The Road To Emmaus

Last Sunday evening we were thinking about the road to Jerusalem; this evening, after Jesus' death and resurrection, we're thinking about the road to Emmaus and Luke 24.13-35 Introduction Exactly twenty years ago this week I found my 'Emmaus Road' on a weekend away with a Christian youth group. In Abersoch, N. Wales I was reading Romans chapter 5 when suddenly I understood what the Christian faith was all about and how it related to me, who Jesus is, why he came and what he'd done. I'd started going to that youth group a year or so before but I hadn't understood very much from the talks and I certainly hadn't recognised the risen Lord Jesus. And for various reasons life had not been easy. Then one night at Abersoch I read these words - Rom 5.1-10. I knew that God was speaking directly to me and to my situation. I knew that he loved me and that Jesus, his only Son, died on the Cross to pay for my sin, to save me from God's wrath, and that he had risen from the dead to bring me life. For the first time I recognised the risen Christ and I knew I had to receive him as my Saviour and Lord. More famously on May 24th 1738, John Wesley found his 'Emmaus road' in London. "In the evening", he wrote in his journal, "I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." Through Luther's commentary on Romans Wesley heard the voice of the living Christ and found in it salvation. Perhaps 12 April 1998 will be a significant date for some of you here tonight. Maybe today, Easter day, will be your 'Emmaus Road' when the risen living Christ speaks to you through your doubts and confusion, when the Scriptures are explained and when Christ reveals himself and you believe. Or perhaps you're in need of reassurance that the resurrection is true, that Christ is really alive, that he is walking with us and that he had to suffer and then enter his glory, that he suffered and died for you and me. Maybe you are struggling in your Christian life with doubt and the difficulties of life, the Bible seems dry and your faith doesn't seem to be as real or as living as it once was. It can take time to understand the Gospel, to recognise who Jesus is and what he's done for us and to put our faith in him, even when the truth is just there, even when there is so much evidence, even when the risen Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. "We are so dull and slow of heart", as Jesus tells the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and yet Jesus meets us where we are. As he did with the discouraged and confused two on the historical Emmaus Road Christ graciously walks with us, opens the Scriptures to us and then our hearts and our eyes to recognise and receive him. Drawing us, opening us, reminding us of his words, and convicting us by the Holy Spirit. So to my first heading - CONFUSION (vv.13-24) There is much confusion today about the Christian faith. Ask people why Jesus came, why he died, if he rose again and who he is and you will get a wide range of answers. The opportunities for people to read and hear the Word of God in mainstream society - in schools and in broadcasting - are diminishing. Witness the new Radio 4 schedule for example. In my last parish 99% of the young people I met in school had never been to church on a Sunday and some thought that Easter was when Jesus was born. Recently on Merseyside a church member gave a copy of their newsletter to a parishioner and invited him to their Easter services. "Easter?" replied the man, "why is there something special on?" How we need to take the Word of God to people and help to explain it to them and to take them to hear it read and faithfully expounded, to allow it and the risen Christ to speak to them. How we need to take the opportunities to be involved in our schools to share the Gospel and teach the Word, to make the risen Christ known. How we need to take the opportunities there are in the media to spread the Word. How we need to get alongside people today who are open to the Gospel but who can't understand the Bible and need help in their journey of faith and who so often are disillusioned and discouraged by 'religion' and the church. (Romans 10:14&17). Cleopas and the other unnamed follower of Jesus on the road to Emmaus were disillusioned and confused. In their shoes we probably would have been too. They had been in Jerusalem when Jesus, the man they thought was going to rescue Israel from the Romans, was crucified. They were shocked and disheartened and now they were bewildered as there were reports going round from some of their women that Jesus was alive yet no-one had actually seen him. They probably felt a little bit like many Americans did after President Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas in 1963 or as many black Americans did when Martin Luther-King was murdered in 1968. Their saviour was gone. Why? What was going on? But unlike the murders of Kennedy and King the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ had been taught by Jesus himself and prophesied and publicly scripted hundreds of years before his birth. Yet Cleopas and his friend still had not grasped who Jesus is, what Jesus had really come to do, why he had to die, what the redemption of Israel really meant and that on the third day he would be and had to be raised (John 20:9). They found the reports of Jesus' resurrection difficult to believe as some do today, yet the evidence was and is there. As we've been seeing in Mark's Gospel in homegroups the disciples of Jesus misunderstood who Jesus is and why he came even when they recognised him to be the Christ. Until the risen Jesus walked with these two along the 7 miles to Emmaus and opened the Scriptures to them and then opened their eyes and lifted their hearts they did not understand, they could not see, they did not believe or understand the Word of God when it spoke of the Suffering Servant. Or perhaps they didn't even know that it did as apparently the teachers of the Scriptures did not major on that aspect. But whatever they did or didn't know it is clear that their hearts were discouraged, slow and cold. The Messiah had died when they thought he was about to save Israel (v.21). Their hopes had been shattered. They didn't realise that an even greater victory had been won. They were downcast (v.17), disappointed (v.21) and bewildered (vv.22-24). Yes they'd heard the reports of the women that the tomb was empty and that Jesus was alive, but they didn't believe them, partly because the testimony was from women but also because no-one had yet seen him. Their companions had gone to the tomb and found it empty but did not see Jesus (v.24). They were sceptical. Like doubting Thomas they wanted to see Jesus alive first! They were to get their wish sooner than they thought! But overall, as one writer comments, "We get the impression that these two disciples were discouraged and disappointed because God did not do what they wanted him to do. They saw the glory of the kingdom of God but they failed to understand the suffering." (Wiersbe, p.148) Are we the same sometimes - not understanding God's ways and plans - wanting him to do what we want and feeling despondent when he doesn't? And also failing to understand that there is suffering before glory in the Christian life? But Christ does meet us in our need. As the 2 followers of Jesus were walking, talking, discussing and debating, trying to make sense of what had happened to him the risen Christ met them where they were and walked along with them (vv.14-15). But, v.16, at first they were kept from recognising him. By special divine intervention they were prevented from recognising him as the risen Lord. WHY? Well perhaps because of all their uncertainties and lack of belief. Maybe because their hearts were slow and cold and their eyes blind. Possibly because they were slowly being given an opportunity to see and respond. Jesus wanted to reveal himself gradually. As he walked and talked with them he could speak into their particular situation and belief, sort out their lack of understanding and confusion by opening the Scriptures and in so doing convict their hearts and open their eyes for good. If they'd recognised Jesus straight away maybe they would have run off without being taught, thinking that they'd seen a ghost. In their state of mind and heart Jesus' timing was perfect. He had first to minister to their hearts before they could see him the risen Saviour and Lord. And as another writer comments: "We cannot see the risen Christ unless he wills to disclose himself". (Morris quoting Ford). So Jesus meets us where we are and reveals himself to us in his time. Certainly Jesus' questions to the two walkers give nothing away about himself in vv.17&19. "What are you discussing? What things have happened in Jerusalem?" Jesus asks. The two can't believe he doesn't know and so begin to tell him what they believe about him and what has happened over the last three days. If only they'd known who they were speaking to! So what did they believe about Jesus and about what had happened in Jerusalem? To what extent were they confused? Look at verses 19-24. Look at the gospel according to Cleopas. To them Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people and they had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. They'd hoped that Jesus was the Messiah who had come to set the Jewish nation free from bondage to Rome and so usher in the kingdom of God. But he was crucified and crucified by their own chief priests and rulers. And despite rumours of him being alive they believe he is still dead. They were confused about Jesus' purpose and bewildered about his end. They still had respect for Jesus as a man of God but he was almost certainly dead and therefore they were now reluctant to call him Messiah. His death puzzled them. And perhaps Jesus' death is still puzzling to some of us? Maybe we just respect Jesus as a man of God, a great teacher and example rather than worship him as Saviour and Lord as the one who died to pay for our sin and who was raised to seal the victory over sin and death. But even though some of us might be confused the two on the road to Emmaus should not have been if they'd remembered and believed the words of Jesus as I mentioned earlier. So Jesus rebukes them "How foolish or how dull you are"(v.25) How dull are we sometimes, which leads me onto the next heading Secondly, EXPLANATION (vv. 25-27) So far the risen Jesus has drawn alongside these two people and listened. But now (v.25), still unrecognisable to them, he gets straight to the point, straight to the heart of the matter and to the heart of their problem and need by opening the Scriptures and without mincing his words. Look at vv. 25-27:

He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! {26} Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" {27} And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

. We are not to be mealy mouthed when explaining the Word of God to people or apologetic - we are to point people to the living Christ and allow him to speak and the living and active Scriptures to speak. Although Cleopas and his friend were confused and their hearts were cold and slow they did want an experience of the living God - what they needed was a personal word from the living Christ to warm their hearts and to feed their minds. And there are people today who want to experience the living God but whose hearts are slow and minds confused, who simply need the Gospel explained - the death and resurrection of Jesus - the suffering before the glory and their hearts convicting by the Holy Spirit. We need to open the Scriptures to them and allow God to work. Here on the road to Emmaus Jesus opened the Scriptures to explain to them about himself, his suffering and death and his resurrection. The facts which they should have known from Moses and all the Prophets or what we call the Old Testament. The prophets had spoken clearly enough but the minds of the two had not grasped it. The Christ had to suffer. It was necessary. But that is not the end of it - he must also enter into his glory. He had to rise from the dead. God is not defeated on the Cross. He triumphs through the sufferings of his Son. And Christ showed them from all of the OT that all the OT points to Jesus and the Cross and to the resurrection. How the Cross of Christ and the OT need to be explained and understood today as well as the resurrection and the NT. The words of the risen Jesus and of the Scriptures spoke to their confused minds and cold, slow hearts. Without them they could have discussed the events in Jerusalem between themselves for days without arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. They might have been able to warm their tongues but not their hearts. But just as the risen Jesus' words spoke to the confused women at the tomb, so his words cut to the heart of the questions of the couple on the way to Emmaus, revealing his own living self as the key to both their hearts and their questions. And in v. 32 the couple tell us so, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?" As Michael Wilcock writes: "It is the word which brings lifeFirst it is Jesus who speaks. It is the word of his risen power, for he has been designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.(Ro 1:4) And in the power of the Spirit he is living yet. That is why still today we can turn to his words and our own dead hearts come to life; still today we can tell others with delight what Jesus says, and they come to life in their turn. Secondly the Scripture speaks also - the OT which Jesus was expounding and in which on his own authority we find everywhere things concerning himself and the NT. To the Scripture we also turn eagerly, for it is a living testimony to the living Christ". Christ is revealed through the Scriptures - Christ the incarnate Word is known through the written Word of God. Now knowing Christ is a richer reality than mere acquaintance with Bible teaching about him. But the Christ we know in personal experience is the Christ of the Scriptural witness; there is no other Christ. Are our hearts burning within us or are they cold and slow? Then let us open the whole of the Scriptures OT and NT and hear them being opened and let the living Christ and the living Scriptures speak in the power of the Spirit. So thirdly and finally REVELATION vv.28-35 By opening and explaining the Scriptures about himself the risen Jesus had warmed and convicted his followers' hearts and now their eyes could be opened too. Until then Cleopas and his fellow disciple did not believe all that the prophets had written about the Messiah. They'd seen him as a conquering Redeemer not as a Suffering Servant. They had failed to see the crucified Jesus as the true Messiah, the Saviour of the world, who would be raised from the dead as the fulfilment of the OT prophecies. But now they did begin to understand. Their hearts were burning within them. They were being convicted of the truth. Jesus was gradually revealing himself to them and warming them into new life. Their hearts were burning and they wanted more. They still couldn't recognise Jesus but, v.29, they urged him to stay with them in Emmaus. They invited him in. Jesus doesn't force his way into our lives but he will come in if invited. And when Jesus stayed he the guest became the host as he broke bread and gave it to them. This was no communion service as some would have us believe but something in the action struck a chord such as the feeding of the 5000 or perhaps they saw the nail marks in Jesus' hands. Then (v.31) their eyes were opened and they recognised him and he disappeared. Jesus revealed himself during the breaking of the bread. God opened their eyes to recognise Jesus as the risen Lord. The risen Jesus had opened the Scriptures, convicting their hearts and minds and now he opened their eyes to see him the living Saviour. They were so excited- their hearts continued to burn- no longer were they discouraged. Their eyes were open and bulging no longer blind and their minds no longer confused. Immediately they ran the 7 miles back to Jerusalem with the news, news which was confirmed by the Eleven - IT IS TRUE THE LORD HAS RISEN! He was not an apparition or a ghost or an hallucination. He had appeared to them. He had walked, talked and broken bread with them and been recognised by them. He had opened the Scriptures to them and their hearts had burned. He was and is alive. It is true, the Lord has risen. Do you know it? Have you heard the Word? Has the living Christ spoken to you? Is he doing so now? Have you seen? Are your hearts burning within you and burning to tell others? If so recognise him tonight as your risen Lord and Saviour, believe and trust in him.Amen

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