Summary: 3rd Sunday of Easter, Series A -- When Jesus opens the Scriptures and opens our eyes, he goes from being a stranger to becoming a friend.
A Walk with A Stranger – Luke 24:13-32
Intro: What do you talk about with strangers? Often it works well to discuss important events that everyone knows about: the war in the Middle East, the weather, the economy, etc. The afternoon of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s not too difficult for us to picture two disciples who were discussing the topic of the day – what had happened to Jesus – with a complete stranger. They were surprised that he knew nothing about it, and Cleopas assumed he was from out of town.
1) The two disciples had all the pieces, but could not put the puzzle together.
(Today many people seem “get their religion” or their “spirituality” in bits and pieces – a little here from the TV, some there from the radio, and a miscellaneous smattering from the internet or a popular book they’ve read. In other cases, e.g., the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the pieces have been intentionally scrambled. The problem is that in so much of popular spirituality, Jesus seems to be at best misunderstood – or at worst, missing altogether. In the words of Mary Magdalene, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him!” – John 20:13)
Here were the pieces they had:
- Jesus was a prophet, powerful in word and deed.
- Jesus was handed over, sentenced to death, and crucified.
- It was the third day since all this had happened.
- The women had amazed them, saying Jesus’ tomb was empty – angels said he was alive.
- Some friends went to the tomb, also found it empty, but they did not see Jesus.
- But they had hoped he was the Redeemer of Israel.
When they put the pieces together, they made a dismal and gloomy picture. Their hopes were ruined. They thought their dreams had died – but they were missing a bigger picture! Have you ever tried to tell somebody something and they just don’t get it? The stranger (really Jesus) said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” The truth of the matter is, on our own, we are all spiritually blind and dead. Our sin separates us from God, and we have become strangers to him. None of us, by our own ability, can really believe what the prophets have spoken!
(Illustration: In order to connect two pieces of electronic equipment – TV’s, VCR’s, DVD’s, etc. – you need the right hardware – the proper adapter – for one to properly receive input from the other! Without the Holy Spirit, we are unable to receive input from God.) “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
2) Jesus opened the Scriptures – He showed them the “box” that those puzzle pieces were in!
- He began with Moses and all the Prophets.
- He explained what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
- Afterwards they would say, “Were not our hearts burning within us?”
(Example: another pastor, a veteran of the cross, told me and some other pastors an illustration about Jesus’ hands, which he showed to Thomas – how like our own hands, they often tell a story about our lives. Jesus’ hands, through the wounds and scars, told a story of the greatest love the world has ever seen. As I listened to him, the others and I felt a wonderful kind of joy at having the Scriptures opened for us!)
3) Jesus opened their eyes. When Jesus put the pieces together they finally saw the “Big Picture”
- Although he pretended to be going on, he was willing to stay and share the evening meal.
- He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them.
- Then they recognized him, and he disappeared.
In the early church, (Acts 2:42ff) it is no coincidence that believers followed very much the same basic pattern in their devotion: The apostles’ teaching (just as Jesus had opened God’s Word) – the fellowship (just as Jesus had stayed with them) – the breaking of bread (just as Jesus had shared a meal with them) – and prayer (Just as Jesus had given thanks)! In these ways Jesus continued to be recognized among them. In fact, in some ways they were carrying on with their lives just as if he had never left their midst – not a bad way to live!
Illustration: We all need our eyes opened to Jesus on a regular basis, just as those early Christians. In one church, a sign that only the pastor could see was taped up in the pulpit. It quoted the words of John 12:21, (spoken by the Greeks who were in Jerusalem for the Passover to Philip) – “Sir, we would like to see Jesus!” The miracle of God is that Jesus is still revealed to the eyes of faith wherever and whenever the Gospel is proclaimed. Jesus is no longer a stranger. He is a friend. He is our friend.