April 13, 2008
Pastor Brian Shimer
Luke 24: 13-53
- This is one of the best loved resurrection stories in the New Testament – partly because we can all find ourselves in it.
We had hoped this child would become a great Dr but now he or she has been diagnosed with a terrible disease.
Haven’t you ever been in a situation which so floored you, so knocked the wind out of you that you were left feeling that awful feeling of hopelessness mixed with despair?
It may have come in a surprise phone call which brought terrible news.
Perhaps you got word of a grandchild’s diagnosis which left you wondering where God was in a situation.
It may have been in the midst of a conversation which began innocently enough but ended up at the brink of the dissolution of a relationship.
Perhaps it was just the Mount Everest of bills and the impossibility of paying them which left you staggering.
Whatever has been your experience – we have been in places which feel hopeless.
So, when we read of Cleopas and the other disciple – perhaps his wife – making this seven mile walk from Jerusalem to their home, we can relate. We have been on similar walks. We have been on similar journeys and can hear ourselves in their words: “but, we had hoped…”
We had hoped our dreams for our son or daughter would come true, but he or she has died in a tragic accident.
We had hoped …
That phrase usually relates to a loss that brought death to someone we loved.
It can also be used for other situations…
I have told you on more than one occasion about Karen and I after 3 years of marriage, walking the streets of Wilmore, KY on a black, cold winter’s night, holding onto each other, weeping, for we had hoped we could make our marriage last, but had left the house on this walk because we knew we were going to have to divorce. We were facing the death of a marriage seeing all our hopes dashed.
I have also told you that somehow we left in despair but returned back to our apartment with a glimmer of hope. Somehow in that walk Jesus walked with us, somehow he opened the Word to us, somehow with our little faith, Jesus revealed Himself and now that is nearly 24 years ago that occurred!
- As you heard read and as you have read many times, after Jesus’ resurrection, two disciples left Jerusalem to head home and they walked along, recounting all they had experienced, reiterating their disbelief in all that had happened. They had believed Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, but now that he actually had died on the cross, they knew they had been wrong, for they knew that no messiah could possibly have thus died.
However, as they walked along, a stranger joined them, a stranger who was Jesus in his real, flesh and bone, resurrected body. We read that they were kept from recognizing him. Why was that? Why did God keep them from seeing the one who walked with them?
We are not told. But we do know this. When Jesus feigns not to have heard what has happened in Jerusalem, these two have an opportunity to tell him. Had they known it was Jesus all along would they have still been able to be so honest? And because of their vulnerability, Jesus can then shock them with a rebuke that opened the door for them to hear from the Word as Jesus recounted all that the Scriptures proclaimed of Himself.
His rebuke was like a spade applied to the soil of their hearts. Jesus turned the soil that they would receive the seed of the Word as he led them on this amazing Bible Study. Talk about a course in Christology – the study of Jesus!
What did Jesus share? We are told, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Notice that little word “all” – Jesus did not leave anything out. That little jaunt to Emmaus turned out to be the longest and shortest journey in history. There was time for everything that needed to be shared, and it must have flashed past them as their hearts burned within them as the Truth spoke to their innermost beings!
When we are at our lowest point, sometimes even a bit of a verse of Scripture will speak to our hearts and lift us up.
Has that ever happened to you? When you are really at a poor place, that one verse can be used to speak to your heart?
Imagine how they were now told not just one verse, but the whole counsel of God concerning the Son! They were being fed spiritual food and it was reaching into their hearts unbeknownst to them!
- Haven’t we all been in this story? Haven’t we all been on this “road to Emmaus” – the road home from a hard event and looked for the Lord but not seen him? It was not because Jesus was not with us, but because for whatever we were kept from recognizing him.
No wonder we like the story. We know these disciples for they are just like us. We too easily lose hope because of our circumstances.
We too miss the presence of Jesus in the places of our lives when everything is not going our way, when everything seems like the pits.
Cleopas said it for us, “but we had hoped” -- they had hoped for so much more! They had hoped for victory. They had hoped for a political takeover. People are hoping for that in this day and age too – believing that a change of parties may solve all problems.
“How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” the Lord could still say to us today!
Still today we don’t believe all that was spoken. So we’ve placed our hopes in all the wrong things. There is much hope placed in the next president of the United States as if a change of person or change of party or change of gender or change of race even will be the answer! Will that make the difference for America? Will the answer be found in an Obama, a Clinton or a McCain? These are just people! “How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken,” Jesus could say.
Our hopes can be placed in a medical procedure, in medical science, in entertainment, in shopping malls – and then can become surprised when these things disappoint and disillusion us.
Like the two disciples, when everything did not happen as they had hoped, Cleopas and the other disciple doubted everything – they could not see Jesus when he is right there with them. They could report on the search for Jesus’ body but were not even looking for a living Lord.
Isn’t that what happens to us today? We are not even looking for God. We are not even believing that God could possibly come into our lives and BE with us here in this circumstance. We don’t expect God, so miss Him when he is right there with us. We are looking for religion perhaps – the dead Body of Jesus – but not looking for Jesus.
We can live our lives as Deists not Christians – Deists in that we believe God exists, we believe God really sent Jesus, we believe God really saves us from sin and death, which is beyond what Ancient Deists believed, but we believe somehow that God is just way out there someplace. God is not involved in our daily lives in any tangible way. God is “out there” “Sovereign” “Mighty” perhaps but not present with us in our circumstances. God somehow just set this world running and we will engage God if needed, not before.
We can end up with a God who is more like a parachute worn with the ripcord “Jesus” which we pull only in emergencies. Then once the emergency is past we stuff the parachute back into the backpack and go on our merry way on our own steam. This is far from what God wants for us.
As Christians we believe that God is the atmosphere in which we live and walk, that God is not far off but near at hand. That we are involved in the fullness of the love of the Triune God, that we are never separated from God, indeed that nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
- This day Cleopas and the other disciple learned on our behalf that Jesus walks into our circumstances in the most surprising ways, he will even show up in the most ordinary places -- suddenly our eyes are opened and He was there all along.
And if that is the case, that Jesus is there all along, perhaps then we could believe that from the start. When we encounter incredibly tough times we can believe then “yes, you are with me”. When we are walking through times of shadow and despair, we can believe “even here you guide me”. As we have heartbreak and sorrow we can open our hearts to the Lord, pour out our hearts to Him, and allow Him to enter in and touch that place with the Word.
Yes Jesus walks with you and me on all our roads.
Yes, Jesus speaks to you and me in all our circumstances.
Yes, Jesus will be seen at the most surprising times.