Bullets and Ballots

 

This is one of those “bible stories” that we can still personally relate to thousands of years after they happened.  This is the story of 2 disciples on resurrection Sunday, Easter.   

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  They were walking along, disappointed and defeated, talking about what had happened to Jesus of Nazareth.  Talking about someone they loved and cared for, someone they believed in.  Not talking about someone from another time & place, but their own time and place.  They knew the man, Jesus of Nazareth.  He was not a character in a story, someone their pastor talked about on Sundays.  No, to them Jesus of Nazareth was their friend, their champion, their hope.  Their hope for the messianic King their bibles had spoken of for centuries, even millenia.   They had known Jesus was what their people had hoped for, prayed for.  But…it had all gone so wrong.

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  This is mentioned also in the Gospel of Mark – “After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭16:12‬.  Their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.  He appeared in another form.  Jesus in disguise.  That’s all I’m going to say about that…
And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?”    Yes, they are sad, very sad.  Apparently, everyone around Jerusalem knows what happened to their friend, Jesus of Nazareth.  Everyone knows, and everyone is talking about it.  As “everyone” tends to do.  This was no mystery, no secret.  Jesus was arrested, interrogated, put on “trial” (found not guilty by Pilate – “…After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” John‬ ‭18:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬), beaten, spit on, humiliated, and ultimately put on a cross until he was found to be dead, dead, dead.  Jesus was very well known in Jerusalem, his was a very public trial, and a very public crucifixion.  Everybody knew.  Everybody SAW.  Except this stranger who has approached the two disciples, apparently the only guy in town who did not know what had happened.


And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” Picture this scene.  Two despondent disciples of Jesus, sharing the story of Jesus – with Jesus!!  They may as well be preaching the Gospel to your neighbor up the street – mighty man of God, delivered up by the priests and rulers.  He came doing miracles and healing – we thought he was Messiah.  It’s the third day – He’s missing from the grave.  Some even say He’s alive!

 
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.   These two disciples KNOW the answers.  They just aren’t seeing all that they know.  They were expecting the Christ to be a warrior king.  They expected him to overthrow Caesar and Pilate and Nero, to overcome Caesar’s spear with his own, bigger spear.  They understood Pilates truth – “So Pilate said to him….Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” John‬ ‭19:10‬ ‭ESV‬.  They understood the truth of this world, the truth of Cain and Abel.  The truth which we understand, that power comes from force, subjugating and killing those who might be against you.  Clearly defining “good” and “evil”, understanding ourselves to be “good.”  Clearly knowing that we are “good” and will prevail because God is on our side.  Except it’s not God we take into battle but smart bombs and 50mm bullets shot from our indestructible tanks.  Pilate and the powers of the day feared Jesus because they thought, like these two disciple did, that He was coming for THEIR throne.  Just like we are expecting our savior to ride on the white horse of revelation, with white eyes, a spear for a tongue, and just start blowing everybody else away.  But Jesus WAS NEVER interested in that kind of power.  But WE are.  We are disappointed with our societies turn away from God.  We cry, complain, stress over, and rail against our “secular” society.  We, like these Emmaus Road disciples, are disappointed that our savior has not taken the reigns of power as we understand them.  
 
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.   So, after spending (most likely) a couple of hours walking with Jesus in disguise, they invite Him in to stay with them.  The day is getting long, it’s time to settle in.  They sit at the table, and all of a sudden, the houseguest is now the host – When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.    After he blesses the bread and gives it to them – now they recognize Him.  And – poof!!- He’s gone.  They’ve spent hours walking with Him, sharing with Him, listening to Him, but as soon as He breaks the bread and they recognize Him, He’s no longer there, there’s just bread on the table.  “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke‬ ‭22:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  He’s gone, but He’s still there with them as the bread on the table.
 
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.   Even though the day was long, this was no time to settle in!!  Christ is risen!!  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.   He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.  They had misunderstood it all, and so have we.   Jesus Christ had, and has, no intention of taking power at the end Caesar’s spear.  “Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Matthew‬ ‭26:52‬ ESV.   These two disciples did not understand.  We do not understand still.  But then again, neither did those closest to Jesus – “And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:36-38‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  James and John, sons of Zebedee, did NOT know what they were asking – “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭23:32-33‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  One at his right hand, one at his left.  The throne of Jesus was, and is, the cross.   “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke‬ ‭9:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. To this day, we don’t see it.  We run around trying to win public offices, to pass laws, to have a more “Christian” nation.  For centuries, maybe 15+ centuries in Europe, Christians have tried to create Christian societies.  Tried to pass “Christian” laws, to create “Christian” people.  All backed up and enforced with full military might.  It has failed completely at this point in Europe.  We pretend it’s not failing in America, but it is.  We wring our hands, bemoan the choice of candidates (Trump or Hillary???).   We worry about how we are going to live in a secular society.  We have nothing to worry about.  The kingdom of God, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, will NEVER come through bullets and ballots.  That is not how we change the world.  We change the world through baptism and bread.  One new believer at a time.  Remember how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.   Sound weird?  I hope so, because it is.  What we believe, as Christians is weird.  We believe you change the world not through bullets and ballots but by baptism and bread.  That’s weird.  But, as my pastor closes every service at our church – “Go and be the church.”  We are to be the church.  Let the world be the world.   


“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭24:13-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/luk.24.13-35.esv

John Lewis

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