AM sermon preached at Central Christian Church March 23, 2008 EASTER
Jesus at the “Cross”roads sermon series The Road To Emmaus
[START SERMON SLIDES AS I’M MAKING MY WAY TO THE STAGE…THEY’LL ADVANCE AUTOMATICALLY TO THE 4TH SLIDE---A BLANK ONE]
So did you hear the story about the guy who was driving fast because he was running late for the Easter breakfast at his parent’s house? Just as he rounded this sharp curve he saw the Easter bunny carrying a basketful of goodies across the road in front of him. He tried but he failed to stop before hitting him. Fur flew, eggs exploded and candy went everywhere. Being a sensitive man and animal lover he stopped to help but it was too late the bunny was dead. “Oh no!” he shouted and he began to cry. About that time a second car came upon the accident and a woman jumped out and said is there anything I can do? The man with great emotion said, “I’m so sorry. I’ve killed the Easter bunny! Kids will have to go without their easter eggs and candy because of me!” The woman said, “wait, right there!” She ran back to her car, grabbed a spray can, rushed back to he bunny’s limp body and began covering it with spray. Then she backed away. In a few moments, the bunny jumped to its feet and waved. It quickly gather up the spilled eggs and candy and waved again. It hopped about 50 yards down the road, turned and waved again. Hopped another 50 yards, turned smiled and waved again. The man was estatic. He clapped his hands and asked excitedly, “lady what’s in that can?” She turned it so he could read the label. Hair spray---brings new life to dead hair and adds a permanent wave. Sorry but I read that this week and couldn’t resist sharing it with you.
This morning I do however want to talk to you about something that happened on a road, the road to Emmaus. Unlike the hair spray story though---this story is true. It’s found in the Bible, in what’s known as the gospel of Luke. We’re going to be looking in chapter 24 and we’ll begin our reading at verse 13…
[SCRIPTURE SLIDES---PLEASE JUST FOLLOW ALONG]
13Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him. 17He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18One 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?" 19"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. 20The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but 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. 22In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
One of the first things we notice as we read these verses is that these two on the road have several symptoms that come with feelings of depression and defeat. [SLIDE #15] For example---they show a degree of isolation. When people are depressed, grieving or simply feeling down---they often avoid social interaction or they keep to themselves. They don’t go to parties or family gatherings. They want to be alone or only with the people they are closest too. They don’t want others to see them looking so glum. Notice how our passage starts--- these two are walking towards Emmaus and away from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where the other disciples were. But apparently they no longer feel like keeping company with them. [SLIDE #16]
It appears that the two disciples walking the road to Emmaus were pretty self-absorbed. Jesus comes along and begins walking with them, but there’s no indication given that they greeted him or even acknowledged His presence with them until they answer Jesus’ question----what are you two talking about? I’m not a professional counselor but I have visited with and listened to a lot of depressed people through the years. And two of the most frequently used pronouns in their conversations are “I” and “me.” “I don’t think anyone or anything can help me right now.” “I’m so tired.” “Why did this happen to me?” “Nobody cares about me.” The two walking towards Emmaus were so caught up in their own conversation and their own thoughts about the things that had happened in Jerusalem that they didn’t seem to care that a third person had entered the picture.
[SLIDE #17] Another symptom often seen in those feeling as if life’s robbed them of the wind for their sails is the unwillingness or inability to accept reality. “I just can’t believe it.” “I won’t believe it.” “I absolutely refuse to accept that that’s the way it is.” Are the kinds of things they say. Here in Luke 24 Jesus joins these two walking along the road to Emmaus---and they fail to recognize Him. Have you ever had someone sneak up behind you, put their hands over you eyes and say “Guess who?” Well when I dug into the text I found that the Greek word translated here kept from recognizing Him---is based upon the idea that a person’s eyes are being held covered so that they can’t see. Some suggest that God was making it impossible at least at this point in the conversation for them to recognize Jesus. Others say they were so down that they had erected mental blocks. They assumed that death was irreversible and so when another man joined their company they had already pre-determined that it couldn’t be Jesus.
[SLIDE #18] Poor body posture and lack of concern for one’s appearance are symptoms of a defeated or depressed person. Depressed people typically walk slowly. Their shoulders slump, their feet shuffle. They breathe laboriously throwing in lots of heavy sighs. They don’t give much thought to how they look---they’ll go without a shower for days, they’ll put on really wrinkled shirts or mismatched outfits without giving it a second thought. These two talking to Jesus stood there with their faces downcast. Their body language screamed that their hopes had been crushed. [SLIDE #19] Sarcasm is also a symptom of depression. Say something like “I heard tomorrow’s supposed to be a beautiful day” to a depressed person and they’ll shoot back something like “Oh, well I heard it might rain” or “That’s just great I was going to go to the store but if the weather’s nice everybody will be out and the store will probably be packed.” Cleopas was pretty sharp-tongued in his reply to Jesus. It was almost as if he was saying to Jesus “what are you stupid or something? Everybody who’s anybody knows what’s happened in Jerusalem.” Obviously, Cleopas had no idea who he was talking to. [SLIDE #20] And one last symptom I want to point out is the general negativism of the two. When people are feeling really low they develop a widespread hopelessness in their outlook on life. Someone offers a kind suggestion---and they inwardly react to it “like that’s going to help.” Someone else shares an encouraging thought---and they refuse to take it to heart. The two people walking to Emmaus made it clear that they had heard about the empty tomb and they knew the stories the women were telling about seeing angels---but instead of sticking around town to learn more details or to see if it were true---they were trudging their way towards Emmaus. By this point, Jesus had heard enough.
[SCRIPTURE SLIDES---PLEASE JUST FOLLOW ALONG]
Picking up our reading of Luke 24 at verse 25 we read: 25He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29But 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. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
All the doubt and fear---all the questions and feelings of hopelessness were now gone. Four things had happened which lead to the renewal of their hope and the restoration of their faith. [SLIDE 29] Jesus rebuked them. When it comes to being yelled at or yelling at others for their own good---I imagine every one of us can say “yep—been there done that.” Maybe as a child we were being drawn by curiosity close to an open flame and one of our parents seeing us said firmly “don’t get any closer to that fire.” But we were so enamored by the flames that we either failed to hear them or shut them out---so we continued to move dangerously closer to the fire at which time we were suddenly jolted out of our trance by that same parent who grabbed us and pulled back while shouting “I told you no! That fire will burn you! Do you understand me? You’ll get hurt if you get any closer! Stay away from that fire!” Jesus’ rebuke was I think something of a necessary verbal slap across the face to snap these two out of their personal pity parties. None of us likes to be rebuked---but sometimes a sharp rebuke seems to be the only thing that gets our attention and awakens us to the dangerous or hurtful path we’re on.
[SLIDE 30] Jesus said to these two---“You’re acting foolishly. You’re not listening to all that the prophets have spoken.” Notice especially Jesus comment about their not listening to ALL that the prophets have spoken. What these two were guilty of was believing only what they wanted to believe about the Messiah. The prophets had taught that God was going to send a Messiah---and they believed it. In fact they had hoped Jesus was the one. But you see, after Jesus had been killed they gave up on that idea—because it didn’t mesh with their thinking and it didn’t jive with their beliefs about what would happen to the Messiah and what the Messiah would do. Although the prophets had made it clear that the Messiah would suffer and be killed---they had chosen not to believe those things about the Messiah. Jesus let them know that building one’s faith in that kind of selective manner is wrong. And then He gave them the total picture painted by the scriptures.
What they did is not so different from what many people do today. Surveys reveal that an overwhelming majority of Americans around 90% believe that God exists, that there is life after death and that there is a heaven. But very few Americans only about 1/3 believe that hell will be an actual place where people will suffer for eternity. And get this, according to study done by Barna research---only ½ of one percent of Americans believe they will end up in hell. Wow---the Bible makes it clear that the road to heaven is the narrow road taken by few. But you see many people are believing only what they want to believe. When we begin to pick and choose what scriptures we will believe and which ones we won’t we put ourselves in a very dangerous situation---one that could lead us to an eternity without God. Rather than continuing to walk through our lives believing only what we want to believe---we need to open our hearts to the gentle rebuke of the Holy Spirit and get back to accepting all that the Bible teaches.
[SLIDE 31] As these two travelers listened to Jesus they found that what He was saying rung true. And they were beginning to put things together in their minds. The lights were starting to come on and the things that had happened to Jesus were beginning to make sense. When they asked Jesus to say with them---they still hadn’t put the final pieces of the puzzle together. Interesting isn’t it how Luke mentions that Jesus gave these two the impression He was going to keep on going past Emmaus. Fact is I don’t like the way the New International Version reads here. It says Jesus acted as if he were going farther. To me that almost sounds deceptive---and Jesus would not act deceptively. I like the take Bob Russell has on this part of the journey. He writes “Jesus never imposes Himself on people. He never forces his way in. He stands at the door and knocks, but He doesn’t break it down. If we don’t unlatch the door, He will not come in.” Think if it this way---if Jesus had not been asked to stay---He would have kept on going. But Jesus was invited to stay with them and He accepted their invitation. Jesus responds that same way today. He wants in, but doesn’t barge in. However, when sincerely invited, He accepts the invitation. Revelation 3:20 reads, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” [SLIDE 32]
After Jesus accepted their invitation, He joined them for supper. At one point in the meal Jesus took some bread, said a prayer of thanks, broke the bread and then passed some pieces to his hosts. In that moment something clicked inside and they realized that this wasn’t just any man they were sharing dinner with. What exactly caused the lights to go on, we don’t know…Some think God took away their mental barricades in that moment. Others say when Jesus handed them the pieces of bread they got their first good look at his hands and they saw the crucifixion scars. Still others say that the way Jesus took the bread, the things He said when He prayed and the manner in which He broke the bread and handed it to them ----that it all worked together in reminding them they’d seen it done that way before---by Jesus---and to top it off the hands did have scars from a crucifixion. Whatever the case, the end result was reality soaked in. This was Jesus, the He was dead and now He’s alive again Jesus. They now knew the stories they’d heard about Jesus being raised from the dead were true. Because here He was with them. The moment they realized it, Jesus miraculously vanished from their sight.
Now let’s go back to Luke 24 for one final look—picking up at verse 33 we read… [SCRIPTURE SLIDES 33-34] 33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
[SLIDE 35] The heartburn of despair had been replaced by a new burning faith. These two were re-energized. They might have been dragging on the way to Emmaus but they were ready to run back to Jerusalem. Before their faces were downcast. Now the body language was all positive. [SLIDE 36] Even though it was late, very possibly dark by now---they immediately raced off to Jerusalem. Faith works like that you know---when you really believe something---when you really take it to heart---you make some positive form of immediate response. Depending on the situation---you will immediately start something or stop something or begin preparing for something.. But when faith sets in---you cannot remain neutral. You are moved to action.
[SLIDE 37] These two high tail it back to Jerusalem because they wanted to get reconnected with the other Christ-followers. In my heart I always cringe when I hear someone say “I don’t need to go to church. I can worship God just as easily in the woods or on the lake or on the golf course as I can in a church building.” Now while I totally agree that a person can worship God in the woods, on the lake and on the golf course---I know you because I’ve done it. I’ve taken walks in the woods and worshipped God while soaking in nature. I’ve been out on a lake fishing and thanking God for the sunshine and the beauty of the day. And believe me, I’ve said more than my share of prayers on the golf course---. Seriously you can worship God out there---but let me add that no matter who you are---God says you need to take part in the worship of God that takes place in here too. 1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear we do need the church. And Hebrews 10:25 tells us very clearly it is a sin to make it our habit to skip the church’s times of worshipping together. In fact Hebrews 10:25 tells us as we grow older as Christians instead of going to church less and less---we’ll want to make it our habit to attend more and more---because with every day that passes we’re one day closer to standing before God. People who don’t just believe what they want to believe but believe all that the Bible teaches make a point of staying connected to other Christ-followers. Besides --people whose hearts are on fire for God are glad to get together with other believers to worship God. To them it’s not a duty, it’s a privilege. For the person who’s heart is on fire for God---skipping worship would be like being a die hard Cardinals fan not watching the Redbirds play in game seven of the World Series---unthinkable! You don’t plan around it, you plan for it. You don’t sleep through it, you get up for it.
[SLIDE 38] These two were on fire---their hearts were burning within them---so they rushed back to Jerusalem---they reconnected with the other disciples and soon were telling the others what they had seen and experienced. They bore witness to the most important even in the history of the world. Christ died and Christ rose from the dead. That meant the prophecies were true. It meant the scriptures could be trusted---that God’s promises are certain---that life has purpose and meaning---that death does not have to be feared. And it still means those things today.
[SLIDE 39] As we approach our hymn of decision and invitation this morning I want to share one last illustration with you. Preacher Len Sweet tacked this illustration onto the end of one of his messages----He writes—during an Easter service, as the pastor and choir processed slowly down the aisle carrying candles, a small preschool boy could not restrain himself, and he burst out singing, “happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” As funny as they may sound to us---as awkward as that may have been when he did it---that boy wasn’t really all that far off. The Bible speaks of Jesus resurrection in terms of his being the first born from the dead. So in a sense that first Easter was something of a birthday---it was the beginning of a whole new existence for Jesus---He began on that first Easter to live a new life as the resurrected Lord. If you’ve not yet made the decision to become a Christian today, this Easter Sunday morning can become a spiritual birthday for you If you believe that Jesus died to pay the price of your sins, if you are willing to confess your desire to have Him as your Lord and Savior and will submit yourself to being baptized in His name. Today can become your birthday, the first day of your eternal life. Romans 6:3-4 read this way in the New Living Translation: “when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death… 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” If you’d like to become a Christian and begin a new life with Jesus today or if you’re an immersed believer and you’d like to become a member of Central please come and meet with me down front as our praise team leads us in the chorus “Sanctuary.”
NOTE TO THOSE WHO READ AND OR CHOOSE TO MAKE USE OF ANY OR ALL OF THIS SERMON: I am sharing this sermon with the hopes it will be an encouragement to others. I apologize for any blatant typing errors! If you find any I’d appreciate hearing from you so I can correct them. I try to give credit where credit is due, noting writers and or sources to the best of my ability. I have for years been drawing from a wealth of sources including this website. I recognize that my mind and writing processes are fallible. I may occasionally fail to properly identify a source. Please do not take offense if you see anything of this nature. I never intend to plagiarize. Having said that I want you to feel free to draw from my message. When appropriate I hope you will give credit as I do. But most of all I hope Christ will be lifted up and God will receive the glory in all things.