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Easter AM 2004 How slow of heart

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SLOW OF HEART

25 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.

                                                                                LUKE 24 25-27

25 καὶ αὐτὸς εἶπε πρὸς αὐτούς, Ω ἀνόητοι καὶ βραδεῖς τῇ καρδίᾳ τοῦ πιστεύειν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐλάλησαν οἱ προφῆται·   (bradycardia)

In this penultimate study in Christ and His use of the Scriptures I turn to this beautiful narrative in Luke which shows us an amazing insight into the way the two friends of Jesus FELT on their journey home to Emmaus. Luke sets out the condition of their heart so clearly!

And it is the condition of the heart that I want to focus on this Easter morning – they were SLOW OF HEART.

I want to suggest to you that we, like them, are suffering from the same condition – and to enquire into :

·       Its SYMPTOMS

·       Its CAUSE

and

·       Its CURE

A striking feature of all the resurrection narratives is the confusion and dismay of those concerned.  A word that constantly recurs in the gospels is FEAR and AFRAID.

Luke’s account  of Cleopas and friend on the road to Emmaus is arguably the most detailed – revealing, as it does, their sadness and loss of hope as they walk home – and as they explain their situation to the unrecognised Christ.    The account also shows us how Jesus identified the causes of their condition – and then how He addressed the cure. This Easter Day we need that cure more than ever.

Before I look at the narrative and suggest an approach to the text I want to apply that singular phrase to myself and to you; to the church in general and to this church in particular.

It would be all very well if we paused this morning – as we have other Easter Day mornings to reflect on this beautifully told story – and go away thinking, “That was nice”.  We need to see in what ways the condition of these followers of Jesus is something we suffer from too.

SLOW OF HEART

To those of you who have some medical knowledge it may be interesting to know that the Greek phrase almost exactly reflects the condition of the physical human heart - βραδεῖς τῇ καρδίᾳ  bradycardia.  This is a condition that requires a pacemaker so that the patient can continue to live a normal life.  Without it the patient suffers from a debilitating and restricted life.

Of course the phrase as Jesus uses it has nothing to do with the physical organ – it has to do with the state of the soul, the state of the spiritual rhythm of the believer. 

His challenge to them couples together a striking rebuke and our phrase:

“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe…

 

There is a measure of ignorance – and a measure of insensitivity – and its results can be devastating for the spiritual condition.

I want to suggest to you that it is all too easy for us to fall into that debilitating condition – a condition in which the development of our spiritual life slows almost to a halt – a condition in which we become downcast and pessimistic :  preoccupied with failure and with problems.  In such a state we are not of much use to our Lord.

As a church the symptoms are marked by inward looking, criticism and doubt, and we do not grapple with the problems that affect us – but rather prefer to watch and wait.

What do you think would have happened to those disciples had they continued untreated by the Divine Physician[1] ? 

They would have continued in a spirit of sad regret – no doubt attempted to rebuild their lives without the One who had become their inspiration.

So let’s look at the SYMPTOMS:

1.  Symptoms of the slowness of heart

Luke the physician gives us a good description:

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

Besides the confusion they feel as they look back on everything that has happened they are predominantly SAD.

The Message nicely renders it:

17 He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?” They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend.

LONG FACED – it’s a giveaway symptom.

But there were others as well:

v21  “we had hoped…”

They don’t even say “We hoped…”  things have moved on from that – and now they place their hope even further in the past – out of reach WE HAD HOPED.

To say that these friends were disappointed is total understatement!

They are crushed by the overwhelming evidence as they see it of a LOST HOPE – now nothing that once mattered and once quickened their step and filled their horizon with purpose – nothing remains except a bitter memory.

This HOPELESSNESS effects their judgement of what they can remember from His earlier promise:

it is the third day since all this took place.  (21)

 

This seems to suggest that they did remember what He had said to them earlier.   They dimly recollect His promise – but even His most encouraging words are now explained away – it is the third day – and we are still without hope.

This HOPELESSNESS effects their judgement of even the most encouraging news that that day had offered:

22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

Notice the NEGATIVE slant that they give to the news:

amazed…. didn’t find His body … Him they did not see…

They are focussed on the absence of evidence : they see only the doubts and uncertainties – they have a DOWNCAST expression a DOWNWARD VIEW

a DOWN perspective.

It was not that they had stopped caring about Jesus – or loving Him. Their words are full of the expectations they had and the respect in which they held Him – but the events of those days have so shaken them that they see only the downside.

If some of those symptoms seem familiar to you – then take heart – Jesus is at hand to identify the cause and to bring a remedy.

2.  The causes of slowness of heart

In His words to these friends Jesus highlights the causes of their condition:

25 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?” 

His challenge suggests to them that they had had all along the explanation of these devastating events – the word of Scripture which they held so dear – but that they had failed to make the connection between all that God had said in the past in His word and the way things had worked out that Passover time.

This is partly IGNORANCE – or a failure to make the connection

This is partly INSENSITIVITY – a heart not quickened by His promises

This is partly AN UNANSWERED QUESTION  “Did not the Christ HAVE to suffer these things and then enter His glory?”

They had the resources – they had been schooled in them – they had had His own reminders of their significance in His ministry – but they FAILED TO MAKE THE CONNECTION

If God has a supreme plan in what He is doing – then you may be sure He has shared it with the prophets – He has seen to it that the record has been preserved.

In our context as inheritors not only of the Old Testament Scriptures but of the New – we have even less excuse.

We  could have made the connection between the Word of Scripture and the Word made flesh : between the text of Scripture and the TRUTH that is Jesus Christ!.

They were a PRIVILEGED PEOPLE who learned from their youth the Torah and the Prophets – a privileged people who HEARD HIM SPEAK.

They failed to make the connection between the WORD OF GOD and the WORK OF GOD.

We are a privileged people too – we have the whole of Scripture in our own language – we have books to help us understand it and teachers to expound it for us – but the possibility remains that we LOSE THE CONNECTION BETWEEN WORD AND LIFE  between SCRIPTURE AND SUBSTANCE.

We too can be guilty of IGNORANCE

We too can be INSENSITIVE

We too can fail to ASK THE QUESTION and APPLY THE ANSWER.

3.  The remedy for slowness of heart

There are three very striking things about the treatment that Jesus applied to these two friends of His:

·       He remained for a while unrecognised

·       He explained the significance of Scripture

·       He was recognised in the simplest yet profoundest way

It was part of His work with them to COME ALONGSIDE THEM YET REMAIN UNKNOWN

There was a part of His work with them that needed disguise!

He is alive – He has actually joined them on their journey – but

PART ONE:  16 but they were kept from recognising him.

 

Had Jesus introduced Himself earlier their joy and their astonishment would have prevented them from learning a very vital lesson.

Jesus intended that they should recognise Him – but first they needed to face up to their situation and listen to what He had to say.

I suggest to you that one of the mysteries of God’s work in our lives as believers is that He remains unrecognised at times – so that we can learn from His Word lessons explored no other way.

Who knows how many times Jesus has stepped alongside us in our situation and prompted us to share our doubts and our downcast looks with Him: how many times He has seemed to be not there – only for us to realise later that He was drawing out of us our understanding so that we could HEAR HIM BETTER.

The SECOND PART of the remedy was LISTENING TO JESUS

We wonder why Luke record so much detail of their feelings and their words, and so few of His :   but the truth is we have (and paradoxically much of that from Luke’s pen) the full record of His written Word.

We need to HEAR JESUS SPEAK IN HIS WORD.

That is the way that the SLOW HEART becomes THE BURNING HEART

Have you HEARD HIM SPEAK? 

Do you LISTEN TO HIM?

Do you set aside time for that?

27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

The Risen Christ promised that the Father would send the Spirit to do what Jesus did that Emmaus journey “WALK ALONGSIDE” us.  That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit the – alongside-One.

The underlying doctrine here is that God has revealed Himself – and that is in His Word.  He wants us to open our hearts to what the Spirit says through the written Word – so that we recognise the Living Word.

THAT WAS THE FINAL PART of the REMEDY:  RECOGNITION

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going further. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight.

·       STAY WITH US

·       HE TOOK BREAD, GAVE THANKS, BROKE IT and began to give it to them…

·       THEY RECOGNISED HIM

But the wonder of this – for all its recollections of the Last Supper and the Communion Service – is that when He disappeared again –

THEY WERE LEFT WITH BURNING HEARTS AND A DESIRE TO SHARE WITH OTHERS

The slowness of heart is wonderfully healed!

(Often Jesus is “invisible” or disguised

 

He wants us to listen without distraction – to apply the Word to Him

 

He wants us to recognise Him in the worship and in the everyday)

 

 

they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

 

 

David A Green  9 April 2004


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[1] A lovely title that Campbell Morgan uses so beautifully.

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