Video of Matins is here. The sermon begins at about the 24:20 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There’s a little word missing from the English Standard translation of Luke 24. It’s just a little word. Its absence doesn’t change what happens in Luke 24. But in this case I think it’s significant. It’s the little word “look.” Sometimes it’s translated “behold,” but that’s a little archaic, and we don’t always hear it the way it is. Look! Look: two of them—two of “the eleven and the rest,” who are gathered together on that day of Jesus’ resurrection—two of them, on that Day, were traveling to the village called Emmaus. Look at this, Luke tells us. Look at how they were walking and Jesus came near and walked with them—but their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. They saw Him, but they didn’t see Him.
And look at this, Luke says: they had seen all the things that happened in the three days prior. They even say to Jesus, Are You the only one around Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened in these days? Are You the only one! What things? He says. And they lay all the pieces out on the table: Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet, respected by everyone, was betrayed and crucified. And it’s been three days since then. And some women went to the tomb and they had a vision, where they saw angels, who told them that Jesus was alive. And then Peter ran to the tomb, and things were how the women said they were, but he didn’t see Jesus.
Look at this! They have all the pieces, but they can’t see the whole thing. Jesus says, How foolish and slow of heart you are to believe everything the prophets have spoken! And then Jesus puts all the pieces together for them so that they can see: beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained all the things in them concerning Himself. And He’ll do the same for the other disciples: He takes all the pieces of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms, and shows how the whole picture is a picture of Him.
And when they get to Emmaus, Jesus acts as if He’s going on further, but they convince Him to stay. Remain with us; the night is almost here, and the day is declining—the day is bowing its head. He comes in and reclines at the table, He takes bread, He blesses it, He breaks it, and He gives it to them. And then their eyes are opened and they recognize Him, and He becomes invisible to them. Notice how Luke records it: when He is visible to them, they don’t see Him, and when they see Him, He becomes invisible to them.
Look at this! All the pieces are here, and Jesus puts them all together. This is, I think, Luke’s version of what we heard last week from John. Thomas sees Jesus and says, My Lord and my God. Jesus says, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. And then John says, There were a lot more signs, but these signs are written down so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and have life in His Name. Look: though Jesus is invisible to us, taken into heaven, He is not absent from us. Though He is invisible, you see Him. Here are all the words, and all the pieces, and He puts them together for you, opens your eyes and opens your mind. And from then on, they rejoiced in those words daily; they devoted themselves to those words, and the breaking of the bread. This is it.
There are a lot of things for us to look at. We probably have more things to look at now than we’ve ever had. And yet we still have trouble seeing. But Jesus, though invisible, is still seen where He wants to be seen. He puts the pieces together, so that the words from His mouth open our eyes to see everything He says, beginning from the beginning, from Moses, the prophets, the Psalms, down to the Apostles. Look! Here He is in these words. Look! Here He is in the breaking of the bread, sharing the Body and Blood of the invisible Lord, who is the unseen host of this meal.
It sure does seem like the day of this world is coming to its end, and the night is nearly here. It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there. But look. Abide with me, fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me (LSB 878:1, 4). Let me see: Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes; in life, in death, abide with me (LSB 878:6). Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, for round us falls the eventide. O let Your Word, that saving light, shine forth undimmed into the night. In these last days of great distress grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness, that we keep pure til life is spent Your holy Word and Sacrament. Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true; preserve our faith our whole life through—Your Word alone our heart’s defense, the Church’s glorious confidence (LSB 585:1-2, 6).
Look: your Lord remains and will be seen among us in the same places that He was by those first disciples: in His Word, and in the breaking of the bread. Look, and listen, and see.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 4/24/20