Sabbath Series: part 4 of 4
Luke 24: 13-35
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him.
17He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19″What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
25He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ[b] have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Come to the table! How many times have I heard my own mother and now my wife, issue forth that invitation laced with just a hint of command? How many meals have been prepared and shared forming me into the person I am today? I learned so much at our table, in many ways it was one of the primary areas of formation in my life. Elbows do not belong on the table, mouths full of food are not fit for conversation, but the table is a place where conversation should always take place. We all stay at the table until everyone is finished. We thank God for what we have – even if we don’t like it. And not finishing the food on our plates somehow directly and adversely affects the starving children in Africa. I even learned compassion – I became so willing to send my asparagus to those hungry children!
The table does something very special for us. It separates us from the culture of professionalism and productivity. Everyone is an equal – we all need to eat, no matter how successful we are.
All week long, those of us with jobs are expected to be productive. To have the answer, to know the solution, and get results. But when we eat, that stuff doesn’t matter. This week we are discussing the feasting of Sabbath. Throughout history – throughout the bible – we witness the importance of meals. The Passover meal was such a central experience in the life of Israel. The meal shaped and formed people.
For years in the wilderness, every meal was a reminder to the Israelites that God would provide. Manna from heaven provided sustenance. And on the Sabbath another miracle occurred. Food that normally would spoil overnight lasted an extra day so that no food needed to be gathered on the Sabbath – rest was still provided.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
When it comes to feasting on the Sabbath, you may decide to prepare a special meal. That certainly wouldn’t be bad. Maybe you decide to have a regular simple meal – every week on Sabbath you enjoy a delicious Italian pie from Chez Dominoes. Regardless, the meal can be a feast. Feasting implies something intentional. There is celebration. There is joy and laughing. There is community. We don’t feast alone. Maybe you’re single – invite someone to join you for a meal on the Sabbath – perhaps you’ll go out to eat. But on this day, take time to appreciate the taste and texture of your food. Isn’t God’s creation amazing! Taste and see that Lord is good!
When we feast, we put aside the need to be professional. We smile and laugh. The sound of life may include the splat of spaghetti thrown by the 1 year old, the “Oops!!” that accompanies the 3 year old spilling his juice. The embarrassing snort-laugh that catches all of us off guard occasionally, it may include the clinking of silverware by the other patrons of a restaurant or the sounds of dogs barking outside your dining room window.
But it should always include wonder and amazement. We live in a world that has often stolen our ability to wonder – do you think your boss would be pleased to find you staring in amazement at your project…wondering how it works and what it is? No, you are expected to deal with precision and accuracy.
That expectation of productivity and professional service is then manifested in our perception of God. Like a genie in a lamp, we sometimes fall into the trap of taking the words “ask and you shall receive” and turning God into a vending machine of blessings. God isn’t the awe-inspiring Creator of the universe so much as he is our lucky token, giving us good luck for travel or help in solving problems in the work place. A child sees God’s creation with the right eyes – eyes of wonder and amazement.
1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6″Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “
8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Bewildered, amazed. These women who went to the tomb had just finished observing the Sabbath. Now they were coming to work – but there was no job to do! We began our discussion of Sabbath with a reading of the creation account in Genesis. This act of creation is what we remember on Sabbath – but there’s more! For us there is joy in remembering another act of creation. The creation of hope when Jesus was victorious over death.
I began this post with a reading from the gospel according to Luke. The story told us about a couple people who’d spent the holy week in Jerusalem. They’d stayed in Jerusalem through the Sabbath, and now on the first day of the week, Cleopas and an unnamed companion – who were followers of Jesus – were returning to Emmaus.
Put yourself at that table in the place of the unnamed man or woman – the companion of Cleopas. This is your home. You’ve been away for several days I Jerusalem for Passover – the great Hebrew feast of salvation, with all the energy and drama attending to it. You’ve been doing this every year since you were a child. The place and ritual are thick with memories and stories and songs. This is your Jewish identity. This is who you are. You are God’s chosen woman or God’s chosen man, reaffirmed and deepened now yet again.
Then, incredibly, the holy week is suddenly and unaccountably desecrated, outrageously violated by the crucifixion of a man you knew personally and honored extravagantly. Still reeling from seeing that bloody and tormented death, you begin to hear rumors. They are flying about. There’s a totally different kind of report – “a vision of angels who said he was alive”. What could that mean? On successive days in Jerusalem you were hurled from celebration to anguish to bewilderment. Your whole world spun out of control. Emotionally spent, you are now glad to get out of Jerusalem. It’s a relief to be walking that familiar road home, away from the crowds and the violence and the rumors, glad for the time and privacy to talk everything over with Cleopas and try to make sense of it all.
Then you are joined by a stranger who takes an interest in what you are saying. He joins in the conversation and amazingly does make sense of it all. For two or three hours as you walk toward home, you listen to him take the chaos of the last few days and, like God in Genesis, speak order into the mess. You’ve never heard the words of Scripture spoken so personally before. You never knew that your own experiences, especially experiences as turbulent and disorienting and death dealing and inexplicable as those in the last five days, were part of that large story in which the last word is Glory. This man used words to create a world in which God, right in your presence, was doing everything you had read and heard about in Moses and the Prophets.
As you enter Emmaus, you are actually feeling calm and almost your old self. You left Jerusalem three hours ago whipsawed by emotions. And now, thanks to this stranger, you are feeling almost normal.
It’s late in the day and time for supper. You’ve been away from home for a week, maybe over a week. There is nothing to eat. Passing a bakery stall you buy a loaf of bread and invite the stranger in for supper. After some coaxing, he comes in. You get out a bottle of wine. The three of you sit down to a simple supper of bread and wine. The stranger then makes a move that takes you aback momentarily. HE takes up the loaf and blesses it. The guest you invited to supper becomes the host offering you supper. After blessing the bread, he breaks it and gives it to you and to Cleopas. Then, and only then, you recognize him. It’s Jesus, alive. It’s resurrection. (excerpt from Eugene Peterson’s, Living the Resurrection. pgs 63-65)
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” This feast was simple – just bread and wine – much like what we have today. But it was a feast nonetheless. It was filled with wonder and amazement.
We need the Sabbath in our lives. We need a chance to cease our work. To rest in the Lord. To have a regular time set aside to make sure that we don’t fall into the idolatrous routine of day-in day-out drudgery – no joy, no remembrance. We need a day to embrace goodness, to embrace worship, to embrace celebration so that we can be strengthened and encouraged to embrace these things every day.
We need the opportunity to feast. To rejoice in the resurrection because it is in the resurrection that we find our life. Life to be lived today! We need to taste and see that the Lord is good. We need to be astonished, we need our eyes to be opened and see that it was Jesus in our midst all along!