The Third of Easter: Luke 24, verses 13-35 – the walk to Emmaus
Supper at Emmaus (1606) is a painting by the Italian master Caravaggio, housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera (Sala XXIX), Milan.
SERMON: FRONT PAGE NEWS
Christ is Risen!
He is Risen, indeed!
Cleopas and his friend hadn’t read about it in that morning’s copy of the “Jerusalem Post”
It hadn’t even made the “Evening Shalom” which had hit the streets mid-afternoon.
Oh, yes – there had been rumours – of course, there had been: weird bits of gossip floating about – stuff about empty tombs, wild talk about visions of angels… all very David Icke
But the news hadn’t picked up on it. Nothing in the papers. Just more engravings of Herod and populist write-ups about Pontius Pilate (featuring his “sizzling” wife on page 3) in the “Daily Star” and “the Daily Roman”
The resurrection never made the front pages, as it were. Had there been newspapers in Christ’s day, it would not have hit the headlines.
There wouldn’t even have been space for it tucked away amongst the small ads for donkeys, wine jars, and the like – somewhere near the end.
It wasn’t in the news – not that it wasn’t news! It was. and is, the greatest News of all, the Good News!
But It was so unexpected that these followers of Jesus were unprepared for it.
The story was still of crucifixion and death and the events leading up to it from Palm Sunday to trial and arrest, then sentence followed by capital punishment – Roman style.
So, here are Cleopas and his companion, who hadn’t read the news – it wasn’t in the news – wearily going home to their village. For them, it was “Goodnight Vienna”
It was a bad news evening.
The last full stop of the last sentence of the last chapter of the Jesus story had been written.
The mark of a good journalist is to summarise or compress the whole point of a story into the first paragraph, even sometimes the first line. The rest of the report may simply be filling.
Sometimes, if it’s too long ,the editor will “cut it” – nowadays on a word processor by blocking off a section and pressing delete – in days of old, by literally using a pair of scissors to cut out the last couple of paragraphs.
You can’t do this with novels, of course – you can’t excise the last page, especially of thrillers or whodunits.
I‘m old enough to remember “Hancock’s Half Hour” on the old steam radio and then on TV….. and I’m thinking just now about what happens when Tony Hancock gets a murder mystery (Lady Don’t Fall Backwards by Darcy Sarto) from the library.
To his shock and horror he finds the last page torn out. He and Sid James try to solve the whodunit, by tracking down people who had borrowed the book and even a visit to the author’s house with chaotic results.
But the Jesus story isn’t fiction. If the gospel report had ended with Christ’s death and burial, the whole point is missed.
Let me tell you one of the best Easter stories I have ever come across:
The Franco-Prussian War (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871), was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia
The Battle of Gravelotte, or Gravelotte-St. Privat, was the largest battle during the Franco-Prussian War. It was fought about six miles (10 km) west of Metz
On the eve of the battle, a group of French Infantrymen was sitting around a camp fire, smoking, drinking, anxious about the next day’s conflict.
Suddenly, out of the bushes came an old, stooped man carrying over his shoulder a bag.
“Stop, who goes there?” one of the soldiers shouted, jumping to his feet
“Only a poor old bookseller”
“Books? Pah! we’ve more on our mind than poxy books”
“No, sirs, these are good books – they will give you strength and courage as you face tomorrow”
One of the more “gallus” soldiers shouted over “Here, I’ll have one of your books” and was handed a pamphlet form of one of the Gospels (probably Mark)
He took it, flicked through the pages and then, tearing out the last one, screwed it up, touched the flame from the campfire, and lit his pipe with it. Much laughter all round …. apart from the old bookseller who retreated, sadly, whence he came.
The next day, the battle raged – with many casualties, including our “soldat” from the evening before.
Injured, he was carried off to a corner of the battle-field to await whatever medical help could be given.
Although, wounded, he wasn’t in too much pain and rummaging about in his kitbag for something to eat, he came across the little book which had been given to him the night before, and about which he’s completely forgotten.
With so much time to spare before help would arrive, he started to read it – reluctantly at first, but the with growing interest. Here was this Jesus guy who obviously had great leadership skills – and he could relate to that. And these disciples were like a sort of army – tough guys most of them.
Hey, and they’re challenging the powers-that-be. This is good stuff. Marching now on Jerusalem for a showdown with these so and so’s in authority. Come on, get them and sort them out!
But wait – it’s going wrong: arrested – no! condemned to death – no way! The disciples will come and rescue him, surely.
The Cross – death ….. he turned the page (but, of course, there was no last page; he had torn it out the previous evening)
He threw the little book away in disgust.
Now it happened that some while later, while in a field hospital, the same old bookseller came round the ward.
“Hey you!” shouted the soldier,” that was a terrible book you gave me – what drama, what enlightening stories, what a hero – and then… that’s it: anti-climax – he dies.”
And the old bookseller then explained what was written on that last missing wonderful and miraculous page.
Had the story ended with the death and burial, then it would have been a tragedy.
In his first Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul theologises the situation for us:
“If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain”
and, if that isn’t bad enough, he adds “You are still in your sins”
and “All those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished”
(1 Corinthians, 15 verse 17)
empty faith – faith based on nothing
and no forgiveness
no promise of our living beyond the grave
What a hopeless picture!
The kind of hopelessness experienced on that sluggish trudge to Emmaus.
If the story had ended with Good Friday, then it’s inconceivable that the Church would ever have arisen on the back of a dead prophet or wise man or shaman
And, if our imaginary newspaper editor had cut the story at death and burial, should there not have been an editorial somewhere denouncing this fraudulent and false teacher?
An editorial denouncing a misguided fanatic? And I can imagine the comments on the online edition of the newspaper: “whew! what a weirdo!” And from those in power: “WE won!”
And, you know – all the events which contributed to Christ’s death, all the events that enthral our pretend Jerusalem newspaper reader would always hit the headlines of life to the exclusion of any thing of value, beauty or truth.
But, as we know, the story doesn’t end with the redacted last page: “Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!”
the Good News of the Gospel, of Easter, of all time is that He is alive.
THAT is the headline of all time!
And, you know, Cleopas didn’t have to read about it. Nor did Mary Magdalene. Nor Peter. Nor Thomas. They didn’t have to.
They EXPERIENCED it for themselves. They SAW their Risen Lord; they talked to him, walked with him, ate with him.
He was real – not something dreamed up by some journo – REAL!!!
That’s the kind of news that they just couldn’t keep to themselves.
I walk the dark Emmaus road
With God so far away.
Despair has left me broken here
Too weak and blind to pray.
One comes to me I cannot see
And helps me understand.
Through passing sorrows now I know
A wise and loving hand.
When pain or loss consume my joy,
I cry for quick relief,
But God would treat a deeper need:
My fear and unbelief.
You know my need, You know my path
With all that lies ahead.
Stay near, my Lord, my God, my Host,
And break my daily bread.
Words by Ken Bible
© 2007 by LNWhymns.com. CCLI Song #5009905.
Common Metre tune – Stracathro
May you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,May God hold you in the palm of His hand.