Luke 24:13-35 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" 19 "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." 25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Do you know anyone who has sat for years in a classroom, taking notes, doing the homework, nodding at the appropriate times … and yet, just didn’t seem to get it? The light was on, but nobody seemed to be home? The head knowledge was there, but it didn’t translate into faith or action?
You may think I’m talking about the confirmands. I’m actually referring to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Two disciples are walking down the dusty road to the village of Emmaus, a 7 mile journey from Jerusalem. Their talk concerns the crucified Jesus. They have a dirge-like pace to their feet. Their attitude is like they’ve just come from a funeral – and in essence, they have – Jesus’ funeral.
Then a stranger comes up from behind and inserts himself into the conversation. The disciples are sincere in their retelling of the events of Holy Week. God, in disguise, listens patiently, His wounded hands buried deeply in His robe. He must have been touched by the faithfulness of this pair of disciples. Yet He must also have been a bit chagrined. He had just gone to hell and back to give heaven to earth, and these two just didn’t get it. They didn’t get any of it!
So Jesus led them in a Bible study for those 7 miles. He taught a long, involved confirmation class for the 2 hours or so that it would have taken to get from Jerusalem to Emmaus. I’m sure our confirmands are wondering why they, then, had to go through 2 years of long, involved study. There are three reasons why 2 years vs. 2 hours. 1. Jesus was teaching instead of a pastor. He knows His stuff way better than me and could communicate it better to His students. 2. The 2 hours were the review of 3 years of walking with, listening to, and observing Jesus everywhere He went. Those 2 hours were kind of like the examination … without the “Family Feud” type questions. 3. They were probably better students.
They listened. Their hearts were burning within them. But they didn’t quite get it. They were thick-headed and slow-hearted. Hmm, do you know any 8th graders like that? Actually, they were just like Christians of any age can be. It doesn’t matter whether you are being confirmed today or were confirmed decades ago – we all forget; we all miss the point; we all fail to believe; we all blunder in putting our confirmation vows into practice.
Jesus talked and taught for a couple of hours. He didn’t have to, though. He could have walked up beside them, introduced Himself and pulled His hands out of His pockets and slipped the sandals off His feet.
But He didn’t. He spends the time. Hours. Asking questions. Talking. Teaching. Explaining. He was confirming their faith in them.
I’m going to let you 11 confirmands in on a little secret. You could have been confirmed without all the homework, memory work, and quizzes. But what fun would that have been? What kind of Christian would you be right now? If everything comes easy, you won’t be prepared when life gets hard. If you don’t know the parts of Baptism or Communion or the explanations to the Ten Commandments now, you will never know them. Because of your long, involved training, you are better prepared than the majority of longtime WELS members.
And so Jesus takes the time to teach a confirmation class to the disciples while walking to Emmaus. He let them struggle with their faith, just like we see Him doing so many times throughout the Bible. Jesus takes His time going to the house of Jairus, whose daughter is sick, so that she dies before He gets there (Luke 8). Then He can raise her to life! The same with His friend, Lazarus (John 11). God makes Jacob wrestle with Him all night long before giving him a blessing in the morning (Genesis 32). Or the Canaanite woman whom Jesus seemed to ignore until He healed her demon-possessed daughter (Matthew 15). And I could mention many other stories like this.
Jesus wants us to struggle with our faith, so that we find rest in Him. He wants us to realize that we are weak and sinful on our own, so that we come to Him for strength and forgiveness. He wants us to despair of our own righteousness, our own works, our own way of doing things, so that we realize our ways don’t work, they don’t save, they only condemn us to hell. But His ways are righteous. His ways heal. His ways lead us to heaven.
The Emmaus disciples struggled with faith. Jesus wanted them to exert themselves in thinking everything through – the Old Testament promises, the crucifixion, the ravings of the women, and the rumors of His body being stolen. He lets them struggle so that their faith might rest where it needs to be – in Christ and His Word alone.
This is the kind of faith we all need, especially you confirmands. You will be tempted, like so many before you, to jettison your faith for worldly pleasures. Moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend will seem crucial to your relationship. Then there will be a conflict between the way you want to live your life and the way God want you to live. Which way will win?
Earning money and sleeping in on the weekends will become advantageous to you as you get older. There will be a competition between the treasures of this world that your worldly self holds dear and the treasures stored up for you in heaven that Jesus holds dear. Which treasure is more precious?
Unbelieving friends, secular teachers and atheist professors will work hard to undermine your faith in Christ. There will be a clash between what will be learning and what you have learned for the past years in church and confirmation class. Which learning will prevail?
There is a sure-fire way to make sure you remain in the faith in which you are being confirmed today. Ask Jesus daily to stay with you.
St. Luke reports: “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us.’”
Walk with Jesus in your daily devotions.
Speak to Jesus hourly in your prayers.
Sit down with Jesus weekly to receive the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus is both the Host and the Meal.
Be refreshed regularly with the waters of Baptism, as you confess your sins and receive His cleansing bath of forgiveness.
Your time with Jesus is not over just because you are being confirmed today. Today is really the beginning of your committed relationship with Jesus. Today you are making the promise that nothing – not even death – will be able to separate you from your faith in Christ Jesus. At your Baptism, Jesus said to you, “You will be with me in paradise.” Today you are acknowledging your Baptism and announcing to Jesus, your parents and everyone gathered here in church, “Thank you, Jesus. I’m following you to paradise.”
Luke also reports: “When [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” It was at that moment that everything that Jesus had been teaching them through 3 years of ministry and 2 hours of walking finally sunk in. Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.
Today, after 2 plus years of confirmation classes and other various training in the Scriptures, I pray that your eyes have been opened and you recognize what Jesus has done for you. The Scriptures show that the crucifixion is not the end, but rather the beginning. It is not defeat, but victory. It is during the crucifixion that the work of redemption happens. It is during the crucifixion that Christ withstood the wrath of God that we all deserved for our laziness to worship, our callous words, our harmful gossip, our malicious slander, our quick temper and whatever else we do that offends our holy and righteous God. If there was no crucifixion there would be no salvation. If the Son of God did not hang dead on the cross then you and I would be cast forever into the pits of hell. Before the roadside confirmation class, these two disciples believed Jesus’ suffering and death contradicted Jesus’ claim to be the Redeemer. Now they understood that the suffering and death were the way the Redeemer would do the redeeming.
It probably took a couple of hours for our travelers to walk those 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The hours must have flown by as they heard this masterful Teacher open the Scripture for them. Just like our confirmation classes together … right?! All too quickly they came to their destination. They begged Jesus to honor them by staying with them. They finally got it! The head knowledge of the Scriptures had finally traveled into their heart and increased their faith in Christ. The head knowledge had traveled into their feet and caused them to run the 7 miles back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples about encountering the risen Christ.
As it was at Emmaus, so it is for us here at Epiphany. You no longer need to sit in class with a blank stare. I pray that the head knowledge of everything you have learned from Scripture, the Catechism, and the hymnal have seeped into your heart so that you can now profess that you are ready to endure all things, even death,m rather than fall away from your Christian faith. I pray this head knowledge travels to your hands and feet and mouth so that you are ready to weekly, daily, and for the rest of your lives, conform your life to the teachings of God’s Word, make faithful use of the Word and Sacrament, and remain true to the Triune God as long as you live.
For what the disciples experienced with Jesus around the dinner table in Emmaus is what you experience here in worship. Scripture and Supper. Teaching and Table fellowship. Word and Sacrament. The Divine Service of our Savior for us poor, sinful, confused, struggling, doubting, lazy, wandering, anxious disciples of all ages.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His lambs and sheep. He has went out looking for each of us as His lost and wayward sheep. He has found us and invited us here, to His house, a refuge for weary pilgrims. He stays with us here. He is here, opening the Scriptures, so we may hear and believe. Inviting us to His altar where He is both the priest and the sacrifice. Inviting us to stay and eat at His Table, where He is both host and food. Inviting us to worship Him where He both accepts our praise and strengthen our faith. Inviting us to believe in Him who died and rose and now rules in heaven so that we might die to sin and be raise to a new life here on earth and be gathered around His throne in heaven for all eternity.
Those two disciples were confirmed in their faith on the road to Emmaus. They were now ready to worship and evangelize their Lord for the rest of their lives. They were ready to die for their Lord who had died and rose for them.
With your confirmation, you are promising to worship and evangelize your Lord for the rest of your lives. You are ready to die for your Lord. Take your confirmation vows of serving Jesus seriously. Because Jesus took His vows of serving you seriously. Amen.