The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Reticent revealer [readings for April 6]

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Supper at Emmaus, Diego VelasquezJesus Christ, de-materializer: Out of the tomb—then the stone is removed. Missing—then, in rooms doors locked for fear, suddenly there (Whoa!).

If science-as-we-know-it-now is king to you, skip these stories.

This time, on resurrection day afternoon, a teacher joins up with two heavy-hearted followers of Jesus as they hike out to Emmaus village. Innocently, he asks for the latest topic, then launches in to a lecture about Jesus from the Hebrew Bible.

They stop, they persuade him to stay the night, they eat. And as he tears the scooping-bread, someone turns the focus dial on their vision—or he changes himself yet again to become familiar. They recognize their teacher and constant companion of the last three years—and he is gone.

It defies conventional wisdom, the way he obscures himself. I would have marched down to the palace, grinned at the soldiers, and laughed at Pilate and his puny Roman Empire. But Jesus only briefly reveals himself, and mostly to people who’ve already trusted him enough to become his followers.

Things haven’t changed much, have they?

Third Sunday of Easter – April 6, 2008
Luke 24:13-35; Acts 2:14a,36-41;Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19;1 Peter 1:17-23

Luke 24:13-35
The Road to Emmaus
13-16That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

17-18He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

19-24He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word,blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

25-27Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

28-31They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

32Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

33-34They didn’t waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: “It’s really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!”
35Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Acts 2:14
Peter Speaks Up
14That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: […]
“All Israel, then, know this: There’s no longer room for doubt—God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross.”

37Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?”

38-39Peter said, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.”

40He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!”

41That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 116:1-4
1-4 I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
hell was hard on my heels.
Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
then I called out to God for help:
“Please, God!” I cried out.
“Save my life!” […]
12-19 What can I give back to God
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it together with his people.
When they arrive at the gates of death,
God welcomes those who love him.
Oh, God, here I am, your servant,
your faithful servant: set me free for your service!
I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice
and pray in the name of God.
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it in company with his people,
In the place of worship, in God’s house,
in Jerusalem, God’s city.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Peter 1:17-23
17You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.

18-21Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

22-25Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God’s living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That’s why the prophet said,

The old life is a grass life,
its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop,
God’s Word goes on and on forever.
This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Written by Monte

March 31, 2008 at 5:01 pm

2 Responses

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  1. It’s interesting that the apocryphal gospels that were written much later do portray Jesus as coming back and showing his power to the ones who killed him, like Pilate. But as Jesus shows again and again in the canonical gospels, his kingdom is not of this world.

    Monte Says: Good insight! And wouldn’t it also be true that his miracles in the canonical gospels are of a different nature than in the apocryphal? Perhaps, less dazzling, more tender? You may know better than I.


    March 31, 2008 at 11:00 pm

  2. Monte–I’ve been struck this year, reading the Easter passages from the gospels, at how ordinary Jesus seems to make it all–he doesn’t come crashing in with lightning and thunder (which is how I would do it, for sure!), but his greetings are very simple–“Greetings”, “Mary”, “Peace be with you.” It seems to me that his real interest with these simple “hello’s” and the Emmaus passage is, just as you say, reaching to those who already follow him–he’s just continuing the relationship.

    Monte Says: Thanks, and well said, Jason! He is so focused! I’m always looking for the moment of great breakthrough, while Jesus knows a surer way to bringing in the Kingdom: “just continuing the relationship” with those who’ve opened the door.

    Jason Miller

    March 31, 2008 at 5:26 pm

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