Red Letter Year: 9/24

Luke 24.35-52

35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched.

44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things. 49 And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.


Jesus has risen from the dead. We hear that a lot and can get really used to it. But the truth and the power of the resurrection needs to pierce our hearts with the same mixture of incredulity, astonishment, and joy as it did for these folks (v. 41). That won’t happen by talking about it, not by writing or reading about it, not even by singing about it. The only way to have our hearts pierced with the incredible, astonishing, joy-filling power of the resurrection is to experience it first hand. How do we experience it first hand? By making use of the authority we have been given to proclaim the Gospel: there is forgiveness of sins for all who repent. If you are reading this, you have access to this authority to carry out this mission of proclaiming this message. (Note this is specific, not generic authority, not any random mission, not any other message.) You have the authority to pray for the sick in Jesus name and watch them be healed (resurrection power), delivered from addictions and bondages (resurrection power), have their entire lives transformed (resurrection power), and watch them take up the same authority you have (resurrection power).

Jesus is still not a ghost. Some of us alive today are still witnesses of his resurrection power. You can be a witness of his resurrection power too. But to be a witness to his resurrection power, you have to actually witness his resurrection power actively at work in the world today. Fortunately, the resurrection power of Jesus is still actively at work in the world today. You already have permission to call on, make use of, and witness the resurrection power of Jesus at work in the lives of people all around you. Luke gave us a whole other book (Acts) on what it looks like when people operate in the resurrection power of Jesus. I think it is the coolest thing in the world to see a person’s life transformed by the resurrection power of Jesus. There really is nothing like it. I highly recommend trying it. What are you waiting for? You already have all the permission you will ever need.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Red Letter Year: 9/23

Luke 24.13-34

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago. 22 Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”


A few things to note in this passage. I have read commentaries and heard preaching that call into question what these two were doing leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus, as if their journey indicates a lack of faith or a break with the community of Jesus’ followers. But I don’t see where the text gives that indication at all. We don’t know the reason for their journey. But we do know their thoughts were fully occupied with the death of Jesus and the report that the women had brought regarding his missing body and the claim that he had risen from the dead. They indicate that none of this matches with the expectation they had for Jesus to be the Messiah.

The next thing we know from the text is that Jesus himself walked with them and explained to them in detail how the Messiah had to suffer, unpacking relevant passages from Jewish Scripture. This made some impression on them because they insisted Jesus stay for a meal with them. But neither the report from the women or even the explanation Jesus gives them from the Scriptures makes the light of resurrection faith go on for them.

What finally opens their eyes is when Jesus breaks the bread, just like the meal he shared with his followers before his arrest. We typically think of the Last Supper being one only for the Twelve, but either Cleopas and the other disciple were there or they had already heard a report of it from one of the apostles. Hearing a report seems less likely to me given the compressed time frame, all that was going on, and how breaking the bread opens their eyes. I am more inclined to think Luke is suggesting they were there and recalling what they had experienced.

More than that, I think Luke is placing an emphasis on what is variously called Eucharist, Communion, or the Lord’s Supper. Virtually all Christians practice this and understand it as a sacrament (in some sense). I grew up Pentecostal and the focus was very much elsewhere; we had a low view of communion and only took it occasionally (though it was serious when we did). I now think this approach lacked an appreciation for the power of the sacrament, the power to remember – to practice remembering – Jesus’ death and resurrection. In pastoring and teaching college students, I find the death and resurrection of Jesus is still a stumbling block like it was for these two followers. We grow more used to the story, but that does not mean we grow in understanding or appreciation of it. If anything, the familiarity might make it worse. I understand that we can even grow accustomed to taking the bread and the cup, that it can also become a perfunctory ritual. I’m always looking for the radical middle, and this is a place where it seems to me there is room to push for more practice, more understanding, more appreciation. Breaking bread and sharing a cup communicates the Gospel in way nothing else can, not even a master class on the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible from Jesus himself. Let’s commit to sharing the Lord’s Table more often and to grow in our sacramental understanding.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.