Summary: Jesus rose from the grave. That was no trifling event. It took the disciples some time to grasp all that had changed with the glorious reality of Jesus' resurrection. Their struggle mirrors the struggle of all faithful Christ-followers.
Sermon for CATM – April 11, 2010
Journeying with the Disciples – Struggling to Believe the Good News
Where were you on 9/11? Do you recall what you were doing the day or the exact time you first heard that the U.S. was under attack? What was your first response? Did you say: “Hmm. That’s odd!”, or were you in shock? I think most of us were in shock.
Trying, in the moment and afterward, to wrap our heads around what was happening as the planes struck, trying to grasp what was happening as the buildings collapsed and thousands died, and then trying to understand that this wasn’t some terrible accident, but was rather an intentional, pre-mediated effort to murder civilians.
It was all too much to get our minds around.
Big events, especially those that aren’t really expected, have a huge impact on us. I think it’s a good thing that a state of shock accompanies such events.
Even smaller personal events leave us in a state of shock. I was once in a gas-fire explosion that burned my upper body, but after the initial sting, I didn’t feel anything, other than bewildered, for at least a day.
When a bike I was riding on a country gravel road fell apart underneath me and my face hit the gravel pretty much shredding my upper lip, I felt nothing, other than stunned, after the initial impact. After surgery for over 75 stitches in my lip, that’s when what happened hit me. Those events have a huge impact on us.
Today’s Scripture passage lunges us into the confused and discouraged frame of mind that the followers of Jesus were in after His crucifixion, right as the realization was dawning on them that something amazing was happening.
The profound sorrow and, really, dismal state of affairs they truly thought they were in…well, reality was turning on them.
They had spent a couple of days bewildered at the murder of Jesus and the brutal crushing of all their hopes and dreams that hinged on Jesus.
Now, the very day of the resurrection of Jesus, later on in the day, before the news of this awesome event had spread very far, something strange is afoot, something wonderful is slowly being unveiled.
Let’s peak in together as two of Jesus’ disciples are walking to a village, a village called Emmaus.
PPT: Read Luke 24:13-49
I want to suggest that what the disciples go through on this first day of the resurrection of Jesus is similar to what happens in the life of any person who embraces faith in Jesus.
1: Struggle to Believe – On Two Levels
1st Level of Struggle: First, the disciples really struggled to grasp what had happened. This HUGE THING had happened – Jesus was dead and now He is alive.
This required a migration of sorts, genuine movement in the hearts of the disciples to be able to understand it.
They began with a good awareness of the emptiness of life in the absence of real hope, they felt deeply how vacant life was without Jesus.
The Master they had revered, loved and followed had been horribly put to death - a cruel death of the most degrading kind. Death by crucifixion was the most shameful of deaths; the victim was made a public spectacle, exposed to the jeers of all that passed by.
Only a week before, on Palm Sunday, the disciples’ hopes had risen to fever pitch when the excited crowds had enthusiastically received Jesus…but now he lay dead in a sealed tomb!
Their hopes were dashed; the dream was over! The band of Jesus’ followers was leaderless and was falling apart, with two of them already on their way home. The reports that Christ’s tomb was empty did nothing to alter their thinking; it only confused them.
Their entire world had come apart. The two despondent disciples summed up the situation very neatly, "we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
But now, as they encounter Jesus on the Road and later as they dine with him, the reality of the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead hits them. It dawns on them that Jesus has been staring them in the face.
They migrated or moved from a place of despair to a place of nearly unimaginable joy. They were slowly convinced through their experience of Jesus that He was, in fact, really alive, really present with them, really NOT dead…anymore.
They struggled to grasp this even though Jesus was literally right in front of them in resurrected form.
Next week we’ll look at Thomas who, despite the consistent testimony of all the others, refused to believe, he said, until he could stick his fingers in Jesus’ wounds.
In the same way that the disciples struggled with understanding and accepting what had truly happened, based on each other’s testimony of their encounters with Jesus, each of us who believes and each one who has yet to come to faith in Jesus…