OPEN: A preacher told of going through his father’s effects after his dad died, and among the things he found was father’s 7th grade report card. Back in the Fall of 1941 this 7th grade report card showed the grading scale on the back of it. There was A, B, C, D, F, and something he’d never seen before: the letter G! Who would have thought there was a grade you could get that was below F. But back then there was. “F” of course meant FAILURE. But apparently there was something worse than an F … a G! On the back of the report card, beside the letter G was this one-word explanation: “HOPELESS!” (Earnest Easley)
In our text today, we find two men walking along the road, and their lives have become rated “G.” They have become hopeless. Their lives have fallen apart.
They said “Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people… our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Luke 24:19-21
They had HOPED Jesus would be the answer to their dreams. They had HOPED He would change their lives. They had HOPED He would make a difference in their world… but He was dead now.
There was no longer any hope. They were filled with despair, defeat and discouragement.
Now, they HAD heard stories that Jesus WASN’T dead. “some (of the) women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that (Jesus) was alive.” Luke 24:22-23
But you can tell, by their conversation, these guys don’t believe it. Dead people tended to stay dead. For them, the stories of Jesus rising from the dead was just wishful thinking. They refused to believe in a “false hope.”
ILLUS: There was a recent movie where one of the heroes mockingly said “Don’t give me false hope. And one of the other characters replied: “It’s not false hope if it’s possible.”
Hope in God is what makes us who we are. Hope in God is the essence of our being. David wrote: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who HOPE in his steadfast love” (Psalm 33:18). And again: “For you, O Lord, are my HOPE, my trust...” (Psalm 71:5).
As children of a living God, we need hope in our lives. In fact, we can’t SURVIVE without hope.
ILLUS: An Air Force Instructor once wrote something called the Rule Of Threes: “You can survive 3 weeks without food; 3 days without water; 3 hours without shelter; 3 minutes without air, but not three seconds without hope.”
When I first read that I thought – “Yeah sure – you can’t survive without hope? Of course you can. I know plenty of people who survive without hope. But then I got to thinking… this is a military expert explaining the truth that SOLDIERS cannot survive without hope.
Now, I’m something of a history buff, and lately I’ve been watching a series of videos on YouTube that described some of the greatest military battles of history. As I was thinking about this sermon, I suddenly remembered (from those videos) that the armies that lost their hope… lost the battles. They either believed that the other army was so powerful that they had no hope of stopping them, or they discovered that their leader had been killed or had run away. Either way, because they’d lost hope, they often would turn and run; and when that happened the opposing army would chase them down and slaughter them on the field of battle.
You know… I’ve seen churches that have lost their hope. I’ve seen preachers who have lost their hope. I’ve seen Elders, Deacons, Sunday School teachers, and just plain old Christians who have lost their hope. And when they lose their hope they were devastated. They lost their faith, their trust and their confidence, and suddenly… there was nothing left but a shell of the Christian they once were. We need to understand as Christians, we cannot survive without hope.
(PAUSE) Now what I found interesting about the story in Luke 24, is that these men (walking to Emmaus) didn’t realize who they were talking to. They didn’t realize it was Jesus. But I found odd was that Jesus didn’t just say: “Hey guys, it’s me! I’m alive. It’s not a hoax! Here, put your fingers in the nail prints, put your hand in my side”
Wait a minute. Didn’t Jesus say those exact words to someone else? Who did say that too? That’s right – Thomas. So… Thomas gets a 5 minute “show and tell” and these guys on the road to Emmaus get a 3 hour dissertation. What’s going on here?
Well, this is my guess! (I could be wrong… but I’m probably not). I believe Jesus took the time to deal with THEIR hopelessness so that we’d know how to deal with OURS. All have us have faced times in life when we’ve become discouraged, downhearted and filled with hopelessness. Times when we’ve lost our jobs, or when our marriages fell apart, or when our health was deteriorating, or when People were mistreating us, or times when things just weren’t going right. Most, if not all of us, have faced times when we felt boxed in and trapped.
I believe what Jesus did for these 2 men on the road to Emmaus was recorded for our encouragement and hope. I believe the things Jesus did for these men were tools God gives to US for times when we get discouraged.
Notice the first thing Jesus does. “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:25-27
What did He do there? He opened the Bible for them. Too many times, Christians forget that the Bible was the tool God gave us to give us encouragement. In fact, that’s what we’re told in Romans - “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have HOPE.” Romans 15:4
The scriptures were written so that we might have…. WHAT? (HOPE) The Bible is God’s tool to change our lives and give us hope. And it is a powerful tool. Hebrews 4:12 tells us “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to the dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
There is power in the pages of your Bible. If you’re not reading it, you’re robbing yourself of the potential God wants to give you. It is in that book that we find power to become overcomers in a difficult and challenging world.
ILLUS: Back in 1942, a B17 crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, and 6 other men were adrift in 3 small rafts with no water and only four oranges. They tied their boats together, and drifted day after day. They were without food or water, tortured by the relentless sun by day and chilling cold by night, and constantly being stalked by sharks. It seemed impossible they could survive,
One of the men, Private Johnny Bartek, was a dedicated Christian who always carried a little New Testament with him so that he could have his daily devotions. And there, in the middle of the Pacific, Bartek had his daily devotions. It wasn’t very private, and eventually the other 6 men wanted to know what he was doing. When he explained to them about his daily Bible reading and prayer they asked they could be included. And so the men started having their daily devotions beginning at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew.
When they got to Matthew 6:31-34… life changed for them. They read these words: “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” And so, that’s what they began to pray for. As the men read those verses day after day, a remarkable series of miracles started happening.
Just when they were near starvation, a bird landed on Rickenbacker’s head. They grabbed it, carved it up for food, and use its innards for fishing bait. Just when they were near death by thirst, a cloud would drift over and fill their raft with water. Day after day as they read these verses, prayed, and claimed these promises, God would somehow send food and water. Sometimes even a fish would jump into their raft. That went on for 21 days as they drifted under the blazing sun in middle of Pacific.
Lieutenant James Whittaker wrote "I don’t think there was a man of us who didn’t thank God for that little khaki covered book. It led us to prayer and prayer led us to safety." (“We Thought We Heard The Angels Sing,” by Lieutenant James Whittaker)
They found their hope in the pages of the Bible.
And the Bible has that kind of power. Its words can turn our hearts toward God, and when our hearts turn toward God we learn trust in Him… and then we have HOPE.
Now I want you to notice, when Jesus walked with the men to Emmaus, He didn’t just do a Bible study with them. He didn’t say “Let’s turn to the book of Leviticus and see if there is some kernel of truth we can apply to our lives today.” Oh no. As He walked with them, He taught them about what the Bible said about His resurrection. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
It was a very targeted study of the Bible. A study that focused ENTIRELY on Jesus and what He had come to do. Now there’s all kinds of important things to learn out of the Bible but THE most important thing we can learn about --- is Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no hope. And without His death, burial and resurrection, this life is all you have. You live, you die, and you rot in the ground.
ILLUS: There’s a new contemporary Christian song out that talks about Jesus as being our “living Hope.” (by Phil Wickham). And that’s precisely what we need to remember. Our hope is in a living Savior. A Savior who has conquered death, and through Whom We will conquer death. There’s an old Gospel hymn that declares: “I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say.” Jesus is our living HOPE!
That’s why I Corinthians 15:13-14 & 20 says: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Everything we are hinges on the living Hope of Jesus having lived, died, been buried and having risen from the dead. That’s why Jesus spent so much time focusing on what the Old Testament prophesied about WHO He was and WHAT He came to do.
That’s why Hebrews 2:14-15 HCSB version tells us (Jesus shared in our flesh and blood) so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death- that is, the Devil- and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.”
That’s why Baptism focuses on the fact that – to become Christians – God calls us to die with Christ, be buried in a watery grave and rise from the dead as Christ did. Just to become a Christian, we reenact the living Hope of a risen Savior.
And that’s why one of the great hymns of the faith says this (Sing it with me)
“I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer; and just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
(Chorus) He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”
And lastly, that’s also why we take of communion every Sunday. The Lord’s Table reminds us that Jesus came specifically to die for our sins. That’s what makes the last part of the story in Luke 24 so intriguing.
“… they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Luke 24:28-31
Did you catch that? It was in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened and they saw who Jesus really was.
Now, most of you here are believers. You’ve already embraced the living Hope of Jesus by becoming Christians. Our problem isn’t so much that we don’t know what we have… it’s that we don’t share what we’ve been given. You have a powerful tool called the Bible. You need to know it and then share it. I know you’re all smart people (and I’m a smart guy) but none of us are smarter than God, and our words are not nearly as powerful as His. It’s time to start using God’s word to share God’s hope to a hopeless world.
And you’ve got a living Hope in Jesus. He offers something that many in this world do not have. When peoples’ lives fall apart around you, you need to tell them about a risen Savior who’s in the world today. A Savior that loves them so much that He wants to give them hope in a hopeless world.