In “preaching study” posts, I’m really interested in fostering a “community” approach to study and prep for the message, so please interact as much as you like. All Scripture quotes are from the TNIV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
I’m beginning a 3-part series in this week’s contemporary service on the Gifts of Christ for living out the gospel and the kingdom and Easter and being a body of apprentices to Jesus. Luke is our guide, with help from John primarily. The 3 parts/gifts are: Word, Spirit, Community. This is something I’ve thought about for some time now, so I’m excited to study, reflect, and give it a go at preaching and teaching on this.
So, we begin with the first gift that I think of Christ having given us to form and sustain us in The Way, the Word. The text is Luke 24:13-35, the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
- The passage develops in basically two ways: Geography (vv13, 28, 33) and Question & Answer conversation (vv17-27).
- References to recognition of Jesus by the disciples bookend the passage. In v16, they “were kept from recognizing him” and in v35 they tell others “how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” The movement is from ignorance to enlightenment and the key is the revelatory nature of Jesus performing (what would become) the Eucharistic pattern, at which they recognized him (v31).
- But the preparation for this revelation at Table is the exposition of the Word. The crux of this presentation from Luke is in vv19-27. Two main items are worth attention: First, the contrast established in vv20-21, that Jesus’ death by crucifixion was a major interpretive problem, given the theological categories available to those disciples (and we suspect to any Jews of the period), for anyone who had, as they say, “hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v21). Clearly, according to their understanding, execution on a Roman cross eliminated from consideration the title “Messiah” in relation to Jesus. Even the additions offered in vv22-24 are presented with curiosity and wonder, but not with a sense that something might change the “proper” interpretation of cruciform execution. Second, Jesus (whom they still do not recognize) answers these problems not by disregarding the Hebrew Scriptures, but by engaging them headlong (“beginning with Moses and all the Prophets…”) and finding a new interpretation of the story that had until this point in history been unseen: “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and them enter his glory?” As Brent Laytham has written, “Jesus’ status as truthful interpreter was vindicated by God when God raised him from the dead. It is this Jesus, validated by events and vindicated by resurrection, who interprets Scripture on the road” (JTI, 1.1, p. 104). And, most importantly: “Jesus himself, in his performance (his life, death, and resurrection), is not only the primary interpreter of Scripture; he is its primary interpretation” (JTI, 1.1, p. 104, emphasis mine).
- At their request, he stays with them in the village and while at table, repeats the actions he has performed earlier: “took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them…” (v30). This is the pattern from his actions at the Passover/Last Supper in Luke 22:19 and also in the feeding of the 5000 in Luke 9:16.
- Finally, I will just mention that I think the line upon their recognition of him and his disappearance, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” is one of my favorites. Vivid, joyful, awe-full, it drips with energy and life to me.
- Verse 28-29 clearly references the hospitality ethic of the region. They had met a stranger on the road. Being near the end of the day, they most likely felt a sense of obligation to take responsibility in some measure for his well-being, since he appears to be travelling alone, and invite him to stay with them for the night.
- Naturally, then, they would share the evening meal with their guest. The ethic of “table fellowship” that is front and center in Luke’s Gospel is once again on display. It is within the context of this cultural ethic that Jesus’ actions are set.
- As I’ve said, I will read Luke alongside John as a theological conversation partner. Some initial thoughts will kick things off.
- The connection in this passage between the Word and the Eucharist (or Holy Communion) is clear. The passage actually reflects an historic pattern of worship in the Christian Church of first opening the Word, then sharing the Eucharist. But the connection is increasing rich, I think, when read alongside John’s Gospel, particularly 1:1-18 (especially v14) and 6:35-58, the passages dealing with Jesus as the Word of God–the Word made flesh, and with Jesus’ own person as the “bread of life” of which to partake to have eternal life.
- John 1:14. ” The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
- John 6:54. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Thoughts so far?