Summary: A sermon about the Road to Emmaus and beyond.
“We Had Hoped…”
All four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are absolutely consistent on this one thing: no one believes the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection when they first hear it.
And that includes Jesus’ own disciples, the ones who were closest to Him and spent the most time with Him.
In fact, disbelief actually starts with the disciples.
Earlier in the verses before what we are looking at this morning, Luke tells us that the disciples rolled their eyes and dismissed the women what the women were saying, who had been the first to see the Resurrected Christ, as an “idle tale.”
Actually, that’s a nice way to put it.
That’s a bit of a watered down translation.
The Greek word Luke uses—leros—is the root of our word delirious.
So, in response to the testimony of the women, the disciples thought they were out of their minds.
And maybe this should be expected.
After-all, the earth generally doesn’t cough up the dead.
And testimony that it has—that a Person Who has died has actually been raised to life—kind of upsets the natural order of things.
Two things, Benjamin Franklin once wrote to a friend, are certain in this world: death and taxes.
Except, according to the women at the tomb, not death!
And so, even the disciples don’t believe.
And later in the day, on the first Easter, tow of Jesus’ disciples were walking on their way to a village called Emmaus.
They were talking about everything that had happened.
The arrest, the horrible crucifixion and the “seemly” crazy story that Jesus had risen from the dead.
And we are told that “as they talked and discussed these things…Jesus himself came up and walked along with them…”
You know, I just want to pause here for a minute, because this is a perfect picture of God’s grace in action.
Even in the midst of our doubts and unbelief, Jesus comes and walks with us.
Jesus comes and speaks to us.
We are told that even the ability to believe is a gift of God, lest anyone should boast.
And we see it right here.
Not only does Jesus Christ die so that, through faith in Him we can live, He even provides us with the faith itself.
I don’t know how many people I have spoken with who have said to me, “When I was least expecting it; when I wasn’t even consciously looking for it; I came to believe.”
Perhaps you can relate to that experience.
I know I can.
God is so good.
He loves us so much.
So much so, that He even spoon feeds us, like new born babies or sticks the bottle of faith into our mouths, shall I say.
And oh, how many times do we spit it out?
How many times do we reject His free gift of faith?
We really are without excuse.
In any event, Jesus is walking along with the two disciples and they don’t recognize Him.
And He asks them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”
And they tell Him about what happened with the arrest, the crucifixion, and then they say: “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
“We had hoped.”
There is so much in these three words.
Some have said that these are the most heartbreaking words in the entire Bible: “We had hoped…”
And that is because they speak of a future that is not to be, a dream that created energy and enthusiasm but didn’t come to pass, a promise that proved to be false.
They speak of a future that is now closed off, irrelevant, dead.
And there it’s hard to think of anything worse than a dead future.
It’s been said that some of the saddest words ever written were: “For sale: Baby shoes, never used.”
It’s not just the tragedy of what happened that hurts, but it’s also the gaping hole of all that could have happened, but won’t.
“We had hoped…” the dejected disciples tell Jesus.
And that’s the point: They don’t hope anymore.
And when you don’t hope, it’s pretty hard to summon up any enthusiasm, because you can’t bear to be disappointed again.
Cleopas and the other disciple had heard the women proclaim that Jesus had risen, and they just couldn’t take it anymore.
Because hopeful people don’t leave town.
But Jesus doesn’t leave them.
So Jesus says to them, “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
And if we read about Moses and the Prophets we read about hope in the most improbable circumstances: Moses freeing the people from slavery, enduring 40 years in the wilderness, searching for the Promised Land where oppression no longer exists.