B18 RESURRECTION - Emmaus
St. Luke 24.vv.13-35
~ Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognising him. And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?". They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?". He asked them, "What things?". They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over 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 took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed 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 they did not see him". Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over". So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him,; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scripture to us?". That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!". Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. ~
"Abide with me; fast falls the eventide" is still (and deservedly) one of the most popular hymns that we sing, especially at times of sorrow and stress. It is based upon the plea of the two Disciples at Emmaus who besought their unrecognised companion the Risen Christ, "Abide with us, for the day is far spent".
It has been observed that the story is full of spiritual insights. The two Disciples were walking westward into the sunset, weary, downcast and perplexed as may be our life's journey; but they were warmed and cheered by the presence of their unrecognised companion and ended the day in an excited mood as they returned the seven miles back to Jerusalem to share their good news.
On one occasion Scott of the Antarctic with two of his companions made a dangerous journey over the ice and snow and when they reached their camp confessed to one another that they felt that there had been four of them on the journey. The unseen spiritual presence was very real to Moses who said bluntly to God, "If you will go with us, we will go; but if you will not go with us, we will not go". Jesus said, "I am the Way" and "Behold, I stand at the door and knock". We sing, "O for a closer walk with God". For Christian people the presence of Christ on our earthly pilgrimage is our heart's desire, for the darkest road with Christ is better than a bright road without him. Clement of Alexandria said, "Christ turns all our sunsets into dawns".
In one of the Chapels in the new Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool there is a triptych depicting in one of its panels in modern dress the scene "Abide with us". I find this very fitting, for the theme of "Abide with me" is a timeless plea.
Henry Francis Lyte, the Brixham Vicar who composed the hymn, won the love and respect of the simple fisher folk of his parish. In 1847, suffering from consumption, he conducted worship in his church and after two hours spent in his study presented the hymn we love so much. Two and a half months later he died, but he bequeathed us a spiritual masterpiece. The hymn is not an evening hymn or even a funeral hymn. It is alive with hope and joy, an intensely personal hymn, which speaks of the risen victorious life to which Jesus calls us.