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11th April - First Sunday after Easter
The Two on the Road to Emmaus
Praise to the Holiest in the Height
Music: Gerontius - John Bacchus Dykes
Words: John Henry Newman
Praise to the Holiest.mp3
1. Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise, –
in all his words most wonderful
most sure in all his ways.
2. O loving wisdom of our God!
when all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.
3. O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail.
4. O generous love! that he who smote
in Man, for man, the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo.
5. And in the garden secretly,
and on the Cross on high,
should teach his brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.
6. Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise, –
in all his words most wonderful
most sure in all his ways.
Mark 16: 12 & 13 - "Later that day he appeared to two who were walking from Jerusalem into the country, but they did not recognise Him at first."
Luke 24: 13 - 43 - "Suddenly Jesus Himself came along and joined them....They didn't recognise Him, for God kept them from it....Then Jesus said to them, 'You are such foolish, foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the scriptures.' ….They began telling each other how their hearts had felt strangely warm as He talked.
Message: Our Hearts burned within us!
I am looking at just one of the ten Resurrection appearances of Jesus. This is one of the five which occurred on the first day, and I hope its overfamiliarity won't detract from its significance for us, as we reflect on this incident once more. (The other five took place on the remaining forty days.) I'd imagine these appearances were a means of convincing the disciples that He really was alive. They would also encourage them - they did have a hopeful future after all. And, of course, they were 'commissioned' and sent out into all the world. No doubt a little bit of 'extra teaching' wouldn't go amiss either - helpful, but also necessary. They really did find it all very difficult to believe.
When Jesus appeared among them they were terrified. They just didn't have the spiritual resources to cope. This kind of thing didn't ever happen, at least not in their world. Not that they didn't love Jesus, that wasn't in doubt, but that just made their grief all the more acute. They were mourning, weeping and completely devastated. Nonetheless, they should have known better. Now, in this incident, we see two travellers, perhaps a couple, walking on the road to Emmaus (about a two hour trip). They were in such a heated discussion, they didn't notice someone draw alongside them - listening - as they talked, discussed and reasoned together.
Mark briefly mentions this story and tells us Jesus 'appeared in another form.' There was something different about Him. We are not entirely sure who these two actually were - Luke tells us one was Cleopas, the other probably his wife. And Jesus' changed appearance is a bit perplexing too. Mark says God kept His identity from them; Luke mentions that 'their eyes were restrained, so they did not know Him.' (v.16). Something 'supernatural' could have occurred, but in any event Jesus was veiled, or disguised, from recognition. He asked them what they were discussing so seriously and intensely. Cleopas is incredulous, 'Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem not to know what things have happened there these days.' He then proceeded to pour out his heart to the 'stranger'. Things concerning 'the prophet, mighty in word and deed.' And then these very telling words....'we were hoping...' (v.21). So, not only did they just think of Him as a prophet, the high hopes they had placed in Him had been dashed. They had hoped He was going to redeem Israel. 'Should have guessed it, it was all too good to be true', he probably thought to himself. They were, obviously, deeply disappointed, but also in shock, disbelief and confusion.
Somehow the state they were in enabled them to completely disregard the testimony of the women (v.22) and the witness of Peter and John (v.24). And so, Jesus quite bluntly responded that they were 'foolish and slow of heart' ('thick-headed' - Msg. transl.). He was clearly very disappointed in them. He then goes on to expound the scriptures to them - 'things concerning Himself.' Notice here that Jesus uses the title 'Christ' (Messiah) in contrast to being referred to by them earlier as a mere prophet (v.26). Later, as they sat at the table with Him, He blessed and broke the bread - and their eyes were immediately opened. Clearly, in the Lord's Supper we are able to recognise our Lord's presence with us. Then the couple understood why their hearts had 'burned within them, while He talked on the road and opened the scripture to us.' (v.32). It's as if they finally acknowledged how 'thick' they'd been - how they couldn't see through the fog in their brains. When was the last time the scriptures 'warmed our hearts'? Burning within us as we listened to them being expounded to us. It's clear that the teaching ministry of Jesus had not ended at His crucifixion. He continued to be their teacher, illuminating their minds and understanding - as he does to us today. However, we too can be so pre-occupied that we do not recognise or realise that God is walking with us, as we journey through life. Oh! how much we're missing out on. Let me conclude with some words of Peter: "So I always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it right to refresh your memory." (2 Peter 1: 12&13).
Lord Jesus, you have walked the Emmaus Road with your faithful people over many generations, for which we give you heartfelt thanks.
Your people, along with others, are facing mighty challenges and huge uncertainties these days -
may we continue to seek your purposes and promises for our lives and witness.
Walk with us and with those who are grieving and hurting today. May your grace and mercy sustain us all.
Help us, Lord Jesus, to be honest about the things we find hard to deal with.
We pray for all who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, for the circumstances have been tragic and unbearable.
Speak into each life and bring strength and courage and rekindle the flame of hope.
We pray for our children and young people with worrying concerns over their education.
Assure them that their lives and future matter to you. Show them how they can make a difference in the world, whatever challenges they face.
We pray for every community affected by the Covid pandemic, and the human cost involved, with many lives changed so dramatically.
Be a living power in our lives, we pray.
May we be found faithful in our journey on our 'Emmaus' Road,
no longer 'thick-headed', but rejoicing in your presence, and bringing God's love and peace to everyone we meet.
Christ walks with us.
Go in peace now and every day.
Meekness and Majesty
Music: Graham Kendrick, arr. Christopher Norton
Words: Graham Kendrick
Meekness and Majesty.mp3
1. Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity,
in perfect harmony – the man who is God:
Lord of eternity, dwells in humanity,
kneels in humility and washes our feet.
Oh, what a mystery – meekness and majesty:
bow down and worship, for this is your God,
this is your God.
2. Father’s pure radiance, perfect in innocence,
yet learns obedience to death on a cross:
suffering to give us life, conquering through sacrifice –
and, as they crucify, prays, ‘Father forgive’.
3. Wisdom unsearchable, God the invisible,
love indestructible in frailty appears:
Lord of infinity, stooping so tenderly,
lifts our humanity to the heights of his throne.
Living God, we praise you for your love, a love that far exceeds our human expectations.
We praise you for Jesus coming among us to bring your loving purposes to fulfilment -
challenging evil, facing death and triumphing over them in His Glorious Resurrection!
We pray also for ourselves - touch us at the deepest places in our lives.
Make us whole in body, mind and spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
NOW the God who hears your cries and listens to your prayers, be the shelter above you, the tower around you, the rock beneath you -
this day and all your days, until Jesus comes.
Sanctuary First, an innovative Church of Scotland ministry, provides, amongst other things, a short daily worship. This can be viewed on their website, or you can arrange for them to send you a daily email. Find out more here.
The Church of Scotland website provides a weekly worship with readings, prayers and reflections. Have a look here.