Summary: 2005 Easter Sermon
(Opening of the sermon is the dramatic reading script “The News” by Elaine Aadland for the Lenten/Easter Series, “Watchers on the Hill,” produced by Creative Communications for the Parish © 2003)
Whatever life road you are currently on, Jesus is on that road as well. He is not far away. The two disheartened, discouraged, and disillusioned men who left Jerusalem early that morning are about to encounter the Risen Jesus but some time will pass before they see Him.
Now you might be thinking, “Jim, they see Jesus on the road what do you mean they do not see Him?” You’re right; they see Jesus but only as a traveler on the road with them. They have yet to see Him as they need to see Him (and as the Lord wants them to see Him) for two reasons: First, because they were looking at something else – circumstances - and second God kept them in the dark as we read in Luke 24:16 until the right time to reveal Jesus came.
AW Tozer, a pastor and writer of another generation makes this point in a different way. In a magazine column published several years after his death he wrote, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ brought about a startling change of direction.
“It is interesting and profitable,” he continues, “to look at the direction of the prepositions in Matthew’s account of the Resurrection morning (chapter 28). First, the women came “to” the tomb (v. 1). They came in love, but they came to mourn. That was their direction before they knew Jesus had been raised from the dead.”
Tozer continues, “Many all around us still face the tomb, knowing only mourning, grief, uncertainty and the fear of death. But on that historic Resurrection day, the faithful women had a dramatic change of direction. The mammoth stone had been rolled away, and they could see the stark emptiness of the tomb. So the record tells us they departed immediately “from” the grave. What a change wrought by the joyful news! The preposition is now “from” instead of “to.” The direction is suddenly away from the tomb and toward eternal life and victory!”
On the life road that you are currently on what, are you looking for? Mary and the others were looking for a dead body, not a live one. They were headed there to dress a body for decomposition and not resurrection. They found no body and they found no death.
But what were the two men on the Emmaus Road looking for? Were they looking for Jesus?
One of the things that they were looking for were answers to the deep and hard questions they had in their hearts and on their lips. As Luke notes in 24:14 “As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.”
The events of the past two days had been devastating. Prior to Friday, and the crucifixion, their dreams, like the dream of many others, was that Jesus would overthrow the Roman Empire and re-established the Kingdom of David. The result would be a second deliverance on the scale of Moses leading out their ancestors from slavery in Egypt many centuries earlier.
“Jim, how do you know that?” Mark 11:10. As Jesus enters Jerusalem, we read that the crowd proclaimed, “Bless the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!” They saw Jesus as the Messiah who would restore the throne of David to Israel.
Then there is Luke 24:21, a part of our main story this morning, “We thought he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.” These two men equated Jesus’ mission and ministry as political not spiritual deliverance. Jesus’ execution and death smashed such hopes in their hearts. It was the death of a dream.
One of the hallmarks of our history is that we like to dream. We are taught and encouraged to dream and dream big! We have been taught from since we were young that our nation is a nation of opportunity for all. Dreams are very important to us.
This emphasis on dreaming big is also a part of our Christian vocabulary these days. It is often stated in terms such as “looking for meaning” or “looking for purpose” or “finding my passion in life” or “finding my niche.” Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life is a case in point. (I highly recommend it)
These two men, though, had lost their dream. It had died when Jesus died and though they had heard reports that the tomb was empty there was not faith and belief present in their minds and hearts only further confusion.
Over 25 years ago, Daniel Levinson and some colleagues wrote a book based on the study of some men entitled, Seasons of a Man’s Life. One of the things that I remember about it was the segment in which they wrote of the pain and turmoil that came to some of the men when their life dream either crashed and burned or it was never fully realized at all.