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RoadtoEmmausFinal

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Congregation of the Lord, our Help comes from the Lord maker of heaven and earth, Amen,

Grace to you and peace, from God our father and in Jesus the Christ,

Amen

 

Lets sing in praise and response to God’s greeting, BOW 164 verses 1,2 and 4

 

Ishaia 58: 1-11

 

58     “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.

Raise your voice like a trumpet.

Declare to my people their rebellion

and to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;

they seem eager to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that does what is right

and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for just decisions

and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,

‘and you have not seen it?

Why have we humbled ourselves,

and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today

and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

only a day for a man to humble himself?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe him,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousnessa will go

before you,

and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The Lord will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

 

 

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

2     My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also forb the sins of the whole world.

3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s lovec is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

 

 

6 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. [1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Road to Emmaus

Do any of you watch Air Crash Investigations.

About two weeks ago, the program was on the 2002 mid-air crash between a chartered Russian airplane, carrying a group of children on their way to a holiday excursion, and a DHL freight plane.

The planes crashed 12 kilometres up in the air, after a miscommunication as to which plane was supposed to fly at which height.

77 people were killed, mostly children.

But, what really struck me about this story was an interview with the mother of a child, a 12 year-old, who said:

            Everything that meant anything, our hope, our future, died when our children died.

            Is it? Is all hope lost… when someone dies? Is death the end of the line?

For believers, surely the answer is no! Death is not the end of hope. Death is not the end of the road! On the contrary!

Brothers and sisters, a fortnight ago we celebrated Easter. Two Sundays ago, we were rejoicing in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, the Christ …. who we say, we believe, was dead;  buried and rose again on the third day from death to be with His father in Heaven.

It is on Easter Sunday that we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose again // that He overcame death to establish a new beginning, a new heaven and a new earth, just like it has been promised in the scriptures.

Why do we so many struggle to really believe that which we say we do when we speak the Apostles creed in Church?

Brothers and sisters, there is a disturbing link between our scepticism and that of the first Christians.

In the passage that we are considering, however, Luke shows that neither they, nor us, need to be sceptical:

We can see the link in this: Three weeks ago, we celebrated Palm Sunday, and in many Churches, the children do a great job of portraying the joy and celebration of Jesus, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey, like a king, with palm branches laid out before Him.

Then on Good Friday, we commemorated Jesus death on the cross.

On Easter Sunday, we rejoice in Jesus resurrection, and we join in celebration and song, in our praise of the risen Lord…

But, lets be frank, when we come to the Monday after Easter Sunday, and the many Mondays to Sundays that follow, how long do we live in the hope and joy of the Easter celebrations of the resurrection of Christ.

All too soon we get bogged down again in the hopelessness of life; by the pains and struggles and heartache of this world.

Well, in Jesus’ time - the Bible tells us - it was no different.

The Bible tells us that when Jesus marched into Jerusalem, there were shouts of joy, Hosannas, as the palm branches was laid before Jesus on his donkey.

Here finally, was the moment the Jews had been looking forward too for so long.

Their Messiah was finally here. 

This Jesus, His followers believed, was really the saviour Lord who had come to free the Jews from the Roman yoke; the king who would lead the Jews to greatness, no longer slaves, but the ruler of the lands…just like their prophets had foretold it would be.

It was time to celebrate … for everything they had been told by the prophets, had said, had come true!

They saw Jesus; the miracles that He did …and because they saw…they came to see that what they had read in the scriptures, had now happened, just like it had been foretold.

–        They had to, otherwise why were they celebrating?

Five days later, only five days, their faith falters.

            Like travellers on a dusty road, they stumble in their faith. Why?

Because only five miserable days later, on what we now call Good Friday, the mighty King, their Saviour warrior has died on the cross.

Their King has been humiliated… and tortured … and He did not even put up a fight.

And when he is nailed to the Cross, and His hour comes …//…// He dies

Not exactly the picture of a powerful Saviour, a Messiah, is it?

/////////

And when He dies, they turn away disappointed –

Now, they mistake Jesus for “a nobody,” a loser (they mock Him; walk away from the cross, disappointed  – and importantly ////obviously//// they no longer recognize Jesus for who He is – the simple truth of it is that they have lost their faith – for only in faith is one able to recognise Jesus for who He is.

With no faith, we will not recognise Jesus if He was to walk into this room at this moment and introduce Himself.

And not only do they no longer recognise Jesus, now they fail to recognise the ongoing signs that they are living, are experiencing, even as Jesus calls out a last time on the cross

They miss the most wonderful moment mankind had ever hoped for

                        – the very inauguration of the Kingdom of God.

They fail to see the significance of the darkness that comes over the earth

            (This world’s darkest moment as they crucify the Lord);

And they also fail to understand the meaning of the curtain tearing in two in the temple

            (forever removing the divide between God and His creation);

Just three day after the crucifixion, a mere three days after Good Friday, they are ready to give up altogether on their faith. (and in hindsight we can say - eight days is all it took many of the first believers in Jerusalem to loose their faith).

Forgotten are the mighty deeds of the Lord who had promised - and delivered - on His promises in history, time and time again; and who through his scripture had foretold the coming of His son, the Messiah.

And so the those erstwhile believers walk away from the cross, further and further away from the cross….and with each step they walk away from the cross, they walk towards…hopelessness//to a feeling of 

            this is the end!

///Just like the two men, on their way to Emmaus, a town eleven kilometres from Jerusalem…

((Brothers and sisters, I am going to stick quite close to the text from here on, so if you want to, now will be a good time to keep your bibles open at Luke 24!))

//

When we meet these two people, one called Cleopas, the other unknown (possibly his wife) they, too, have walked away from the cross in despair.

Luke writes they are pondering the events of the past few days

And as they walk, they find themselves more and more at a loss for understanding.

           

There mood is one of disappointment.

One moment they were going to be subjects of the most glorious King who had ever lived,

            and the next, their King … the last they heard of Him, was buried in a tomb.

Then Jesus catches up with them and asks what they are talking about,

            and now Luke places them – and their mood - centre stage:

he has them stop dead in their tracks, right in the middle of that dusty road to Emmaus: Verse 17 “Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

Luke writes: “They stood still, their faces downcast.

            It soon becomes obvious… they do not recognise Jesus.

Then Cleopas asks this man who has broken into their conversation:

            verse 18 “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem, and do not know the things that have       happened there in these days?”

On the side we might remark…What wonderful irony in Cleopas’ question:

(Jesus is not the stranger; it is they who are strangers – strangers to the truth!)

Jesus is there with them, and again – just like it was when He was hanging on the cross – they do not recognise Him.

           

Verse 16 “but they were kept from recognizing him,

            meaning, their lack of faith stopped them from recognising Jesus!

Does our lack of faith sometimes stop us from recognising Jesus, even in this day and age?

Do we recognise the love of Jesus, and therefore Jesus Himself, in the many mercies He bestows on our lives, like our daily bread – and the roof over our heads and the one, two or three cars we drive;

do we fail to recognise Jesus in the blessing of loved ones, and health, and the lives of those who journey with us, sometimes on long journeys, sometimes on short ones.

Do we fail to recognise Jesus when he strengthens us in times of despair, giving us renewed hope?

How many times have we heard this Gospel….seen God’s goodness, and yet, how often do we find ourselves back on the road to Emmaus, alone with our doubt, unable to see that Jesus is there on the road with us, strengthening us, pointing us toward His cross and saying:

“can’t you see? I have suffered for you, too. I have paid the price for you, so that you, too, may share in God’s glory!

The travellers on their way to Emmaus, too, did not recognise Jesus when He joined them.

verse 18 “Then Cleopas asks Jesus: Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

 

And Jesus replies: 19 “What things?”    

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they say. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.

Can you see their unbelief.

These two have now actually walked far enough away from the cross for them to have decided that Jesus was not the Messiah!

He was a prophet, they say – by implication, not the Messiah!

(today, 2000 years later, this is a statement we still often hear today “Jesus was a great man, yes, but surely he was no more than a prophet, many people still say this today).

And then the two on their way to Emmaus start categorizing their unbelief: they say…

            Jesus could not have been the Messiah, for he died!

            verse  20 “The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to                           death, and they crucified him;” He is dead, they are saying.

Also, he could not have been the Messiah for He did not redeem Israel:

            See verse 21 “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.                                      And Israel, at that time of course, had not been redeemed, they say.

           

And what is more, they say… verse 21 and onwards “…it is the third day since all this took place”. With other words… three days have gone past, and nothing has happened.

                        We don’t believe that anything will now change anymore.

And they do not stop there. Still they carry on to motivate their disbelief: In addition, they say… verse 22 ///

“In addition, some of our women amazed us.

They went to the tomb early this morning …verse 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. 

Verse 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.” 

            They are saying…We did not find Him there. We did not see Him….how can we          believe that He was the Messiah?

////

But then the mood in this gospel, changes.

They start walking along again…And Jesus starts showing Himself to them, showing that He truly was the Messiah,

            and He does so in a way that they could quite easily, by the grace of God, have seen for themselves

–        he reminds them of the scriptures and the fact that it is all there…just take it and read it and believe it, He says to them!

–        It is all there, he explains. Why will you not believe?

–        Why will you not believe it, even now, especially now that you have seen Jesus’ suffering Jesus’ suffering is the living proof that He was the Messiah, for Scripture has always said that Jesus would have to suffer for our sake!

Verse 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?” 

This, brothers and sisters, verse 26, is the big idea of this part of Luke’s gospel.

           

Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

And …did not everybody witness the Christ’s suffering?

            Is not everybody still talking about it?

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

           

But in our weakness, we want proof! That is our nature.

If we were there we would have said: what scriptures?

Where in the Old Testament do we see that it was foretold that Jesus would suffer on the cross, for our sake?

And Jesus, would answer in this way:

                       

Read Isaiah 53:3

            “He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.



Do you see?

And also, Psalm 22:

Hear the now well known words…

            1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, and am not silent.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the praise of Israel.

4 In you our fathers put their trust;

they trusted and you delivered them.

5 They cried to you and were saved;

in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

And there it is in Zechariah 13:

            The Shepherd Struck, the Sheep Scattered

7 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,

against the man who is close to me!”

declares the Lord Almighty.

“Strike the shepherd,

and the sheep will be scattered,

and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

8 In the whole land,” declares the Lord,

“two-thirds will be struck down and perish;

yet one-third will be left in it.

9 This third I will bring into the fire;

I will refine them like silver

and test them like gold.

They will call on my name

and I will answer them;

I will say, ‘They are my people,’

and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

Look towards scripture, Jesus says. It is all there…and then look towards the cross – remember the cross and my suffering, for in my very suffering lies your salvation, just as God promised.

Yes … look towards the cross, and then remember that it did not end there.

            Jesus died on the cross, but three days later, He rose again – so look towards his resurrection, too!

On the third day (exactly the day that the two men from Emmaus say, look it is already the third day and nothing has happened…) Jesus has risen and is alive for all eternity, for your sake and mine – and he is there on that road to Emmaus, with the two weary travellers.

Yes, in Jesus suffering - and in His resurrection - lies the affirmation that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour and that we will partake in His promise to be His people.

Two thousand years on, this is a message that we cannot hear enough!

You will remember the illustration I shared with you in the beginning of this sermon,

            of the hopelessness expressed by the mother whose child had died in the plane crash;

there can be little doubt brothers and sisters that we arrive at moments in life that we might also feel without hope; that we might feel as if God is a long way off…

but

                       

knowing what we surely know, that Jesus suffered on the cross, died and was buried and was resurrected, shall we remain without hope when a loved one dies before we do; when we struggle in life or when we are tested to the limit by the sinfulness of this world?

With God’s mercy and strength, should we cling to the hope and promise of God and know that death and suffering has already been overcome?

For, by God’s mercy, in faith we know that death is in fact neither final nor even certain at all?

Death is not final. As sure as the Lord Jesus suffered and died on the cross, the Lord Jesus also conquered death and sin and suffering.

What is more, Jesus may for all intents and purposes even return before we die. We should stop living as if we are still in the grip of the certainty of death, and live in the full hope of the return of our Lord and Saviour at any time – then we will not say…all hope has died in me!

If it is true that Jesus was crucified, it is certainly true that Jesus has overcome death

            and just as we share in Jesus death and suffering … in the same way we share in His resurrection, just like it has always been promised.

            Our lives, brothers and sisters, should reflect this hope. And we should already celebrate this wonderful future, even now in the present! We should enjoy our lives, because in the Lord we already share in His everlasting Kingdom!

If we believe this, what will the result be in our lives…?

At the end of that journey to Emmaus, just before Jesus seemed like He was going to leave the two he had met on their way, they asked him to stay with them for the night.

And now the moment of truth arrives for them – their eyes would be opened and they would understand everything that Jesus had said to them … when?

            When he breaks the bread and serves it to them, then Luke says…they believed!

No doubt he urges them again to remember his body on the cross, and to believe, just as he did during the last supper, urging the apostles to remember Him whenever they broke bread and shared it and the wine – the symbols of His body and His blood.

And we read that when they understood this, they believed, and recognised Him:

verse 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

 

And what do they do?

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together  and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”

 

Now they do not stop in there tracks any more, they continue their journey, immediately, full of joy and faith, for their eyes have been opened.

They immediately take to the road again, back to Jerusalem, another eleven kilometres stretch, for the news, the knowledge is too good to keep to themselves.

That is the nature of faith, brothers and sisters. It fills us with joy and excitement!

Now the recognise Jesus for who He is,/// even though he had by then again disappeared from their sight.

Now they will believe even though he is no longer with them, not for three days, or five days or even eight days, but forever and ever, for now they understand why the crucified Lord had to suffer.

Yes now, only then, with their eyes opened to the truth, could they really believe that the Lord had risen.

And so their journey of doubt on that road to Emmaus, by God’s grace, becomes a journey towards faith.

When we walk from Church this morning, brothers and sisters, as we set of on our own personal journey… will we not do so with joy in our stride?

Shall we not go into this week, into the world, with a feeling of sure hope…in spite of difficult days that will surely come – but in such a way that we do not feel alone, that we do not feel hopeless?

As we go into this week, shall we not ponder the Easter happenings a little longer?

Of course we will…

Even more, let us be reminded of it every time that we run into strife… or heartache –

Let us be reminded that it is in the Lord’s suffering that we may know

            that the life that awaits us will far by outshine our present day sufferings. By God’s grace, we know it is true!     

We know that Our Lord Jesus suffered and died on the cross!

            We know that Our Lord rose again on the third day – just as it was foretold by scripture, and witnessed            by many!

We may know as surely as we believe, by Gods grace alone, that we will live with our Lord forever - that is what God promised.

           

And God never breaks His promises!

Amen


----

a Or your righteous One

b Or He is the one who turns aside God~s wrath, taking away our sins, and not only ours but also

c Or word, love for God

[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984.

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