Acts 2:14-41 • Psalm 116:1-19 • 1 Peter 1:17-23 • Luke 24:13-35
The Psalmist is reflecting on his/her gratitude for God’s rescue from, and in the midst of, troubling and trying times. The writer uses beautiful metaphors to articulate, while painting a masterful picture, of the mercy, compassion, and love of God. ‘God bent (inclined) down to hear me,’ is just one of these artistic verbal descriptions to give us a visual image of God – and us. This Psalm does not paint an unrealistic picture however, pain and death is still very present. Suffering does not evaporate in the presence of God’s mercy and love. The Psalmist, however, uses this pain to further describe God in the midst, ‘Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.’ This is not a statement of evil joy, that God is happy at our death, but instead that he holds precious those that are going through this experience, those dying and those mourning. Think of the Jesus’ tears as he approached the tomb of Lazarus as Mary and Martha grieved. There is the proclamation of recognition, remembrance, and gratitude as we can trust, and recognize, the rescue of God, a rescue that is persevering (whatever form that takes) through not perishing in the midst, ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.’ Arriving at the inner desire to respond out of recognition of God in the midst, God that is present, ‘What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?’
What ‘Cup of Salvation’ are you able to lift up in recognition of God’s mercy, strength, love, compassion at work in your life?
There is something about roads, the way roads bring us together, the way roads can pose a danger to us all, the way roads become a symbol of a faith on the move. It is poignant then, that the narrative of these two disciples on the road to Emmaus draws us to the conclusion of the Third Gospel. The story is a narrative wonder. Irony, misunderstanding, drama, a reveal: these are components of powerful story. Moreover, a number of Luke’s themes are woven together in this narrative: table fellowship, hospitality, faithfulness, discipleship. The scene on this road augurs (interprets) the future of Christ’s church in Luke’s imagery. This will be a church on the move, sent out by a Jesus who walks alongside us even when we don’t recognize him.
Eric Barreto, Princeton Theological Seminary
It was an overwhelming day – the day that the women ventured to the tomb of Jesus as soon as they could go to there after the post crucification Sabbath. As Jesus appeared to the women as they left the empty tomb, then appearing in the room with the hiding disciples, then to a doubtful Thomas, finally, later the same day, we see a follower named Cleopas, along with another Jesus follower, encounter Jesus on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. There were many rumors of Jesus resurrection, a handful of accounts of actual encounters of the risen Jesus, and then this extended encounter that began on a road and concluded at the dinner table.
Last week we saw the first lesson to those who would be the apostles and leaders in the New Testament Church – the lesson of Peace. Peace that is the catalyst of our searching and seeking; peace that permits us to patiently persevere and continue in our faith journey even when the questions and doubts seem to never stop. Peace that permits us to finally see what we have been searching, and hoping, for all along.
While this second passage may seem more of a review, Jesus eventually intervenes in the conversation and explains – actually, it is primarily a lesson on the presence of Jesus. As we see, Jesus is in the presence of these two grieving men on the road and at the table. It was only after their hearts and minds caught up with their eyes that they could take a look back and realize they had been in the presence of Jesus for a good part of the day. It is a lesson reemphasized forty days later as Jesus prepares to leave the disciples and reminds them ‘remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
While this passage will be our primary focus this Sunday, begin now considering the dynamics of the encounter of these men with Jesus on the road and at the table. What unrecognized encounters are you having with Jesus on the road and at the table?
In the first century, Judaism was unique in that it was truly a multiethnic religion. This is relevant as we look at this passage and see the make up of the crowds that had gathered in Jerusalem on the day that Peter delivers the sermon/message that we find in this passage. This is the day of Pentecost, the day that the followers of Jesus had been waiting for since Christ ascended to heaven. Now the Spirit was descending onto the people that had journeyed to Jerusalem, those who were open to the impact of the Spirit were not only able to hear God’s message from Peter that day but they were also ready to receive his words.
As the Holy Spirit descended on the people, it was a fulfillment of God’s promise to the Jews. This was not yet a message to the gentiles, that would come soon, but now it connected the faith of these people to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This fulfillment of God’s promise is actually what Jesus was explaining to Cleopas, and the other follower, in our Luke passage.
Another aspect of the context going into this day depicted in this passage, and, at the same time, an aspect of our own reality as we look at this passage, is this idea of change, and adjusting to a new normal. The Jewish people, from the beginning, were a people who were constantly having to let go of an old normal, the way things use to be, and accepting/grasping/adjusting to a new normal. Whether it was leaving the garden, a flood that wipes out everything that you know and understand, suddenly not understanding the language of others, becoming an exile and a slave……the list goes on and on – the people were constantly seeing change happen before their eyes. This is much like us in our new normal as we adjust to the sudden change, and probably much permanent change, that has taken place due to the current pandemic. This crowd of people in the streets of Jerusalem for this holiday were as diverse as could be except for one thing, they all worshipped the same God, they shared a common faith. It is in this diversity that there is a common enlightenment – Jesus.
Peter, as he preaches, does not shy away from the brutally of the cross, a travesty that many of those listening to Peter shared a certain responsibility for – for they had surely yelled ‘Crucify Him’. The focus on this painful aspect of the sacrifice of Christ, however, is necessary for the crowds to understand the point. Jesus was not only a sacrifice, he was their sacrifice. They responded by asking ‘What do we do now?’ as they sought to adjust to this understanding, this new normal.
Much of the crowds that went home, and those who remained in Jerusalem, shared something in common, God has given them a new normal. It was not a different normal, they still believed in the same God of their faith, but now they saw the work, and the promise fulfilled, from that God. God had invited them to be a part of his work and many responded and accepted that invitation.
1 Peter 1:17-23
Years after his message in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, we see Peter now addressing the believers who are ‘exiled’, separated from others believers. This ‘exile’ could be that they are Jewish believers who are geographically separated from others of common faith, or, most likely, is addressed to gentiles who are actually from this distant place yet have chosen to believe in, and to follow, Jesus. Peter explains to these believers that they are no longer shackled by the practices of religion passed on by their ancestors worshipping their idols and false gods. He reminds them of the basis of the faith they now follow that they, are not only to live respectfully among a people who do not share their faith, but that they also are to unite with those who do share their faith. A unity that permits them to seek and find the manner in which they can be an encouragement of faith and growth to each other in the midst of their ‘exile’ and distant environment. They are searching how to be ‘church’.