Jesus Wants to Be Your Friend
April 6, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
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 recognizing 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 recognized 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 scriptures 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.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
Our topic and our title for today is “Jesus Wants to Be Your Friend.” Friends, the great and magnificent truth is this: there is a spiritual energy, a tremendously powerful spiritual energy, hidden from our sight, just slightly beyond our physical reach, that wants to bless you, that wants to heal your brokenness, that wants to enlighten your life, and that wants to love you, through and through. That powerful spiritual energy, that glowing, perfectly good radiance, is Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to be your friend.
I love the gospel that we heard this morning. I think it is one of the most beautiful stories in the entire Bible. And I’ll tell you the truth – as many years as I’ve encountered this scripture, I can barely get through the reading of it without tearing up. It is so powerful and so incredibly beautiful. It is the story of the two men on the way to Emmaus.
It seems to me that Jesus wants to touch us and love us and enlighten us and heal us whether we’re ready for it or not. Whether we are in a wonderful place spiritually or whether we are in the depths of despair, whether we are doing a great job at life or a not-so-good job at life, whether our history has been pretty good or not so good, the love of Jesus Christ is just outside the door. He stands at the door and knocks and will come in and feast with us. And He doesn’t care if the house isn’t perfectly straight. He’s there, and He’s ready to love us. I think that’s a tremendously encouraging thing.
Whether we are at prayer, whether we are in church, or whether we are completely distracted by the world’s temptations, Jesus is there, and He wants to bless us. He wants to bless you; He wants to bless me. He wants to bless us in a powerful way.
Lets’ see how we can know that from the scripture this morning. First of all, isn’t it interesting that so many of the resurrection accounts, the Easter accounts about Jesus, are cases of mistaken identity? Have you noticed that? Have you ever been mistaken for someone else? That’s what happened to Jesus. He appeared to Mary in the garden, and Mary thought He was the gardener. He appeared to the disciples, and Thomas said, “No, you might have seen someone, but it wasn’t Jesus. I’ve got to touch the nail wounds.” Mistaken identity. He appeared to the fellows going to Emmaus, and they thought He was just a stranger.
I have to tell you my mistaken identity story. It was several years ago. I was beginning my summer vacation in August. I thought, “I’m going to get into my summer clothes and get into my car and head for the shore.” So off I went, taking the back roads and driving through Princeton, by the Princeton Battlefield. I came upon an historic place called the Clarke House. I thought, “I’ve never been in that museum; I’m going to stop in there.” So I pulled up the car and started to get out, and I noticed that a man was coming from the house, walking quickly toward me. I thought, “What could this be about?” T-shirt, shorts – I wasn’t dressed up at all.
He said to me, “Oh, good, you’re here!” I felt like saying, “I’m sorry I’m late.” He said, “Listen, everybody’s here. Everybody’s gathered and in place. The tour guide is ready to go. We’re just waiting to see what you think we should do.” Now, I suppose I should have said that it was a case of mistaken identity, but what fun would that be?
The man is looking at me; he’s waiting for an answer. I didn’t want to disappoint him. So I said, “Tell them to go ahead and get started; I’ll be right up.”
He said, “Thank you so much.” So the guy walked back up the hill to the house, and I got out of the car and started walking up the hill. And as I’m walking up the hill, I see a circle of people looking back at me. The tour guide in his colonial costume is looking at me. And so I said, “Go ahead.” And they did. I just joined the tour. I never found out who they were, and they never found out who I was. It was a lot of fun, but a case of mistaken identity.
But what about this mistaken identity for Jesus? What did that accomplish? It tells us something special about the Savior’s spirit. It tells us that He wanted to announce His resurrected presence gradually. He didn’t burst on the scene with a flash of light. He came gradually into the lives of His people. (There was only one time when He burst onto the scene, and that was, of course, to the apostle Paul, when He knocked Paul off the horse and said, “Why are you hurting my loved ones?”)
Jesus came on the scene gradually. When they least expected it, whether they were ready or not, He said, “I’m here, and by the way, I love you so much. I love you when your heart is broken with grief; I love you when your eyes cannot see me because you’re too preoccupied with your sadness.” He was there. He is here. He is here for us.
How do I know? I know by the way He treated those disciples. When He introduced Himself to them, He asked the right questions. He said, “What are you talking about? You’re so sad. He asked the gentle therapy questions. Have you ever received that gift? Have you ever talked to someone who cared enough to ask just the right questions to redeem the sorrow that was in you?
I saw it happen when I was in seminary once. I saw a professor talking in class to a student who was very upset. He said to her, “What is it that really troubles you the most about the situation?” She took a deep breath and began to cry and then began to answer, and healing began in her heart. That’s what Jesus was doing. He cares. He cares about healing our brokenness.
Then He explained the scriptures to them. When you turn to the Lord, He’ll give you good ideas. He’ll reveal things about Himself to draw you closer to Him.
And then He went inside and broke the bread. And when He broke the bread, their eyes were opened and they knew Him. And then He vanished, and it was as if He vanished into the bread, that whenever they would break the bread from then on, they would remember and know His personal presence.
So that’s the way it is, my friends. That’s what I’d like you to take into the week with you. The good news is that Jesus wants to be your friend, in the good times and in the not-so-good times, when you are at your very best and when you’re at less than your best. When the weather is good and when the weather is bad, He’s always there. He stands at the door and knocks. And when we open the door, He is there with love and blessing and presence and amazing joy. Jesus wants to be your friend, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski