Hi. It’s good to be with you and I pray you’re trusting in the sure and certain hope we have in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. A hope which transformed the first disciples from nervous wrecks to fearless preachers in the power of the Spirit. And a hope that is ultimately the hope of heaven, which will be virus free. Last week we heard about the risen Jesus appearing to his scared disciples in lockdown from John 20 and today we’re looking at the risen Jesus appearing to two confused and discouraged followers on the road to Emmaus. These last few weeks in the UK have been unnerving haven’t they? You may well still be a bit scared, confused or discouraged. So I hope Luke 24.13-35 will warm your hearts and encourage us to be using the time to be reading God’s word and sharing it with others in creative ways. So have Luke 24 open and let me pray.
Risen Lord Jesus speak to, encourage and warm our hearts and change us by your Spirit for your glory, Amen.
Forty-two years ago this April (yes I’m getting old) I found my 'Emmaus Road' on holiday with a Christian youth group at Abersoch in North Wales. Before that I hadn't understood anything about the Christian faith and I certainly hadn't recognised the risen Lord Jesus. Then one night at Abersoch I read Romans 5.8.
"God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
I knew that God was speaking directly to me, that he loved me and that Jesus, his only Son, died on the Cross to pay for my sin, to save me from hell, and that he’d risen from the dead to bring me eternal life, now and fully in heaven. My heart was burning, I recognised the risen Christ and 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, "I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate street, where someone was reading Luther's intro to Paul’s Letter 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’d 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.
Maybe today will be your 'Emmaus Road' when the risen Christ speaks to you through your doubts and confusion, when the Scriptures are explained and when Christ reveals himself through them and you believe and trust in him. Or why not share your testimony with someone after this service. Or perhaps you're in need of reassurance that Jesus’ bodily resurrection is true. You’re struggling, the Bible seems dry and your faith doesn't seem to be as real as it once was. We can be so slow of heart, as Jesus tells the two going to Emmaus. Yet lovingly Jesus meets us where we are, graciously walks with us, opens the Scriptures to us and then our hearts and eyes to recognise and receive him.
1. Confusion (v.13-24)
There’s still confusion on the streets about the spread of COVID-19. There’s also confusion today about the Christian faith. The North East has the lowest percentage of people in the UK who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Cleopas and the other follower of Jesus on the road to Emmaus were also confused and disillusioned. They’d been in Jerusalem when Jesus, the man they thought was going to rescue Israel from Rome, was crucified. They were shocked and disheartened and now bewildered as some of the women were reporting that Jesus was alive, yet no-one had seen him (v.24). They had no idea that an even greater victory had been won. Like doubting Thomas they wanted to see Jesus alive first. Well they were to get their wish sooner than they thought! But now they probably felt like many Americans did after President Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas or as many African Americans did when Martin Luther King was assassinated. 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 friend still didn’t get it, especially a crucified Messiah. You see they were discouraged and disappointed because God didn’t do what they wanted him to. They saw the glory of the kingdom of God but they failed to understand the suffering.
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 failing to understand that there’s suffering before glory in the Christian life? But Christ does meet us in our need. As these followers of Jesus were walking and debating, trying to make sense of it all, the risen Christ met them where they were and walked with them (v.14-15).
But, at first, verse 16, by special divine intervention they were prevented from seeing him as the risen Lord. Why? Well perhaps because their hearts were slow and their eyes blind, Jesus wanted to reveal himself gradually. As he walked and talked with them, he could speak into their uncertainty, 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’d have run off without being taught, thinking they'd seen a ghost. In their state of mind and heart, Jesus' timing was perfect. He first had to minister to their hearts before they could truly see him. You see we can’t see the risen Christ unless he wills to disclose himself. 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 verse 17 and 19. 'What’s this conversation you’re having? What things 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 was the gospel according to Cleopas (v.19-24)? To them, Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people and they’d hoped he was the one who was going to set the Jewish nation free from Rome and so usher in the kingdom of God. But he was crucified by their own chief priests and rulers. And despite rumours of him being alive, they believe he’s 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 if he’s dead they’re reluctant to call him Messiah. His death puzzled them. And perhaps Jesus' death is still puzzling to some of us. The gospel of Cleopas is the gospel of many. Maybe you just respect Jesus as a man of God, a great teacher and example rather than worship him as the one who died to pay for your 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 shouldn’t have been if they'd remembered and believed the words of Jesus. Yet how slow of heart are we at times too, which brings us to...
2. Explanation (v.25-27)
So far the risen Jesus has drawn alongside and listened, which is instructive for us. But now (v.25), he gets straight to the heart of the matter and to the heart of their problem by opening the Scriptures. Verses 25 to 27:
"O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."
After giving people time and listening to them whether by phone or Zoom or at some future point in person - do you remember those days?! We’re to point them to the living Christ and allow him and his living word to speak. Although Cleopas and his friend were confused and slow of heart, 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 feed their minds. And there are some people today who want to experience the living God, 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 the facts which they should’ve known from Moses and all the Prophets or what we call the Old Testament. The Christ had to suffer. It was necessary. But that’s not the end of it - he must also enter his glory. He had to rise from the dead. God’s not defeated on the cross. He triumphs through the sufferings of his Son. And Christ showed them that the whole of the Old Testament points to Jesus and to the cross and resurrection. How the cross and resurrection along with the Bible need to be explained today. Perhaps you could watch videos 4, 5 and 6 of Christianity Explored on clayton.tv as a family or with someone on Zoom. Without Jesus’ words, the two could’ve discussed the events in Jerusalem for days without arriving at a conclusion. They might’ve been able to warm their tongues but not their hearts. But the risen Jesus' words cut to the heart of these guys’ questions, revealing his own living self as the key to both their hearts and their queries.
In verse 32 the two tell us so, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road while he opened to us the Scriptures?" You see it’s the word which brings life. First, it’s Jesus who speaks. It’s the word of his risen power, for he’s been designated Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead. And in the power of the Spirit he’s living yet. That’s 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 Bible also speaks - the Old Testament where Jesus appears on every page, as in Isaiah 61 and the New Testament. The Bible is a living testimony to the living Christ. Christ is revealed through the Bible - Christ the Word-made-flesh 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 Bible; there is no other Christ. Are our hearts burning within us or are they slow? Then let’s take time to open the whole of the Bible and let the living Christ and the living Scriptures speak in the power of the Spirit. Why not read Luke, Acts, Genesis, Exodus, Romans, in that order - they’ll reach parts of us nothing else can - get it?
3. Revelation (v.28-35)
By opening and explaining the Scriptures about himself the risen Jesus had warmed and convicted their hearts and now their eyes could be opened. Until then they'd got Jesus wrong. But now their hearts were burning within. They were being convicted of the truth. Jesus was gradually revealing himself to them and warming them into new life and they wanted more. They still couldn't recognise Jesus but, verse 29, they urged him to stay. 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 but something in the action struck a chord, maybe the feeding of the 5000 or the nail marks in Jesus' hands. Then, verse 31, their eyes were opened and they recognised him - the living Saviour, then he vanished. They were so excited - their hearts continued to burn - no longer were they discouraged. Their eyes were bulging on stalks, no longer blind and their minds no longer confused. Immediately they ran the seven miles back to Jerusalem, not for their daily exercise, but with the news, which was confirmed by the Eleven, verse 34 - The Lord Has Risen Indeed! The tomb was empty. He wasn’t an hallucination or a ghost. Do you know it? Has the living Christ spoken to you? Is he doing so now through his word? Are your hearts burning within you and burning to tell others? If so, trust and obey him.
And remember to share your testimony with each other or someone after this service, or pray with someone, later watch those Christianity Explored videos from clayton.tv and read Luke, Acts, Genesis, Exodus, Romans in that order. God bless you. Amen.