Summary: The dead don't come back. That's what the world believes, and that was what the men on the road to Emmaus thought. But is that true?
OPEN: Years ago the producers of Sesame Street faced a dilemma. Will Lee, the actor who played Mr. Hooper, passed away, and the producers were faced with how to communicate the concept of death to the 10 million children (most of whom are under 6 years of age) who watched the show.
Child psychologists suggested they NOT say, “Mr. Hooper got sick and died,” because children get sick and they are not going to die.
And the psychologists suggested they NOT say, “Mr. Hooper got old and died,” because little children think of their parents as being old.
And the staff of Sesame Street decided to avoid religious issues (it was on PBS, remember) and NOT say, “Mr. Hooper died and went to Heaven.”
So the show’s producers decided to say just a few basics: He’s gone, he won’t be back, and he’ll be missed. And they decided to use Big Bird to gently set the matter before the children. The show was aired on Thanksgiving Day so parents could watch it with their children.
Big Bird came out and said he had a picture for Mr. Hooper and he couldn’t wait to see him.
One of the cast said, “Big Bird, remember, we told you that Mr. Hooper died.”
And Big Bird said, “Oh yeah, I forgot.” Then he said, “Well, I’ll give it to him when he comes back.”
And one of the staff members put an arm around Big Bird and said, “Big Bird, Mr. Hooper isn’t coming back.”
“Why not,” Big Bird asked innocently.
“Big Bird, when people die, they don’t come back.”
(Brian Jones – Standard Publishing Illustrations)
When people die... they don’t come back.
Normally, that’s how it works, and it bothers a lot of folks.
Sigmund Freud famously said: “And finally there is the painful riddle of death, for which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably will ever be!”
Others have echoed that “truth”.
Aristotle called death the thing to be feared most because "it appears to be the end of everything."
Jean-Paul Sartre asserted that death "removes all meaning from life."
And French philosopher Francois Rabelais (as he was dying) said: "I am going to the great Perhaps.”
That brings us to our text for this morning.
People have always struggled with the concept of death.
I’m told someone did a survey and found that 1 out of every 1 persons… dies.
And they generally STAY that way.
That’s kinda how it works.
Now here we have 2 men walking from Jerusalem to their home town of Emmaus.
They’ve seen the tragedy that took place in Jerusalem as it unfolded before their eyes. Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, spat on, insulted, and ultimately they saw Him die a cruel death on a cross.
But they’d also heard the women tell of finding the tomb empty and hearing angels say He’d risen from the dead.
You’d think they’d have been encouraged.
You’d think they’d believe Jesus had risen from the dead
But that’s not what’s happened.
They can’t seem to wrap their minds around this idea.
And, when you think about it, their reluctance kind of makes sense.
After all, the dead don’t come back.
Peter heard the same story they did and we’re told he “got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, WONDERING to himself what had happened.”
And when Mary Magdalene stood by the empty tomb (not knowing she was talking to angels) it says that the angels asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"
And she replies "They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him." John 20:13
It was a logical conclusion.
The dead don’t come back.
Jesus had to have been moved by SOMEBODY!
And right now… that’s the only thing these men on the road to Emmaus can imagine.
Somebody has taken the body.
And right now it’s not just the tomb that empty… so are their hearts.
As they’re walking home Luke tells us “their faces were downcast.”
(Speaking as if I were quoting them):
“Tell us all you want to about angels… we’re not buying it!”
And then they encounter this stranger on the road.
He asks them what they’ve been talking about… and they tell Him the whole story. They tell Him all about Jesus – a powerful prophet who did many miracles. How He’d been arrested and crucified. About the women saying that the tomb was empty, and all about the story about the angels.
But then they say one of the saddest things:
“... we had hoped (repeat that) that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…” Luke 24:21
"We had hoped ..."