Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter (A)

May 4, 2014
Text: Luke 24:13-35

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent” (Luke 24:29; ESV).  They did not even know it was the Lord when they spoke this petition.  As yet their eyes were kept from recognizing Him (v. 16).  But their hearts had burned within them as this Stranger opened the Scriptures (v. 32) to Cleopas and his traveling companion on the road to Emmaus, showing them from Moses and the Prophets (what we have come to call the Old Testament) that the Christ must suffer these things, be condemned to death by the religious and secular authorities and be crucified, and in this way enter His glory (vv. 26-27).  To be sure, their invitation was a customary act of hospitality.  It is dangerous to be out on the road at night.  There are robbers and wild animals and other hazards of the road better dealt with in the light.  But it is more than that.  They do not want their time with this wise Traveler to end.  There is something about Him that comforts them.  He gives them peace when their life is anything but peaceful, having just suffered the traumatic death of their Teacher and Lord, their hopes profoundly disappointed, grief and fear their constant companions.  And now this confusion, the reports of the women about the empty tomb and preaching angels declaring that He is risen from the dead.  In the midst of all of this there is this Man who, by the simple speaking of His Word, gives them hope and faith that this is all according to God’s plan, that somehow in all of this God has worked salvation, and in the end, the God who brought about the defeat of death by dying, who raised Jesus from the dead, will make all that is wrong in our world and in our lives right.
            So stay with us Lord.  It’s getting dark.  We don’t want to be alone.  It feels like You have forsaken us, like You have gone away.  After all, we can’t see You.  Not with our fallen eyes.  And there are dangers here in the darkness: the sin that seeks to destroy us and those we love; Satan and his minions who want to rob us of our faith and hope; sickness and pain and death, which leave us in the meantime with our constant companions of grief and fear.  But here when You speak Your Word, our hearts burn within us, for You give us faith and hope and peace in the midst of all these perils.  For You open the Scriptures to us.  Beginning with Moses and the Prophets (the Old Testament) and continuing with the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists (the New Testament), You show us that in Your suffering and death you enter into Your glory and You take us with You.  You do not leave us or forsake us.  You do not leave us in sin, for You died for our forgiveness and You daily forgive us in Holy Absolution.  You do not leave us a prey for Satan and the demons, for in Your crucifixion, You crushed the serpent’s head.  You do not leave us in death and the grave, for You are the risen and ascended Lord.  You have prepared a place for us in heaven with You, and on the Last Day, You will raise us bodily from the dead. 
            “Stay with us, Lord, for it is evening, and the day is almost over” (LSB 243).[1]  The disciples’ petition has become the cry of the holy Christian Church.  It is a prominent petition in the Church’s Evening Prayer liturgy.  We sing it in hymns like “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.  The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide” (LSB 878:1).  It’s not the strongest Christmas carol we sing, but my mother often sang “Away in a Manger” with me before bed when I was a child.  The third verse is priceless in the petition, “Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever and love me, I pray” (LSB 364:3).  Around the dinner table we often pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.”  We don’t just mean at our meal, but in our homes and in our lives.  These petitions echo Luther’s evening prayer which we learn in the Small Catechism: “graciously keep me this night.  For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.  Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”  If you haven’t memorized that prayer, please do, and pray it every night.  Memorize some of these evening hymns.  Memorize and pray this verse this verse from the Holy Gospel: “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent.”
            And Jesus does.  He stays with you.  He does not make Himself visible to your eyes, but He is with you as assuredly as we’re all together here this morning, with you as your God certainly, but also as your fellow Human Being, as a Man, a flesh and blood Presence.  Your eyes are kept from recognizing Him.  That is until He is at the Table with you, the Altar, and He takes bread, blesses it, and gives it to you.  That is how the disciples at Emmaus recognized Him, in the breaking of the bread.  And so you.  Faith recognizes the Lord Jesus in the bread that is His Body, the wine that is His Blood.  We recognize Him in the Supper, really and substantially present.  And we realize that just because we cannot see Him, that doesn’t mean He’s gone.  After breaking the bread before the Emmaus disciples, He vanished from their sight (v. 31), but He didn’t go away.  They knew, as we know, that He is always with us, hidden in the Sacrament.  He is always with us, hidden in His Word, for when He speaks, our hearts burn within us.  He is always with us wherever we go, because that is what He said: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
            And so, the time is getting late.  Do you recognize that it is toward evening?  Do you recognize that these are the gray and latter days of the world?  You may know it by whatever darkness is in your life.  Sins that plague you, guilt that won’t go away, deteriorating bodies, your own and those of loved ones, and finally the grave that you know will one day be your bed.  Change and decay in all around you see, as the hymn puts it (LSB 878:4).  There is certainly the darkness that surrounds the world: wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines, corrupt politicians, decaying morals, abortion, homelessness, the hypersexualization of the culture, gay marriage, the list goes on.  What good news for you and for all people that the risen Lord Jesus comes to you where you dwell and He stays.  He abides.  He never goes away.  He died for the darkness.  He covered it all in His blood, washed away all the bad, all the sin, all the fallen-ness.  And He blew a hole through death, opened up the grave, exposed it to the light of His risen glory.  “Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome” (LSB 243; John 8:12; 1:5).  He stays.  He lets His light scatter the darkness (1 Cor. 4:5) and illumine His Church (2 Cor. 4:6).  He casts the bright beams of His light upon you, enlightens your mind, your heart, your soul, so that you see Him even where He is hidden from your eyes, but really present for you.  You see Him by faith, and you know that He has answered your prayer.  He stays with you.  And the evening has no power over you.
            The Emmaus disciples reported these things to the Eleven in Jerusalem that same evening.  And just as Jesus had vanished suddenly from their sight at Emmaus, so also He appears suddenly in the midst of the disciples in Jerusalem.  And He speaks His peace.  He shows them His hands and His side, His crucifixion wounds.  He eats some broiled fish (Luke 24:36-42).  And there is no doubt about it.  This is no ghost.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  For 40 days He appears here and there among His people, out of nowhere, and then vanishes again.  But there is no doubt it is Him.  On day 40 He ascended into heaven and was hidden by a cloud.  But He is not gone.  He is with us, just as He was with the Emmaus disciples and the apostles.  We do not see Him with our eyes, but one day we will.  In the meantime, come to the Table.  You will recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.  Here He answers your prayer.  He stays with you.  For He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.       

[1] Hymns and liturgical texts from Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: Concordia, 2006).  Catechism texts from Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).


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