The story of the journey and encounter on the road to Emmaus is one of those stories in scripture which you just know must be true because of the way it’s written. If you had wanted to create a story to prove that Jesus had risen from the dead, surely, you wouldn’t come up with this one. I’d have wanted to include a story about Jesus appearing in a blaze of light, with a fanfare from heaven, accompanied by legions of triumphant angels, before a very large crowd of credible witnesses. Yes, Jesus did appear in front of large crowds, but in this account, we get a stranger walking with two disciples at the end of the day explaining scripture and awaiting an invitation to spend time with them. It’s just got to be true.
Yet they didn’t recognise him. Why was that? I’ve often puzzled over that. Why didn’t they know who it was? One thing for sure is, that if they had, they wouldn’t have listened to a word he had to say. They would have been too excited to take any notice!
It got me thinking. What stops us; what stops me, I wonder, from seeing Jesus, hearing Jesus or recognising Jesus today? Why might we struggle with this?
Have you ever had a moment in your life where you have failed to remember a name or a face? It usually happens when we have not spent time with someone for a while. After 33 years of working in classrooms you would think I would have developed a memory for names, but the truth is, if I’m not seeing them or using their name regularly, I can swiftly forget it. If we’re not spending time with people regularly, the memory of their face, voice, character or name can swiftly start to fade.
The same can be true in our relationship with the Lord. We need to be spending time with Him regularly to develop and strengthen our relationship with Him. How do you get to know a person’s voice or character; by spending time with them, listening to them regularly and recognising them when you hear or see them again. If we want to recognise Jesus’ voice we need to spend time with Him and be listening to Him. He just loves it when we want to spend time with Him. Jesus never forces himself on anyone. Look again at this account: Luke tells us that ‘he acted as if he were going further’ … he waits for an invitation and once it is given, he enters their lives in a new and vibrant way.
The events described by Luke from the second chapter of the book of Acts speak of 3000 people hearing the good news of Jesus and trusting in His name that day. Do I believe this can happen again? Certainly. Does this involve me? Yes. Does this involve you? Yes. But to help others we first need a clear understanding for ourselves of who Jesus is, why he came and what he has done for us. This can be achieved by listening to him, spending time with him, reading scripture, spending time in public worship, engaging in discussion and learning, but also in private prayer and devotion. Do I spend enough time doing this? No. Do I want to spend more time doing this? Certainly. It is only by doing so that we will grow and we will help others to discover the joy and the truth of Jesus. It is an utterly compelling message and we need to keep it so. Not camouflage it or hide it – Our spirits are hard wired to respond to God’s word, but first, we need to give ourselves, and others, an opportunity to hear it.
Why not join me in a challenge in the coming weeks? To create some specific time to sit with Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and speak with you, help you, assist you in that time. It doesn’t have to be hours but God loves it when we put Him first and desire to spend time with Him. ‘Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him’
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale