Summary: This is a sermon for communion that points to where our focus should be in all circumstances.
Sermon 03 December 2000
Do You Recognize the Messiah?
The story of Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is one of my favorites because it confuses me and it encourages me. It confuses me because Cleopas and his buddy were kept from recognizing Jesus. Why? In several of the post-resurrection appearances in the Gospels Jesus’ disciples do not recognize Him. At first glance I cannot understand why people who had spent so much time with Jesus and who had given up everything to follow Him would not recognize Him. They most certainly heard Him teach, they saw Him work miracles, and they probably heard Him at least once tell them that as the Messiah He would suffer, die, and on the third day would rise again. Somehow in the midst of their turmoil they missed this key truth and did not recognize Jesus as He walked along the road with them. They were busy with their own agenda and they didn’t get it. Why?
Upon further reflection I realize that hindsight is 20/20 vision and we are blessed with this written account of the whole story—the Bible. We can skip to the end of the story and see that the good guys win in the end. These two were living through this terribly confusing time and were very upset and just wanted to get home.
When I really think about it. When I try and put myself in their situation, I have to admit I probably would have done the same thing. We have all gotten so busy and upset that we forget people or things. Have you ever been hurrying through town one day trying to get 800 things done before lunch only to find out the next day that you passed by a good friend without acknowledging their existence even though they said hello and waved to you? Or have you ever been running late for an appointment? You know, one of those mornings where everything goes wrong: the alarm clock did not go off, there was no hot water, you dropped your toothbrush in the trash can…the harder you try to make up for lost time the more you mess things up and now you are finally ready to leave and you can’t find your keys. You look “everywhere,” twice and you can’t find them. That’s when you let out a big sigh and just give up. Then you find they were in your pocket the whole time!
When life gets too hectic, too sad, too confusing, too much to handle, what to we do? Where do we go to sort things out? Where do we go for comfort and peace? The lesson we can learn from the disciples on the road to Emmaus is when life gets you down we should go to God’s Word and we should seek the fellowship and counsel of other believers.
After Jesus was crucified his disciples were feeling anxious, dazed, and confused. Three days later, still filled with anxiety, confusion, and despair Cleopas and his buddy start walking the seven miles back to their hometown, Emmaus. They were preoccupied. This man, Jesus, who they thought was the Messiah, was executed a few days ago and now his body is missing! Why did they head home? If they were so dejected, so depressed wouldn’t it have been better for them to stay with the community of faith in Jerusalem? Shouldn’t all the disciples have stayed together, praying, searching the Scriptures, seeking guidance, comforting each other? Or, maybe searching for Jesus’ body? But no, these guys just headed home depressed and dejected.
Do we do that sometimes? Do we get so busy, or sad, or depressed, or grieving, or ill, or scared, or confused that all we can think to do is to go home and curl up in a little ball and wish it would go away? Or, maybe, you are one of those who, when life gets tough you just fill it with more business so you don’t have time to be sad or scarred or mad. Well, hang on and see the truth taught in this story and how encouraging it is.
The disciples should have known there would be an empty tomb. I can forgive their initial shock at the crucifixion, but on the third day when the “Marys” came back reporting that the tomb was empty and angels had told them Jesus had risen, it should have been a time of great rejoicing. But, no... Cleopas and his buddy tucked their tails and walked home talking about everything that happened that weekend, sad, scared, and confused.
All of a sudden here comes some guy they don’t know. (I figure they weren’t walking too fast because they were so sad.) And He says, “Hey guys, why are you so glum? What are y’all talking about that has you so concerned?” So they tell him the whole story about this great teacher and prophet, Jesus, and how they thought He was the Messiah, the new King of Israel descended from David who had come to save the world. But now He’s dead and His body is missing. This is so sad.