Unexpected Disassembly

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Luke 24:13-35

Did you ever have one of those days when so much happens that it feels like you’ve lived an entire week in a single day?  Yesterday was like that for me. I got up extra early to come meet the Love Sterling crew from Sterling College.  Coach Randy and his basketball team did a great job and got all kinds of stuff moved out to the street for us.  That same day, when I got home, I found things in an uproar as there’d been a mishap with my husband Rob and one of our puppies Doug and the recliner. Rob’s hand was bleeding and the dog couldn’t put weight on his hind leg. So that same day Rob went to the ER, and my mom and I took Doug to the vet.  Rob got stitches, the dog will be having surgery to repair a torn ACL (not what they call it in dogs).  And as Rob and I got into bed last night, we felt like we’d just lived through a bunch of days instead of only one.

The first Easter was kind of like that.  Two weeks ago we read the part where the women find the empty tomb. Last week we read the part where Jesus appears to the disciples, but Thomas won’t believe until he sees for himself.  Today in the story we read about Jesus appearing to two disciples on their way home, walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, the scripture begins with the words, “That same day…” (v13)

The two disciples in today’s scripture were disheartened and confused.  They weren’t part of the twelve closest disciples, but they had been following Jesus.  They were with the twelve when Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James told them all that Jesus’ body was gone and that the angel had said that Jesus was risen from the dead.

But now we find them on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus on that same day.  Things haven’t gone the way they’d hoped.  They tell Jesus, “We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.” (v21)  Their hopes have been dashed.  The news from the women who went to the tomb doesn’t make any sense to them. Things seem to be falling apart.  Their assembly of Jesus followers has become unexpectedly disassembled.


If those two words, unexpectedly disassembled, sound familiar, then you have likely heard or seen the news about what happened with the SpaceX rocket launch on Thursday.  I wasn’t watching it, but I was following a New York Times reporter posting updates on their website every couple of minutes. I wasn’t paying much attention while the posts said the normal rocket-launch stuff, but then a post said, “It blew up.”

Wait. What?!

I stopped what I was doing and gave it my full attention, searching for more information. Were there people on board? Was anybody hurt? Why did this happen?

There weren’t any people onboard, and so the SpaceX reps didn’t seem to be too concerned. On one broadcast, they were laughing about it. They said the rocket got further than they’d hoped and then had to be “unexpectedly disassembled.”  They had prepared for this possibility, so as soon as the rocket was far enough into the launch for them to have collected the data they needed (four minutes), they hit the “unexpected disassembly” button.[2]

Those SpaceX representatives weren’t worried because they knew that this was one of the potential outcomes. They were in control. 

Back when things fell apart in Jerusalem, I don’t think God was laughing, but God did know that what happened to Jesus was an expected outcome.

Those disciples on the road to Emmaus were experiencing an unexpected disassembly, though. They hit the road, Jack. Sometimes getting out of the middle of a situation helps us to put things in perspective.


The two disciples are walking home, talking about all that has happened, when they meet a stranger.  It’s Jesus, but they don’t recognize him, just like Mary didn’t recognize Jesus earlier that day by the tomb.  As they’re walking along they have a bit of a Bible study.  Jesus helps them to see the scriptures differently.  The disciples had thought the scriptures said the Messiah would come and take over Israel.  Jesus helps them to see that there is a different way to understand the scriptures.

Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

They gained a new understanding that they wouldn’t have been able to have until they had lived through the events of Holy Week.  That’s true for us, too.  As we live life and things happen, our perspectives and understandings change.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. Heraclitus

That’s why we keep going back to the Bible. We read with new eyes.  And also why having Bible discussions is helpful. Often someone else will see the scripture in a way we hadn’t seen ourselves.  Our understanding grows and changes.

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32). Those disciples had to change their minds a lot of times as they learned from Jesus.[4]

Christians throughout the ages have had to do the same.  “Christians in early America read their Bibles as saying that they should obey kings. But by the time of the American Revolution, people no longer took that admonition literally. Similarly, Christian people for centuries assumed that their Bibles condoned slavery and the subordination of women to men. Yet, over time and often reluctantly, people came to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading to accept people of African origin and women as full and equal members of the church.”[5]

What is the Holy Spirit doing among us today?  What do we see differently than we did before?

These two disciples on the way to Emmaus have a dramatic experience of resurrection.  Their hopes have died along with Jesus. They’ve experienced an “unexpected disassembly” of sorts. Their faith might even be going through what we today might call “deconstruction.”  What they thought was true turns out not to be.  Jesus helps them rebuild their understanding. 

What an experience that must have been. No wonder they don’t want Jesus to leave when they get to their house.


They didn’t realize who Jesus was until he broke the bread. Jesus uses the same words here that he used three days before as the disciples were gathered to celebrate the Passover together (Luke 22:17-19).

He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples (Luke 22:19, sim. Luke 24:30)  And their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus.  And they say, “Were not our hearts burning within us as we walked along the road?”

They’ve gained a deeper understanding of who Jesus is.  About this, Henri Nouwen says, “Mysteriously, after this encounter in which their eyes and hearts are opened, the two disciples no longer need his physical presence to know that he remains with them. They can now ‘remember’ him who dwells within them.”[7]

Nouwen says that he had a similar experience.  The events of his life were weighing on him and he was sinking into depression. But God sent him an unexpected friend who listened as Nouwen told him about his concerns. After listening for a long while, the friend showed Nouwen how they were both on a similar road, and that the journey through the pain was taking them to a new place. Once Nouwen was able to open his heart to this new reality, he realized that he was not alone. He had found the voice of love, and he knew that God had sent this angel to offer him comfort and renew his hope.

At various points in our lives, we may experience an unexpected disassembly and God may send us an angel to help us understand how God is still with us, still loving and caring for us.  Or we may be the friend who listens and helps someone to know God’s love and hope in the midst of their confusion and pain.

We can be like those disciples on the road to Emmaus who thought everything had fallen apart, until Jesus helped them to see things differently, and like them we can say, “The Lord has really risen!” (Luke 24:34)

The Lord has risen!  He has risen indeed.

This is our resurrection hope.

Thanks be to God.

Cover Photo by Nicholas Santoianni on Unsplash

[1] Photo by Bill Jelen on Unsplash

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/20/science/rapid-unscheduled-disassembly-starship-rocket.html

[3] By Lelio Orsi – http://cgfa.sunsite.dk/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6802241

[4] Rogers, Jack. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Revised and Expanded Edition (p. 16). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

[5] Rogers. Ibid. p. 58.

[6] Photo by Wesual Click on Unsplash

[7] Nouwen, Henri. Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life, Kindle version.

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