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Recognizing a wise stranger in a flash

April 11, 2023

Daily Scripture

Luke 24:13-32

13 On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. 15 While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. 16 They were prevented from recognizing him.
17 He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast.
18 The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”
19 He said to them, “What things?”
They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. 20 But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. 22 But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. 26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.
28 When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. 29 But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Jesus walked, unrecognized, with two of his disciples. The crucifixion crushed their hopes (“we had hoped”—verse 21) and it stunned them that “some women” said Jesus’ body was missing. (They didn’t say they believed it—it just puzzled them.) Jesus interpreted for his sad followers “the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets” (verse 27). As he broke bread and blessed it, they knew him with sudden memory, insight and joy.

  • Scholar N. T. Wright noted, “It wasn’t simply…that they couldn’t recognize him. This is a strange feature of the resurrection stories, in Matthew (28:17) and John (20:14; 21:4, 12) as well as here…. Jesus’ body, emerging from the tomb, had been transformed. It was the same, yet different—a mystery we shall perhaps never unravel until we ourselves share the same risen life.” * Do you long to share the gift of that risen life, even the aspects that for now remain puzzling to us?
  • Scholar William Barclay said this story “tells us of the ability of Jesus to make sense of things…. Jesus came and talked with them, and the meaning of life became clear and the darkness became light…. It is only in Jesus that, even in the bewildering times, we learn what life means.” ** Can you recall any moments when something painful and puzzling suddenly made more sense in the light of Jesus’ love and grace?

Loving Lord, when I feel discouraged, disillusioned, or disbelieving, please come and join me on life’s road. It is particularly at those times that I need your living, loving presence with me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.

For seven years I served as a chaperone on the Resurrection youth orchestra/handbell mission trip. That took seven to ten days on buses with about 100 middle and high school kids, visiting around the country. Chaperone duties included cooking on a giant grill, making sandwiches on our laps on the bus, doing laundry to keep everyone clean and matching, working with the kids on their serve projects, helping load and unload a twenty-foot box truck of keyboards, drum sets, handbells, music stands and amplifiers, and leading a small group of the kids through daily devotions.

You could always count on some things. At least one kid would forget their music, instrument or a key piece of apparel, someone would discover that they do actually get car (bus) sick, a bus would break down, a venue would be too small to hold our group, and at least a couple of cell phones would come to an untimely end. But amid all that, there were split-second flashes where a herd of teenagers went from seeing themselves as musicians hanging out, playing concerts and helping with projects, to starting to realize they were so much more than that.

Every evening we would ask the kids to share experiences. They would talk about people they had met, pass on firsthand stories from veterans about what war was like, how someone went from their best life to living in a shelter due to drugs or alcohol addiction, how easily a few small bad choices gradually led to prison and now trying to get back on track. (They would also share how someone did something hysterically funny, how hard they had worked (usually true), which chaperone had done or said something ridiculous and what work they hoped they would never have to do again!)

We would ask the kids, “Where did you see Jesus today?” For the first day or two, Jesus was virtually invisible. But around day three or four, we would begin to get answers. The boldest would start to comment on seeing Jesus in the staff at the shelters or in the faith of those who were struggling to get their lives back in order.

One evening came a moment that changed my life. As the kids shared where they had seen Jesus that day, I realized that not a single one of them saw Jesus in their own work or in the way they performed concerts to bring joy to others. As I looked at that circle, I saw Jesus. In their exhausted posture, in their scraped-up hands from loading concrete blocks into trucks, in their smiles at what they had done that day, in their encouragement of each other, and in their love for people they had never met.

I found myself sobbing–not cute little tears slipping quietly down my cheeks, but huge gasping sobs. Because at that moment, I saw Jesus in a way I had never seen Him before. I saw Him as a high school boy who included the middle school kids in his group; I saw Him in the shy middle schooler on her first trip with a smile for everyone; I saw Him in the boy who always stopped to ask if we needed any extra help. That night I saw Jesus in a whole circle of kids who gave their time to be the hands and feet of Christ to those in need. I told the group that night they changed me, changed my life forever. When I am discouraged and things feel hopeless, I look at the pictures of those kids on my phone and I see Jesus. He was sitting right beside me, and I almost missed it.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Luke for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 295). SPCK. Kindle Edition.
** William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 295.