Tripoli Lebanon 28 April 2019
Psalm 119: 97-106; Luke 24: 13-35
It gives me great joy to be able to speak to you today.
The people of Earlston, send their greetings, and are delighted that we are able to visit with you now.
Our bible readings tell us a little about one of Jesus conversations after the resurrection; the psalm is a beautiful song in praise of God’s laws. It summarised some of the good advice on how to live. It is like an instruction manual for living with God.
The disciples had been privileged enough to have Jesus as a guide to steer them through God’s manual: someone to explain when things happened why they were happening… so with all that knowledge you might be forgiven for wondering how they did not understand what had happened at Calvary and why they did not expect Jesus to come back again.
But they lived in difficult times, and even with Jesus to explain and guide them once he had been taken from their sight they felt that they were cut adrift no longer with anything to hold them safe
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the bible, it is also, amazingly, a song in praise of law – not because of what it prevents, but because of how it empowers
“Your commands make me wiser than my enemies” (vs 98)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (vs. 105)
You know, the thing about lights on the path, is that they shine forward: no point in looking back where you have been, the light guides you forward, on to the destination.
God’s word lights the way forward and the disciples simply needed to remember it – in amongst the anguish of raw grief and the pain of loss and the confusion of danger and the threat of further betrayal they had totally lost sight of the way forward, all the teaching, all the instructions, and all the love were invisible in their hearts and minds, and yet,
If they had turned to God’s word they would have seen answers to all their woes…
In fact, so deep is their despair that when the stranger asks them what is troubling them they cannot even bring themselves to refer to Jesus as anything other than a prophet powerful in word and deed… not the miracle worker, not the Son of God and certainly not the Messiah even though just a few days earlier they had been so certain of it.
Grief and fear are a potent mix and together they conspire to dull the senses and impede clear thinking
Jesus understood this and he knew that in his rising he would need to show himself and encourage and cajole… and he knew also that his resurrection appearances needed to be to as diverse a section of his followers as possible. He did not appear only to the chosen few; nor did he limit his visits, each took as long as it needed; the retelling of the encounter on the road to Emmaus should not be underestimated.
Jesus joined them on the road. They were going to Emmaus and clearly they arrived there, as he was invited to join them for supper; we are told the village is seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were walking… seven miles is not a five minute stroll! they probably walked and talked together for several hours, during that time Jesus allowed them to tell him about all that had happened, he listened and encouraged, and then, he explained the meaning of all the scriptural prophecies to them…
Have you ever wondered why they, like so many of the others were prevented from recognising him immediately?
Excitement and overwhelming joy do many things to us – but making us pay attention and listen and understand is not in the list!!
If Cleopas and his companion had realised immediately who they were travelling with they would not have been able to absorb anything that was said to them, and above all else it was important that they gain understanding of the immensity of what had just happened. Instead of being distracted by his presence they simply listened to the stranger who had such a deep understanding of God’s Word… I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me… (vs 102)
As Jesus words sink in, and they begin to fill in the gaps.
They begin to realise that the stories that have filtered through from the othersmay be true, and they realise that the women weren’t hallucinating after all. Then they find themselves at their destination but this amazing stranger is leaving so naturally they press him to stay a while, for they want to hear more of his wisdom.
It is not until they are absolutely ready that Jesus acts. He takes bread and breaks it and in that moment the light shines out on the path and they can see exactly where they are going and who is taking them there.
Sometimes we are confused
Sometimes we are slow on the uptake
Sometimes we are impatient, disappointed and afraid
Sometimes we feel that we too are adrift and have lost sight of what it is that holds us fast
God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light for the path
God’s words guides us into all truth and all knowledge
All we need do is listen,
As you walk out on life’s journey, you have a companion for the journey; you have a guide book and you have a light leading you ever onwards to the destination.
We are all Easter people; we too walk with Jesus at our side. We are companions for each other, in Scotland, and here in Tripoli – travelling together, with Jesus to guide us.