11am Easter Service: “Missing the Obvious”
Topic: Easter Scripture: Luke 24:13–24:35
Have you ever had one of those moments where you are missing something right in front of you? You’re looking around frantically for your keys and they’ve been in your pocket the whole time? A couple weeks ago, I had the gut-wrenching sense of dread that I lost my phone, and I spent a solid 30 seconds sweating it out until I realized I was holding it in my hand. It was just one of those days. Easter with really little kids is another great example of missing the obvious.
As parents, we can’t wait for that great little photo-op, memory-making moments – including Easter egg hunts. And regardless of how little our kids might be, we always end up doing the first egg hunt when our little ones are just a smidge too young to get it. Maybe your first Easter egg hunt with your kids was like mine. Isaac was a little under one, around 10 months old, and we put these eggs out in front of him. To his credit, he snagged a few right away, but then I ended up doing that move, where you sort of nudge your kid in the direction of an egg, so that it is so obviously in their face, that they can’t miss it. And sometimes, they still miss it. But sometimes it works too. Sometimes. Of course, then you have to try and avoid that game I think every baby loves to play: can I fit this entire plastic egg in my mouth?
Missing the obvious can be hilarious or it can be frustrating. Like when you’re at the grocery store and you ask one of the workers where something is. “Oh, it’s right in the middle of aisle 5. Can't-miss it.” And then you spend 10 agonizing minutes meticulously analyzing every inch of the shelf for the “obvious” location of that crucial ingredient. Sure enough, there it is – on your tenth pass of scouring that shelf, and you wonder how you missed it.
One thing is true, regardless, it is so satisfying when you finally see or get what you had been missing. Sometimes the thing we’re missing is more important than a plastic egg filled with candy, or that jar of sauce we’re looking for, or maybe even our “missing” phone. The text I want us to look through this Easter morning is about a few people who were missing the obvious, right in front of them. We’re going to explore a part of Luke 24.
A little background, this takes place the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Christ has risen (He has risen, indeed.) and, as we’ve previously heard read, the women have already been told that miraculous and powerful truth. The story we’re jumping into comes pretty shortly after that. We’re in Luke 24:13-35.
When we come into the events of this text, we have to remember that for these two men, all the joy and celebration we associate with Easter, doesn’t exist for them. Not yet. The last thing they remember, the image fixed firmly in their minds and hearts, is the death of their beloved friend and teacher; the one they believed to be the Messiah, the one meant to save them. They are conversing like two people gathered at the funeral of a beloved friend. We’re told their faces were downcast, and it doesn’t take much imagination to feel the sense of loss and sadness they’re experiencing.
And then Jesus walks up to them. I know this sounds like the start of a joke, “Two guys traveling on a path and Jesus walks up…” But it’s no joke. We are told that they were kept from recognizing him. More on that later. Then Jesus asks them what they’re talking about. These poor guys are as shocked as they are disheartened. They can’t believe this stranger doesn’t know what’s happened the last few days. But they recount it anyway. Again, much like the scene at a funeral, as loved ones mourn over the events leading up to the death of a friend or family member, these disciples share, with excruciating detail, what had happened to their teacher and friend. They even share the account of the women, and the vision, and the empty tomb. But even this – what should have been hopeful news – is tinged with sadness, as they finish, by saying “but they did not see Jesus.”
Jesus then proceeds to teach them everything. From Moses on, Jesus shows these two, every time Scripture pointed to the Messiah, to himself. Jesus must have been a pretty compelling teacher. But we might know that already. Because when it seemed like Jesus was going to continue on without the two disciples, they practically pleaded with him to stay with them. Even if they couldn’t realize that this was Jesus with their eyes, something in their hearts told them to draw close and remain with this man.
And then things get interesting. Jesus and the two disciples sit down together for a meal. Jesus took the bread, gave thanks for it, and broke it…just like he did those few nights ago at what we call The Last Supper. It is at this moment, following this specific action, that we’re told their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. And just like that, Jesus disappeared from their sight. They are left undoubtedly possessing all the spark and electricity of an open wire.
I have no idea what their expressions were like or where their emotions were at that moment. Were they shocked? In tears? Laughing with joy? Just totally confused? But they slowly start to have it all click into place. They admit that their hearts were burning as Jesus opened Scripture with them. They couldn’t help themselves. They got-up right then and rushed to the other disciples, and told them everything that happened, and mentioned how it was, when they broke bread together, that they could finally recognize Jesus, and stop missing the obvious.
For me, this is the quintessential Easter story. I want to admit something that I hope is a comfort to you. Even as a pastor, I have always struggled with reaching the level of excitement, I feel like I should have, when it comes to all that Easter means and represents. Don’t misunderstand me. Easter is the single most important day in human history. It marks the end of death’s power against us, and sin’s hold over us. It is the final declaration that light has conquered darkness. I believe that with all my heart, and with all that I am. It is a truth and a reality that has fundamentally shaped me as a person, husband, father, friend, pastor, and every corner of my life. I might struggle because my mother passed away on Easter Sunday. But even taking that into account, with a truth of this magnitude, I sometimes end up, feeling like a sippy cup, being asked to hold the ocean.
When I was a kid, it was different. I didn’t struggle with world-altering truths. I struggled with the fact I had to wear a tie to church, and why I couldn’t stay home and eat my candy. But I was missing the obvious. I was missing the point. As I grew up, that changed. But as Easter settles into our experience as a holiday, I think there’s still some danger of us missing the obvious meaning of Easter. Egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, Spring break, time off work and school, the right Easter dress or shirt, getting the ham ready…all of the holiday stuff could put us in a frame of mind, where coming together in worship like this, could become more than just another piece of the holiday. And that, I think, is why we need this account in Luke 24 so much.
Some of Christ’s closest friends and most devoted followers had been told that Jesus had risen, but still, their hearts were weighed down by sadness. They had walked in the presence of Jesus himself, but their eyes could not grant them the sight their hearts so desperately desired. Why were they kept from recognizing Jesus? It’s a question that biblical scholars have debated and tried to determine the answer to. In truth, we can’t know the mysterious heart of God with certainty, but we can look at the series of events, that led these Christ followers to finally see what they wanted to see, more than anything else.
It was two things. First, they heard Scripture and reflected on it together. Second, they shared a very familiar meal together. Before those two things, they still had a connection to Jesus. They had memories of what He had taught, done, and what others had said about him. They had an impression in their minds of who He was and what He represented. And they had space in their heart that only Jesus could fill. Does this sound familiar? It does for me. Maybe for you too.
We grow up hearing about Jesus and maybe even having some meaningful memories associated with Him. We likely spent a good deal of time being told about the words and miracles and actions of Jesus. We certainly had people tell us about Jesus. Even from a young age, we grow with an idea of Jesus in our minds. An impression of who or what He could be. And all of us, whether we can realize it or not, we have a space in us that reminds us something is missing – that someone is missing. And we’ve likely tried to fill that void with all varieties of solutions.
You see this, right? The experience of these two disciples is our experience. And it’s why I am so glad that you decided to spend this time with us, here at First Pres. this morning. The truth of the resurrection is unbelievable by nature. One of the defined certainties of existence – death, itself – is denied and robbed of its irrefutable power. And even more, we’re told that victory and freedom is shared by the Resurrected One, with all of those who follow him. A truth like that is hard to comprehend. So how can we? By doing what we see worked here in Luke 24.
Coming together. Seeking Christ. Reflecting and exploring Scripture. And sharing a sacramental, meaningful meal together. John Calvin, one history's most renowned theologians, and a father of the Presbyterian Church, believed true Christian worship needed to consist of only two things: The Lord’s Supper and the Preached Word. All other elements, while valuable and enriching, revolve around those things. The very same things we are doing together this morning, on the day we celebrate the most reaching and transformative truth of all time: Christ is Risen.
For so many, Jesus is right there. Standing beside them and walking along with them. But we can’t recognize Him. Even in moments where our hearts are so hungry for Christ, we suffer from missing the obvious, from missing the one we are seeking, who is right in front of us. But we don’t have to. Jesus Himself shows us what we can do to have His face made clear to us. The answer, my friends, is this. Right here. The community of the church. A community that has a place for you. A community you are invited to be a part of. A place where, while we may differ in so many ways, we all share a few things. An affection for Christ, and a desire to see Him move in our lives and this world. A time to explore and turn over in our hearts and minds, the mysteries and truths found within the Word of God. And we share a table. A table we will come to in a few moments. A table where we will break bread, and pass it just as Jesus did.
Christ is with you, friends. No matter how challenging the road. No matter how painful your story has been. No matter where you are now. He has walked up alongside you. I believe He brought you to this very place this morning. Because He wants you to see Him. Not in a generic way, but in a meaningful way that changes you. In a way that stops you from missing the obvious. We want to be a part of that with you. So, my challenge to you this morning comes in the form of a question: Where will you be, this time next week?
Something changed for the two people in our text, when they engaged in the practices and norms of the church. Their eyes were opened and their hearts were filled. They ran from where they were, and told their closest friends about the experience, about the One they had seen. They knew Christ had risen. They knew their lives were forever changed. They were no longer missing the obvious.