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Surprised by Jesus

Surprised by Jesus

Sunday April 4

On Easter Day, the Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair looks at the Road to Emmaus and asks: are you ready to be surprised by Jesus?


There is so much of the Easter narrative that quickens my spirit, or leaves me heavy hearted.

But the part of the drama that excites me most describes what, according to Luke, happened on the afternoon and evening of Resurrection Day. We’re told that two of His followers – Cleopas is the only one named – were on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus and that they were discussing together ‘everything that had happened.’

Their response to the One who drew alongside them as they walked makes it clear that the everything that had happened’ refers directly to what had happened to their Lord. And though they had probably heard the report of the empty tomb, it seems clear enough that they were heavy-hearted and not at all convinced of the veracity of the report. They were defeated, despondent, dejected, downcast.

Even so, as they neared their destination they asked that their travelling companion stay with them for darkness was falling. Little did they know that light was about to break in.

Here’s what Luke tells us: ‘So He went in to stay with them. While He was reclining at the table with them, He took bread, spoke a blessing and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Jesus – and He disappeared from their sight.’

As He broke bread and blessed it, and gave it to them, their eyes were opened. And then He was gone. But they knew it had been Him.

Jesus.

Did they suspect? Was it a hunch, an educated guess? No, they knew, for their hearts burned within them. And with that, despite the lateness of the hour that had, a short time earlier so concerned them, they started out back to Jerusalem. And finding the other believers, ‘the two told what had happened on the road, and how they had recognised Jesus in the breaking of the bread’.

One Easter evening in the mid-nineties, the Emmaus Road account came to life for me in a very special way. The week leading up to Easter had been as hectic as ever, and I just hadn’t had time to prepare a sermon for the evening service.

Going down to the church that evening, I was in a cold sweat. I’d always relied on a word for word script for my preaching. I was going to have to stand in front of a big congregation without a word in front of me and I wasn’t at all confident that when I opened my mouth anything would come out! What could I do but offer a quick-fire prayer and hope for the best?

And then it happened. I started to preach and the words flowed. And flowed and flowed. I’ll never forget the joy of the moment and the sense of freedom and of being really alive. It was as if a fire was burning within me. I could do no other than talk about Jesus, proclaiming Him to be alive.

My preaching was never the same again. There was a new confidence, a sure sense that I had found the ‘me’ within me, the person I was meant to be. What joy!

The passage I preached through that evening? Luke 24:13-35. The Road to Emmaus.

I love that we’re not told the name of the second of the two travellers. It makes it easier for me to imagine that I’m the other person. I can imagine walking and being joined by Jesus and having Him explain the scriptures to me. And I can imagine sitting with Him at the table and having Him offer a blessing and then breaking the bread.

Are you ready to be surprised by Jesus showing up? And as you break bread, do you long to have your eyes opened and to seeing like you’ve never seen before? Do you long to have that fire burning within you?

Jesus.

And in all of this might there be hope for the Church to become what we’re meant to be?

A gathering of those who travel with Jesus.

A gathering of those who share table fellowship with Jesus at the centre.

A gathering of those who are so transformed by having met Jesus that they can do no other than declare Him to be alive.

A gathering of those no longer in retreat but heading back to Jerusalem, the site of cross and tomb.

A gathering of those who will walk with others that they too might come to encounter this Jesus.

A gathering of those who in offering hospitality discover Jesus among them.

May the blessing of the Risen Lord be yours. May He set a fire in your soul that you can’t contain and can’t control.

Jesus.


The Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair is Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

A longer version of this reflection appears in April's Life and Work. Order or download here.