Summary: We all have a choice... Will we let Jesus walk on by, or will we invite Him in to stay and fellowship with us? Will we decide that hearing ABOUT the Messiah is good enough? Or do we truly desire to experience the PRESENCE of the Messiah in our lives?
Good morning! Every year around Easter there is a major holiday in Taiwan, called “Qing Ming Jie” or “Tomb Sweeping Day”. Qing Ming Jie was on Thursday last week. I was talking with our son, who is living in Taiwan, and he was telling me what had happened that day. He and his wife were staying in the countryside over the holiday, and he said they woke up at 4:30am when the temple celebrations started… drums, horns, fireworks… The celebration started in the alleyway right next to their house, so it was really loud. Imagine being sound asleep at 4:30am and waking up to all this commotion right outside your door!
Now, I’m not going to share the details of what he saw with you this morning. It can be rather graphic and unsettling, even for those of us who have been around it before. But what I DO want to share about Qing Ming Jie is this…
During Thursday’s celebration, a handful of men were chosen to beat and torture themselves on behalf of the community… Around this same time of year, Christians remember how Jesus was beaten and tortured on behalf of all mankind.
Then they sacrificed some pigs in the middle of the street to appease their gods… We remember how Jesus offered Himself as the only perfect, acceptable sacrifice… that through His death, the price for our sins is paid in full… God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus as He hung on the cross.
And then they went out in family groups at sunrise to visit their family tombs… They bring items to care for the bodies of their deceased ancestors, and they clean out any debris and weeds…
Christians retell the story of how the women went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning, bringing spices to care for His body…
Then the families in Taiwan will offer food, drinks, and prayers to their ancestors… The food and drink WE offer are the bread and the fruit of the vine that we share in communion in remembrance of Jesus’ body that was broken and His blood that was shed for us.
But unlike the family tombs that day, Jesus’ tomb was empty! Jesus is risen! Jesus is alive!
I’m not surprised that Satan has found a way to mock Resurrection Day. While we celebrate a risen Savior, there are still millions of people living in darkness… They continue to celebrate Tomb Sweeping Day following centuries of tradition… They don’t know that the tomb that really matters has been empty for all those centuries.
This morning, we’re going to look at two men who heard that Jesus’ tomb was empty, but they didn’t know how to process that information… They had placed all their hope in Jesus, but then their hope died when Jesus’ body was put in the tomb. And now there’s this wild story of the tomb being empty… and women talking with angels… and that Jesus is really alive. These two men don’t know what to think or what to believe anymore.
Let’s pick up the story starting in Luke chapter 24 verse 13… Please turn there in your Bibles with me… Luke 24:13-17…
13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
So here we see two of Jesus’ disciples on the road… They are not part of Jesus’ inner circle of 12 disciples, but close enough that they were there listening as Mary and the other women told what happened at Jesus’ tomb. We don’t know why they took off for Emmaus later that day, but as these two disciples were walking, they were talking and trying to make sense of everything that has happened… And then, Jesus comes up to them and walks with them… But they don’t recognize Him.
When I read this part of the story, it made me think about my own walk with the Lord… My own Christian journey… There was a time when I was walking through a spiritual desert… I was a believer, and had been growing in my faith… but then it just seemed like God went quiet… I did not sense the peace and fellowship of the Lord’s presence for a period of several years… It seemed like my prayers were not even being heard.
Toward the end of that desert time, I remember going to visit someone who had visited our church… but I didn’t want to go. As we talked, I asked about her spiritual condition, but I didn’t really care… I was just going through the motions. After I shared the Gospel with her, I asked if she wanted to pray to ask Jesus to forgive her of her sins and to surrender her life to Him. She did, and after we prayed, I remember thinking, “I doubt if she really meant it.”