see Jesus.
I want to invite you today to not only live a life where God can open your eyes, but live in a way to help open the eyes and hearts of others. We have included a response sheet in the bulletin to make it easy for you to sign up for this event. If we can come together as the body of Christ to serve, not only will our eyes and hearts be opened to see Jesus, but we will help open the eyes and hearts of others.
Their Eyes Were Opened
1. What is keeping you from seeing Jesus? Can you be specific and name it?
2. What can you do in each of these areas to help you see Jesus?
• Scripture: reading and reflection
• Invitation to Jesus to stay in your life
• Commitment to worship
• Living out of faith in simple and obedient ways
3. How can you help others see Jesus?
Serving our Seniors is one way that Faith Church has made a commitment to showing Jesus Christ to our community. As we come together as the body of Christ on April 25 to serve others, we are giving everyone an opportunity to see Jesus. Please join us in this important work of the church by filling out the commitment sheet found in the bulletin.