God’s Word for You
Luke 24:28-31 Stay with us, for it is evening
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 9, 2019
28 As they approached the village where they were going, he gave the impression that he was going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is evening, and the day is almost over.”
This interesting exchange is the usual way polite strangers parted company. Whether or not the one was really intent on going further, he would never think of imposing on the other. He would “give the impression” (prospoieomai, προσποιέομαι) he was going further. The Christian reader should not be troubled about this act, as if the Savior were telling a lie. This is an exchange along the same lines as the offer of dessert still observed in polite corners of our culture: “Will you have some pie?” “Oh, no, I couldn’t.” “Please; I insist.” Or perhaps some might understand it better if we compare it to a feint or “fake” in sports. It is a maneuver intended to accomplish a goal by appearing to do something other than what one intends to do. Jesus wanted them to invite him to stay; to do this, he needed to give the impression that he was going further still. When a stranger had joined a conversation or a traveling party, the others could be expected to invite him at the very least to join them for a meal.
The various translations of verse 20 have entered into our worship life, from the beautiful chant from our Service of Light (a variation of Evening Prayer) to the opening line of Henry F. Lyte’s “Abide with Me.” We invite the Lord to stay with us, be with us, and remain with us. With a stranger, these are the words of common courtesy. With the Lord our God, this is an act of worship.
So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he reclined at the table with them, he took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. 31 Suddenly their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Then he disappeared from their sight.
This verse has been taken by some to be a reference to the Lord’s Supper, especially by those who wish to commune the lay people with only bread and not with wine. When the Augsburg Confession was delivered in 1530, the Roman Catholic theologians responded with what they hoped would be a resounding dismissal of all of the Lutherans’ statements of faith. One of these was that “There has always been a distinction in the church between lay communion under one kind and priestly communion under both kinds” (Confutation Part II, Article I). However, the church practiced communion in both kinds from the beginning. Cyprian (200 AD) talks about communion the entire church in both kinds. So also Jerome, in his commentary on Zephaniah (chapter 3), who mentions “the priests who serve the Eucharist and distribute the blood of the Lord to the people.” The Council of Toledo (633 AD) also gives this testimony (Canon 7). All of the talk in the Catholic Church about “lay communion” is misunderstood today. “This was not the use of only one kind. When priests were commanded to use ‘lay communion,’ this indicated that they had been unfrocked and were no longer permitted to consecrate the elements. Our opponents know this very well, but they throw sand in the eyes of the uninitiated, who when they hear the phrase ‘lay communion’ immediately imagine that it means [the] present custom of giving the laity only a part of the sacrament” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXII, 8).
What Luke describes here might possibly be the distribution of the Lord’s Supper, but I don’t think that it is. The expression “He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them” could equally apply to various parts of the Passover ceremony (this is how the action got into the Lord’s Supper in the first place) or any meal at which someone presides. In ancient times right up until the present day there have been customs as to someone playing the host at a meal as Jesus did here (even though he was the invited guest). We see this in the British custom of referring to someone who serves and pours the tea at teatime as “Mother.”
By means of a miracle, Jesus disappeared from their eyes. The moment that their faith saw him as Jesus truly with them, his physical presence was no longer required there. Where there had been three at the little table just a moment before, now there were two.
It was the breaking of the bread which parted the veil from their eyes in this case, just as the death of his body had torn the veil of the Most Holy Place right down the middle. Luke says that he “disappeared from them,” whereas we usually say, “from their eyes” or “from their sight.” But the simple Greek genitive pronoun “them” shows that Jesus was actually gone from the room with them; he was not “merely” invisible as if he were playing a trick on them. He had departed, and the other Gospels give the Lord plenty of other things to do on this day to account for his departure.
Jesus had risen. What is more, he had spent the afternoon with them, perhaps two hours of travel time (to walk seven miles), and had opened up the Old Testament Scriptures to show what his work had been and had meant. The sins of the world were atoned for. Man was free from the powers of sin, of death, and of the devil. Eternal life was no longer a hope only; now it was guaranteed. They had seen the risen Jesus. Would he have been raised if the Father had rejected him or his sacrifice? The grammar of the phrase can be stated at least three ways, but they are interchangable because Jesus does not change:
He had risen.
He has risen.
He is risen.
Pastor Timothy Smith