3rd Sunday of Easter
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 24:13-35 Sermon
April 10, 2005
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
103 "Now Let the Vault of Heaven Resound"
101 "Our Lord Has Risen From the Dead"
106 "Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain"
537 "O Master Let Me Walk With Thee"
566 "Thine Is the Glory, Risen Conquering Son"
READ THE DIRECTIONS
TEXT (vs. 25-27): “And [Jesus] said to [the two on the road]: ‘O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
I have a brother who is a couple years younger than me. He’s been here to our church once, with my parents at our Christmas Candlelight service in December. You might remember seeing him.
My brother is mentally retarded; or if you prefer the more modern politically correct terminology, he’s “mentally challenged.”
He lives in his own house; and although he is still dependent upon others for various things like laundry, cleaning, and finances, he gets along all right on his own for many things.
One of the things he is particularly good at, is following directions and figuring things out. He depends on public transportation, and so he knows all of the bus schedules backwards and forwards. You can buy him the most complicated VCR or other piece of electronic equipment; and as long as it is hooked up right for him, he’ll take the instruction booklet and read it from cover-to-cover. When he is done, he’ll have the whole thing all figured out.
Anyway, this year for Christmas, he got one of those “atomic clocks” that have become so popular—those digital clocks you see on display at Sam’s Club, or Wal-Mart, or Walgreen’s. You might even have one.
The way these things work, is that there is a time signal sent out by short-wave radio from Boulder, Colorado. Each atomic clock has a radio receiver built in to it, which is tuned to the signal sent out from Boulder. This synchronizes all of those atomic clocks, so they all say the correct time.
This year when daylight saving time hit, a different time signal was sent out from Boulder, and atomic clocks automatically advanced the one hour.
This absolutely astounded my brother. As good as he is with figuring things out, this baffled him. How did that clock hanging on his living room wall know it had to advance one hour? To him, it is an unexplainable mystery. When he talked to my mother, he told her: “It’s a mystery….just like the resurrection.”
I guess it never occurred to me to try to equate the mystery of the resurrection with the way an atomic clock works. But for my brother, the mystery about the way something happens doesn’t alter the fact that it did in fact happen. His clock reset itself, and he didn’t have to touch it. That’s a fact, even though he didn’t understand how it happened. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. That’s a proven historical fact, even though the exact details of how this happened has not been revealed to us. We just know it and believe it.
Our text for today finds two disciples of Jesus walking together on the road heading to Emmaus, a small town probably located about 3 ½ miles northwest of Jerusalem. We’re not sure about the exact location, but Luke describes it as being 60 stadia, or 7 miles away, most likely the distance of a round trip. Anyway, it was an easy walk away from Jerusalem.
The two disciples on the road were not part of the original 11 apostles, who were still in Jerusalem. The one disciple was named Cleopas—probably Luke’s spelling of Clopas mentioned in John 19, 51 whose wife Mary was at the foot of the cross. So, some suppose that the other person on the road might have been Cleopas’ wife, Mary. But we can’t sure about that, and it is of little significance anyway.
The important thing, is that these two people were walking down the road, and they were talking about all of the events which had occurred. They were expressing discouragement about what had happened. In verse 21 they said, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…”
One pastor made the observation that some of the saddest words in the English language begin with the letter “D.” For example, dismay, disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression, despair, and death. I think this accurately summarizes the way these two were feeling. All of those feelings all jumbled together had completely occupied their minds. They had trouble focusing on anything else.
We know that they were disappointed. Remember that in verse 21, the phrase was, “we had hoped.” That’s in the past tense. This indicates that they had positive hopes at one time, but now those hopes didn’t exist anymore. As far as they were concerned, their Saviour had been killed, and he was dead and gone forever—right along with everything they had hoped for. Even the news of the empty tomb didn’t raise their spirits and their expectations. They probably believed that someone had either moved him or stolen his body. They didn’t expect the resurrection.
Human hope is something rather fragile. When it withers and fades, it is very difficult to revive again. This not only happened with the two on the road to Emmaus, but it has continued throughout history. People commit suicide because despair and discouragement have completely engulfed them, and every bit of hope has been sucked dry.
You and I aren’t immune from such feelings either. I’m sure that we’ve all had feelings of disappointment and hopelessness. Of course we all have had different reasons for feeling this way, but I’m sure that virtually everybody has experienced those nasty “D” words in their lives. We know what dismay, disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression, despair, and death mean in our lives.
Anyway, as these two men are walking along, a stranger joins them. This would turn out to be the most significant walk of their lives. The stranger (who turns out to be Jesus) asks them what they were discussing. And so, they basically spilled their guts. They tell this stranger all about their hopes and their disappointments. Jesus simply provides a listening ear for them. Jesus reassures them and helps them. What did he do?
Verse 27 of our text says, “Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets.”
Those two disciples on the road to Emmaus must have received one of the best Bible studies to have ever happened. He would have most likely started at the beginning—how sin entered into the world by the disobedience of one man, and how the prophets foretold about a Saviour who would be obedient, even unto death. He probably referred to the description of the suffering servant of God in Isaiah 53 where he writes, “(He was) wounded for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities.” And then he would have continued, looking at passage after passage which foretold the things about him, and what would happen to him. It was all there.
As I look at this, I’ve often asked myself why these disciples couldn’t see something that God had so plainly laid out for them. I’ve equated this to someone who doesn’t know how to operate something, simply because they haven’t read the directions. It’s like my brother—he can figure out almost anything by studying the directions and proceeding according to them. But for some reason, these disciples couldn’t see it. It was only after Jesus patiently pointed them to the Scriptures that things started to make sense. They felt their sorrow and despondency start to lift, and their hearts began to change as this stranger explained that Jesus’ suffering and death was a part of God’s great plan of salvation.
Now it’s not that these disciples didn’t know their Bible. It is obvious that they did, otherwise Jesus couldn’t have taught the effective lesson that he did. It’s just that they were so pre-occupied about the events of the last several days, that those sections of the Scriptures would have been perhaps pushed aside.
So before we come down too hard on those disciples for not recognizing the prophecies concerning Jesus, we should put ourselves in their place. Would we have done any better? Would we have been able to readily recognize prophecy with our hearts weighed down with those pesky “D” words--dismay, disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression, despair, and death?
In our own lives, it is sometimes really tough to see the hope of the Gospel when the burden of sin weighs so heavily on our shoulders. As we examine our sinfulness, we can let it weigh so heavily upon us. That’s the way our society likes to deal with sin. The world keeps reminding us time and again about what we’ve done to merit punishment. And when we continue to hearken to those voices, then the only thing that’s left are those awful “D” words--dismay, disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression, despair, and death. There’s an awful lot of baggage we can be hauling around with us. The devil loves to do this to us, to make us feel continually guilty and not fit for God or heaven.
But we need to hearken to the voice of the Gospel. When the threat of the law burdens us with those “D” words, we need to focus upon the gospel which removes them. All of the burdens of sin and guilt are the burdens Jesus took with him to the cross. Every time we feel the threat of the law attacking our hope, we need to remember that because of Jesus, our sins have been separated from us, as far as the east is from the west. Through faith in Christ, God has removed our iniquity and he remembers our sin no more.
Through Jesus, we experience the Grace of God in our lives. Through the Gospel, our lives come together, and we have a renewed sense of hope and purpose.
Christians are to be living examples of putting this Gospel into practice. Forgiveness, and peace, and restoration, and hope are the things we receive from God through faith in Christ Jesus; and it is in this same spirit that we deal with each other during our lives.
This past week, the news was full of the activities surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II. One of the things they replayed was the Pope’s meeting with the man who had shot and almost killed him. The Pope embraced the man and forgave him. That is a very uncommon sight in today’s world, even amongst church people. Even though I don’t agree with the Pope’s theology, yet I think he did a most admirable thing. He forgave somebody who had sinned against him.
The message of forgiveness and hope and new life is what the disciples on the road to Emmaus needed to hear. The Bible study by this so-called “stranger” who met them on the road was most welcome.
The disciples exercised some good Christian hospitality. They offer Jesus a meal and a place to stay for the night. At the evening meal, Jesus said the blessing and broke the bread. And then suddenly, it dawned upon them who this “stranger” was. It was Jesus their Saviour who had arisen from the dead. It was Jesus who ministered to them in their hour of despair and sadness. Now they knew why a change had come over them as they walked on the road. Now they knew why their despondent hearts had been changed to hearts filled with hope for the future. Jesus had revealed himself to them through the Word. One commentator so aptly states, “Searching the Scriptures is preparation for recognizing the living Jesus.”
I can imagine the two disciples standing in amazement asking each other the question in verse 32 of our text: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Their world had come together. The resurrection had given them hope. They had experienced the Grace of God. Because of his love for his despondent disciples, Jesus graciously came and met them on the road to Emmaus. He cleared away the fog of confusion. He showed them the very heart of God and his plan of salvation; and finally he revealed himself to them—he was alive, risen from the dead.
The resurrection was a mystery, and the two disciples had a bit of trouble grasping it—something like my brother’s amazement as to how an atomic clock works. But we know that it is a fact, that Jesus arose from the dead on the third day. He did this so that death and the devil would have no more power over us.
The road to Emmaus is a symbol of the Christian life. As we walk this road, we will often encounter those dreaded “D” words--dismay, disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression, despair, and death.
However this is a story about the meaning of Easter for us. It enables us to see that the risen Lord Jesus has been victorious over the grave, death, and the devil. It enables us to see that Jesus gives hope and joy, when all we see is disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It enables us to see the world, not as a place of death, decay, and defeat, but as a place where we wait during God’s time of grace, until he calls us out of the midst of this vale of tears and takes us to be with him in his heavenly mansions forever.