Lessons on the Road

And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27).

Hardly anyone remembers a sermon. Not many people remember a book. Still fewer remember a ‘daily devotional.’

Those of us who write or teach or preach don’t really like to hear that, but we know it’s true. This is not to say that all is lost or that all such efforts are wasted. The impact of spoken and written words, however, often comes in a smaller package. The book or lesson or sermon may be quickly forgotten – but people can be deeply touched by a sentence, a phrase, a word picture. These may linger for a long time.

Here’s how it happened once for me. The late Elizabeth Achtemeier taught at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond from 1973-1996. Years ago, I was listening to one of her lectures on a cassette tape in my car (yes . . . quite a few years ago). She was talking about how to teach on the prophets, making them come alive for people who attend church. I don’t recall much of the lecture at all, but I’ve never forgotten this sentence:

“Our churches are full of people who believe in God, they just don’t think God does anything.”

“Well, that’s nice”

This week we’re thinking about the aftermath of Easter and the presence of the risen Lord in our ordinary days. Luke’s post-resurrection narrative of ‘The walk to Emmaus’ is a great story, well known and much loved. The risen Jesus appears to two dejected and confused disciples making their way to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. Like Mary at the tomb, they fail to realize Jesus is walking with them. The story leads us to ask this question: How does Jesus actually show up and walk with us? Can you honestly go through this day with any expectation that this will happen in your life?

I have an uneasy suspicion that Dr. Achtemeier was right. The problem isn’t one of belief. If you’re reading this right now there’s a pretty good chance you believe in Jesus. The problem is experiential. What does it mean in practical terms to say that Jesus is alive and he walks with us? And if he does this, how are we to know it?

I’m troubled by the possibility of telling the story of the Emmaus road and having you think, “Well, that’s nice.” I’m wanting to convince you that this story is not nice. It’s life-changing and real. But again, how does it become that for you?

There are probably several good answers to that question, but I’m going to focus on one. I believe it’s the best answer because it’s the method Jesus chose to reveal himself on the road to Emmaus.

Open the Book

Luke tells us that after the Emmaus travelers had rehearsed to Jesus all that had taken place in Jerusalem, not realizing that they were talking to Jesus, Jesus started interpreting and explaining the Scriptures to them. He launched into a Bible study to help them see that everything they had witnessed in Jerusalem was anticipated in the Law and in the Prophets (Luke 24:27).

This is remarkable. Of all the things that Jesus could have done to show them that he was alive, he chose to interpret the scriptures. He took them back to the text of the Bible. He did not suddenly glow, he did not do a miracle, he did not at this moment show the nail prints in his hands. Rather than do anything like that, Jesus simply took them through the Bible.

So here’s the point: To experience the presence of Jesus walking with you, begin with the text of scripture. Be a reader of the Bible. You can do this – and it could change your life.

Of course, more than reading is required. We still need the grace of having our eyes opened to recognize Jesus with us. But if we neglect the Bible, never listening to its words or its promises or its guidance, we will regard the presence of the risen Jesus as a warm feeling or a nice idea.

As you open the book, you truly draw near to Jesus. As you open the book, Jesus draws near to you. In order to walk, read.


By your Spirit, O God, give us a hunger for your words. By those words, draw us deeper into your presence, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

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