The Road to Emmaus

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Can I get a witness?  The Three W’s[1]

3rd Sunday of Easter, April 6, 2008

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “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 who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 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.” He said to them, “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?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.  Luke 24:13-35

We’re continuing this week in our sermon series “Can I get a witness” by looking at the 3rd and 4th witnesses of the post-resurrected Jesus.  Last week we started this series by looking at the appearance of Jesus to His disciples when they met behind closed doors.  Today we’re looking at the appearance that occurred just before that meeting, and that’s our Gospel reading today of an appearance to two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus.  So, so far on this first Easter Sunday Jesus has appeared to two people Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter (as mentioned in verse 34).  Now He appears to two more people.

First, who were they?  Who were the two disciples on the road to Emmaus?  Luke tells us that the name of one of them was Cleopas, which, if this is the same Clopas mentioned in John when John tells us standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene”[2] then it’s possible Cleopas’ companion was His wife, Mary, who had come with Him into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and see Jesus.  The spelling is slightly different, but not different enough to remove it from the realm of possibility.  It’s just a thought, but regardless, the point is Jesus appeared to two of His friends who didn’t know He was alive…and in their pain and anguish, they didn’t recognize Him.  It wasn’t until they had their eyes opened that they realized that it was Jesus who had been with them all along.  They weren’t the only ones who, in their pain, had a problem recognizing Jesus after His resurrection:

·        Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener at first until He said her name

·        The 11 Disciples thought He was a ghost until He invited them to touch Him

·        Thomas wouldn’t even acknowledge the possibility that Jesus was alive and said he won’t believe until he saw and touched the wounds.

 

And these aren’t the only people who have a hard time seeing Jesus in pain.  You and I do too.  When we are in pain, it is hard to recognize Jesus’ presence – we are more likely to cry out like Jesus Himself did, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” than to say, “Thank You, Jesus, for being with me in everything I’m experiencing in my life right now.” 

Let’s face it: life is sometimes hard and painful. But that is when we do the most learning and growing.  That is when we have the greatest opportunity to encounter the risen Jesus – to be witnesses to His power and presence in our lives . . . if we will just allow our eyes to be opened.  So let’s take a look at the three W’s we’ll be talking about this morning: the Walk, the Word and the Witness.

First, the Walk.  These two on the road to Emmaus were taking a walk we all do from time to time.  It was a walk of discouragement; a walk of sadness, of disillusionment, of lost hope, broken dreams and stolen futures.   Verse 17 summarizes it all: “they stood still, their faces downcast.”

Why was this the walk they had that morning?  Why do we sometimes walk this same walk?  There are three main reasons, I believe.

First, their viewpoint lacked a spiritual dimension.  Since it lacked this, all they had left then, was a human understanding of the events.  Look at how Cleopas characterized the death of Jesus without a divine viewpoint:

·        “He was a prophet,” not “He is the Messiah.”  Cleopas had given up on considering Jesus as the Messiah, and now just considered Him from a human perspective

·        “ The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him”  All our hopes are gone because He’s dead

·        “ But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”  He failed to meet our expectations.

Do we ever do that?  It’s hard to see things from a spiritual dimension, especially when we’re going through hard times.  Still, though, I think we do the same thing Cleopas did: when the going got tough, Cleopas removed God from the equation.  When the going gets tough for us, we often do the same thing, too.  It goes from “God has really blessed me” to “God has abandoned me!  Why is God allowing these things in my life?  I have to figure out what to do now.”

The second reason they were walking this walk, is because they had their own agenda of how things were supposed to go, and that determined their expectations of Jesus.  Many of the followers of Jesus had the wrong thinking about what a Messiah was supposed to be and do.  They were looking for someone who would recapture the glory days of King David and bring back to Israel the same power and prosperity she once enjoyed, making her the world power of the day.  But compared to the reality that lay before them – Roman oppression and a dead Jesus – their hopes for glory seemed to have been utterly destroyed.

We do the same thing too, though, and we’ve mentioned this before with how some people approached their faith with the idea that once I’m a Christian I shouldn’t have any more problems in my life.  “I’m too blessed to be depressed!”  Really?  ‘Cause I’m not.  Let’s be honest for a moment: how many of us have ever said, “God, if You will do XYZ for me – if You will give me what I want – then I will follow You.  I will do what You want me to do, I’ll live the way You tell me I should in Your Word, I’ll be so happy and everything will be right with the world if You’ll just respond the way I want.”  And then when our own agenda, our own expectations of Jesus fail to be met, we are left wondering what’s going on, if Jesus reliable, or if there something wrong with us.

The third reason they were walking this walk is they failed to acknowledge the resurrection. If these two followers had acknowledge the resurrection they had already been told about, two things would have been true.  First, they would have been walking toward Jerusalem to see the risen Lord, not away.  Second, they would have seen the trials, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus as the fulfillment of all He promised, not as the end of their hopes.  Because they didn’t acknowledge the resurrection, because it hadn’t made an impact on their lives, they had no hope.

So all of that is the first “W” – the walk; the problem they had that morning, and the walk – the problems – we have too.  The second “W” this morning is the Word.  What did Jesus do for these two that He still does for us? 

First, He called them “foolish!” In the Greek that doesn’t mean what all of you are thinking right now!  What you all are probably thinking right now with the word foolish is how it’s used in the Bible when the Greek word ‘moronos’ is used.  That’s the word we get our word ‘moron’ from.  Jesus didn’t use the word moronos when He called these two disciples foolish – He didn’t call them morons.  He used the  word “anoatos”, and this word describes an individual who sees things from a distorted perspective. In other words, someone who has not adopted the divine viewpoint we talked about a few moments ago.  Enter, then, our second “W” – the Word.

Jesus explained the divine viewpoint on His own death by going back to the Old Testament Scriptures to show that the Messiah had to suffer such things.  He says, in effect, “Guys, I know you have read your Bibles, but why don’t you believe what it says?”  You know why these disciples were all downcast, discouraged and depressed?  Why they didn’t have the divine viewpoint?  It can all be traced back to the fact that they did not believe what was written in God’s word.  They didn’t have a living faith that latched onto the truth of God’s Word.  They didn’t understand the things of God because they didn’t believe God’s Word.

And then Jesus, the Living Word, came to them in their walk.  He came to them in their time of need, met with them, talked with them, and by the time their walk with Jesus was over, they were brimming with hope.  This is the same thing we can have, too.  What does God say to us today?  I’m going to assume all of you believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  If you don’t, frankly I’m not sure why you’re here or why you would keep coming back to hear the same thing over and over that you don’t believe.  So, as ones who believe in the resurrection, what does God’s Word say to us?

I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [3]

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”[4]

Remember from last week?  “I have carved your names into the palms of my hands.”[5]

The same God who spoke the words that created all there is, speaks His word again and again to us every day.  How many of us have lived apart from God’s word, and then wondered why we’re on the walk we find ourselves on?  How many times have we cried out to God wondering where He is, while His Word in our Bibles sits on the book shelf collecting dust?  How many of you who didn’t bring your Bibles to church today can tell me exactly where your Bible is in your home?

We need to know this Word of God.  Ignorance of the Bible comes from ignoring the Bible, and ignoring the Bible puts us right in the same place as these two disciples on the road – we are anoatos’s – ones who don’t see as we should, but ones who see with a distorted perception.

So what happened next?  In keeping with ancient Near Eastern rules of hospitality, the two disciples invited the “stranger” to stay the night.  Jesus accepted their offer, yet maintained His cover in order to complete the lesson He had begun teaching them just outside Jerusalem – the lesson where He pointed them back to the Word.  He revealed His identity only after taking great pains to explain to them “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Jesus, through the Word, gave them a divine perspective on what they once saw as dismal circumstances.  Once their eyes were opened to the reality and implications of the resurrection, Jesus became visible to their physical eyes.  The Greek phrase that gets translated “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him” literally means “their eyes were completely opened” and “they came to fully comprehend Him.”  This was more than recognition of His physical features.  They came to recognize Jesus in all His significance as the Messiah, the Son of God, and their risen Lord and all that it means for them and their lives!  And it came through understanding the Word.

So, then, the final “W” – the Witness.  After these two disciples saw Jesus and recognized Him, they ran seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell the 11 Disciples (Apostles) they had seen Jesus – they were witnesses of Him being alive and well.  Last week we said that if you’re a Christian, you’re a witness.  Just a few moments ago we admitted life can be hard, and we said it’s in those hard times when we have the greatest opportunity to encounter the risen Jesus – to be witnesses to His power and presence in our lives . . . if we will just allow our eyes to be opened. 

 

“Opening our eyes” is something the Holy Spirit must do on our behalf, but, we can make the process less difficult in four specific ways.


First, invite God in.  Cleopas and his companion listened intently to the Voice of truth and invited Him into their home.  Now, how do you invite God in?  That’s points 2-4!


Secondly, surrender your expectations.  Mean what you pray every Sunday in the Lord ’s Prayer: “You will be done.”  Not my will, God, but Yours and Yours alone.  In my job; my school; my relationships; my life – Your will be done.


Third, seek God’s divine perspective. To help the two disciples see their circumstances from God’s divine perspective, Jesus explained the Scriptures.  We have the same opportunity to share God’s vantage point by reading our only completely reliable source of truth: the Bible.  It’s out only completely reliable source of truth because God wrote it, and God doesn’t change. This doesn’t have to be complicated: simply set aside as little as ten or fifteen minutes each day, and read.  Most of you know as a church we are reading through the Bible in 2008.  These daily readings are in each month’s newsletter.  Get to know God’s word, so you know God’s truth.  In other words, don’t be ‘anoatos!’


Finally, and what may be the hardest thing for some, trust God’s timing.  God, in His perfect discernment, did not allow the two disciples to recognize Jesus until the time was right.  He didn’t allow them to suffer in grief a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, yet He didn’t end their discomfort too soon.  Spiritual maturity rarely occurs instantaneously.  Growth usually requires a journey, and journeys take time.  Trust God’s will and trust His timing.  He is faithful.

Because you see, just like the two on the road to Emmaus, we do not travel alone.  God is with us.  Will we let our eyes be opened?

 

Amen.


[1] Adapted in part from Jesus: The Greatest Life of All by Charles R. Swindoll

[2] John 19:25

[3] Jeremiah 29:11

[4] Hebrews 13:5

[5] Isaiah 49:16