“Easter Qualities”, Luke 24:33-48 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Today people will only commit to things they feel are relevant. They say, “OK, Easter happened. So what? How will that make a difference in my life tomorrow?”
In Luke 24 the risen Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t recognize their Lord—perhaps they were too overwhelmed by grief. They invite Him to have dinner with them. As He breaks bread with them and offers thanks, they see that it is Jesus, their Messiah. From this event we can see that Easter brings 4 relevant qualities to make our lives different: peace, joy, hope, and mission…
Peace, verse 36
Jesus knew His followers were confused and frightened. They had hit rock bottom. And so He says, “Peace be with you.” This is not simply a salutation; it’s the first application of Easter—peace. Everyone wants peace of mind. We live in such a troubled world. Even the Holy Land is polluted with violence and unrest.
People attempt to attain peace by their own efforts. Optimistic songs have been written about being able to dream the impossible dream, climb every mountain, and fly with bluebirds over the rainbow…very idealistic, and not very realistic, without a Higher Power. Before we can get peace of mind, we need to find peace with God. Unbelievers are at war with God, even if they don’t realize it. They are choosing to live apart from God, to live as though God doesn’t exist.
The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means fullness, wholeness. Peace comes by realizing that we’re forgiven, that we’ve already passed our judgment test with God. Peace means that the grave is not the end of life. By applying Easter’s peace today, we can face tomorrow with calmness, serenity, assurance and confidence. We know that whatever the Prince of peace brings into our lives will work out for our good.
On 5th Avenue in New York City there is a visual reminder of the Source of true peace. At the entrance of the RCA Building is a huge statue of Atlas struggling to keep the world on his shoulders. On the other side of the street is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Behind the altar is a small statue of Jesus effortlessly holding the whole world in one hand. Peace is hard to come by when we strive to balance the world on our own backs, but when we heed God’s invitation to give Him our burdens, the weight of our world becomes effortless for our risen Lord.
Joy, verse 41
Joy is the next Easter quality, vs 41: “they still did not believe because of joy and amazement.” Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus states, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). The disciples were surprised by joy; they felt the resurrection was nearly too good to be true; overcome with grief, they’re now overwhelmed with joy. It’s like being told you’ve won a million dollars—at first you can’t believe your good fortune. Jesus gave His disciples time to let the reality of His resurrection sink in. He asked for something to eat, and they realized that He was truly alive.
Joy is a companion to peace, a natural bi-product. We wrongly equate joy with escaping the cares of the world. Joy helps us overcome our concerns. Joy is not the absence of sorrow. God gives joy in the midst of sorrow. The fact that Jesus could have joy in the midst of sorrow shows that we can experience it too. Joy substitutes are mere temporary distractions. The world’s joy is fleeting and artificial, and when it’s gone we’re left with greater emptiness. Christian joy is not substitution but transformation. It is something we become. We’re prone to want God to change our circumstances, when He wants instead to change our character. Joy that comes from God enriches our lives and enables us to feel secure even when our circumstances are shaky. Joy is spiritual prosperity. Joy is different from happiness. Happiness turns up more or less where you’d expect it to—a good marriage, a rewarding job, a pleasant vacation. Joy, on the other hand, is as unpredictable as the One who gives is.
Malcolm Muggeridge was a Marxist before he found Christ. During the Cold War he traveled to Russia to write a story about the Communist party and the decline of religion in that atheistic regime. After conducing a series of interviews with officials in the Kremlin, he attended a Russian Orthodox Easter service. The church was packed. At the close of the service the priest announced, “Christ is risen”, and the people shouted back, “He is risen indeed!” Muggeridge looked into their faces and instantly realized that they were right and that Stalin was wrong. He said it was the reality of their joy that tipped the scales of his soul toward Christ. The reality of Christian joy is compelling!
Easter is about victory over death. We have joy in knowing that Jesus holds the keys of death and hell. He has unlocked heaven’s doors and locked the gates of hell. People fear, obsess over, and deny death—but for Christians, death is a non-issue, because we possess the joy of Easter.
Hope, verse 44
A third Easter quality is hope. When you know people are going to keep their promises, you have a secure hope that does not disappoint. Jesus explains to His followers how all the details of His life were in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s promises to us.
At the famous Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, the staff unanimously singles out hope as the most important factor in the treatment of mental illness. Hope is necessary for survival. With hope, we can get up and face another day.
Hope causes us to rejoice. According to an ancient Russian Orthodox tradition, the day before Easter was devoted to telling jokes. Priests would join the people in telling their best jokes to one another. The reason was to reflect the joke God pulled on the devil in the Resurrection. Satan thought he won on Friday, but God had the last laugh on Easter Sunday. Our hope causes us to laugh about the victory we have through Christ.
Mission, verses 47-48
Easter brings internal qualities of peace, joy, and hope…which result in external action. God has plans for us, a mission. We participate in the work of Christ by heralding the Good News. Many organizations have a mission statement. Ours is often found on the cover of our church bulletin: “We proclaim Christ, counseling and instructing all people with all wisdom, so that we can present everyone complete in Christ”, Colossians 1:28. We all have unique gifts, and God expects us to find our niche in His Kingdom. Every ability has a Kingdom application. Plus we have a mission to be witnesses by what we say and do. Is God telling you to serve Him? To help someone? To say yes to something, or to give something up? To take on a special project for His glory?
We can walk away from Easter with renewed peace, joy, hope and a firm sense of mission, which can affect our entire outlook on life. We become purpose-driven to win our world for Christ. Our whole image—how we appear and talk, our outlook and reaction to life will all be different…and when people ask what’s happened to us, we can answer: “Easter happened—that’s what!”
Risen Lord Jesus, we find in You our reason for living, and our hope for life eternal. Cause us to honor You and trust You for everything in life. And You are there, ready to change our emptiness into wholeness. Thank You for Your love that purchased our salvation. Amen.