April 29 & 30, 2017 Easter 3
Luke 24: 13-35
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
In 1927 a US submarine was accidently rammed by a Coast Guard destroyer and went down off the coast of Massachusetts. The US Navy did everything possible to rescue the men trapped inside, including sending down deep sea divers. But time was not on their side and the air supply began to run out. At one point one of the deep sea divers heard tapping on the hull of the submarine. The diver put his helmet next to the noise. It was Morse Code. The sailor trapped inside was tapping out a message. “Is there any hope?”
That is the question the two disciples on the way to Emmaus probably were asking each other. Let’s take another look at those Emmaus disciples. One was named Cleopas, the other tradition claims was Luke. They were followers of Jesus. What a weekend it had been. The bottom had fallen out of their lives. Jesus, their teacher and master, was executed on a cross. He was dead and buried. They were in a state of shock and fear.
These two disciples left Jerusalem that first Easter Sunday evening, walking along a road to a village seven miles away called Emmaus. We are not told why they were making that trip. Were the disciples of Jesus already scattering, thinking that it was over, all their hopes and dreams? It sure seems like it, the way they were talking.
As they were discussing the events of the weekend, Jesus himself came up beside them and walked along with them. “What are you discussing together?” Jesus asked them. They did not recognize Jesus. Jesus didn’t want them to recognize him yet. He had something important to teach them. They stopped walking for a second, eyes downcast, not making eye contact with Jesus. Cleopas asked Jesus: “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus played along, “What things?” Cleopas continued, “About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one that was going to redeem Israel. … In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
Jesus, whom they still did not recognize, said, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
What was the problem here? Why did these disciples not get it? In spite of what the prophets clearly foretold, in spite of what Jesus clearly foretold, in spite of what actual eye witnesses really saw, they still didn’t get it! These disciples were blinded to the truth by a number of factors.
In short, false expectations and immediate circumstances caused them to not see what should have been obvious and evident! They were in despair, lost hope and were greatly discouraged.
It’s easy for us to look back and with 20/20 hindsight say, “Yeah, really, how could they have been so foolish and slow to believe?!” But not so fast. In our lives as well, we do the same thing. Time and again, we are foolish and slow to believe what God has said and promised. And the same things that blinded that pair of disciples does the same to us. When faced with difficult circumstances, when challenged in our faith, when suffering, when it seems like we’ve hit a string of bad luck, when happiness continually eludes us, we are blinded just as those first disciples were!
Just as with those first disciples, false expectations and immediate circumstances blind us to the bigger truth and eternal hope that God wants us to have.
But here’s the good news. At this point, Jesus didn’t abandon them and go find other disciples who weren’t so foolish. Jesus instead reached out to them in love and led them to understanding. And how did he do it? Using the entire Old Testament, Jesus walked them through once again what kind of Messiah God had promised. This Messiah would come and do battle with Satan. He would be holy and perfect, fully obedient to the Father. He would resist all temptation. He would preach the good news. Heal the sick. Drive out demons. He would suffer for the sins of all people. He would die, being hung on a tree. And he would rise triumphant from the grave. People of all nations would come to him for forgiveness, life and salvation. God would pour out his Holy Spirit on his people that they may believe and boldly proclaim the Good News! Every one of these truths is in the Old Testament. Jesus patiently explained it for those two disciples. But he wants you today to know those same truths as well. Jesus is the Messiah and Savior that you so desperately need to save you from your sin and the hell you deserve, even if you are sometimes blind to who he is, why he came, what he accomplished, who you are now in him, and what is in store for you in the future.
When the disciples got to Emmaus, they still didn’t know it was Jesus. It appeared he intended to travel on, but they urged him to come into their home and eat. In their home, he took bread, he gave thanks, and when he broke it, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. And he disappeared from their sight.
Suddenly, everything in their world changed. Not their circumstances, not their lot in life, not their wealth, health or social standing. But something much bigger changed instantly. Christ was risen! And that meant he was the promised Messiah. Sins were forgiven. Heaven was their home. God was their Father. In short, they had a sure, living and eternal hope in the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They acknowledged that Jesus’ unfolding of Scripture for them made their hearts burn within them. They were so overjoyed at the truth of Jesus that they ran 7 miles back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.
Have you ever looked at your circumstances and felt the despair of those Emmaus disciples? Do you have a marriage that is in trouble and it seems there is no hope? Do you have an addiction to drugs or alcohol that you cannot seem to overcome? Do you have a loved one facing a serious illness? Are there problems at work or maybe you have even lost your job? Do you have bills that you can’t seem to pay and the creditors keep calling? Have you had to bury someone special to you and you are consumed with grief? Do you have a wayward son or daughter that you worry about day and night?
Maybe you are listening to what your logic says about your circumstances and you’re discouraged. You may be listening to your emotions and have no hope. You may be looking at the world as everyone around you does and everything seems meaningless. You may be looking at the world through the filter of your personal wants and desires and are depressed that your wants and desires are not fulfilled.
Take off the blinders, because what you think you see and hear is not the way it really is. Open your eyes and see the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Listen to his Word of truth. See how you are forgiven and accepted by the Almighty God. See how he has called you his children. See how heaven is your eternal home. He is alive. He is there to help you. He showed his love for you at the cross. He is not dead but alive. Open your eyes to the sure and living hope you always have in Jesus, your risen Savior. Amen.