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I recently read a beautiful legend about a king who decided to set aside a special day to honor his greatest subject. When the big day arrived, there was a large gathering in the palace courtyard. Four finalists were brought forward, and from these four, the king would select the winner.
The first person presented was a wealthy philanthropist. The king was told that this man was highly deserving of the honor because of his humanitarian efforts. He had given much of his wealth to the poor.
The second person was a celebrated physician. The king was told that this doctor was highly deserving of the honor because he had rendered faithful and dedicated service to the sick for many years.
The third person was a distinguished judge. The king was told that the judge was worthy because he was noted for his wisdom, his fairness, and his brilliant decisions.
The fourth person presented was an elderly woman. Everyone was quite surprised to see her there, because her manner was quite humble, as was her dress. She hardly looked the part of someone who would be honored as the greatest subject in the kingdom. What chance could she possibly have, when compared to the other three, who had accomplished so much? Even so, there was something about her the look of love in her face, the understanding in her eyes, her quiet confidence.
The king was intrigued, to say the least, and somewhat puzzled by her presence. He asked who she was. The answer came: “You see the philanthropist, the doctor, and the judge? Well, she was their teacher!”
That woman had no wealth, no fortune, and no title, but she had unselfishly given her life to produce great people. There is nothing more powerful or more Christlike than sacrificial love.
The king could not see the value in the humble lady. He missed the significance of the teacher. Often we miss the value of those around us. I think it would surprise us to know how often we miss the presence of Christ just as Cleopas and his brother missed the significance of the stranger on the road to Emmaus.
It is likewise easy for us to miss the significance of the resurrection. So on the road to Emmaus…
Don't miss the significance of the resurrection: It transforms us. Look closely at what happens to these two brothers as they journey from Jerusalem to their home in the city of Emmaus seven miles away. A stranger, whom we know is Jesus, joins them. He asks them what they are talking about and they stop dead in their tracks. They can hardly bring themselves to discuss it they are so saddened by the events of the last three days. Their friend, their master, their rabbi, the one they describe as a mighty prophet, has been unjustly condemned to death and violently killed on a cross. They say to their companion, “Are you the only person in all of Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place?”
This would be enough to unsettle anyone but new and disturbing information is being told. Reports about his tomb being empty and the crazy notions of some who say he is alive. Listen to what happens next on that dusty road at the end of the day. This is the part that intrigues me. Jesus begins to interpret the Old Testament and explains to them how all these things were spoken of by Moses and the Prophets. He opens the Scriptures to them. He transforms their thinking. They had no idea these things were supposed to take place. They had concluded that Jesus’ mission had failed. They now understand that the last three days was the plan all along.
Finally the two brothers invite Jesus into their home. He has dinner with them. Again Jesus transformed the event. There at that ordinary dinner at the end of the day this stranger takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, gives it to them…and their eyes are opened. In that moment they were transformed.
There’s a story about a young boy named Walter Elias. Born in the city, his parents one day moved out to the country to become farmers. Walter had a vivid imagination and the farm was the perfect place for a young boy and a wondering mind. One day in the apple orchard he was amazed when he saw sitting on a branch of one of the apple trees an owl. He just stood there and stared at the owl. He thought about what his father had told him about owls: owls always rested during the day because they hunted throughout the night. This owl was asleep. He also thought that this owl might make a great pet.
Being careful not to make any noises he stepped over sticks and leaves. The owl was in a deep sleep because it never heard Walter Elias walking toward it. Finally, standing under the owl, he reached up and grabbed the owl by the legs. Now, the events that followed are difficult to explain. Suddenly everything was utter chaos. The owl came to life. Walter’s thoughts about keeping the bird as a pet were quickly forgotten. The air filled with wings, and feathers, and screaming. In the excitement Walter held the legs tighter. And in his panic, Walter Elias, still holding on to the owl, threw it to the ground and stomped it to death. After things calmed down, Walter looked at the now dead and bloody bird and began to cry. He ran back to the farm, obtained a shovel, and buried the owl in the orchard.
At night he would dream of that owl. As the years passed he never got over what had happened that summer day. Deep down it affected him for the rest of his life. As an older man he said he never, ever killed anything again. Do you see it? Something significant happened after that event. Something that Walter didn’t miss. Something which transformed Walter Elias, something that redeemed him from the pit of despair, something that resurrected him, something that made Walter Elias Disney give life to thousands of animals on the big screen.
The resurrection changes everything. It transforms us. It moves us from despair to new possibilities of life. It takes us in our blindness and opens our eyes. It transforms ordinary bread into a holy meal. It takes two sad and lost brothers on the road to Emmaus who had lost the only the world they knew and gives it back to them. Jesus comes to them and says see I am not dead. I am alive. Now tell the world.
On the road to Emmaus, as we travel home, don’t miss the significance of the resurrection. We can be transformed and secondly we can be convicted. Look at verse 32. When the brothers realize that it is the risen Lord who is with them he vanishes. They turn to each other and say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” Isn’t that true to life? We usually don’t understand what is happening to us until we change. Then we look back and we see the conviction of our hearts.
One of the greatest voices of the church was St. Augustine. He lived between the 4th and 5th centuries in Rome and was a Bishop. After Rome fell and faded into dust it was largely Augustine’s writings that kept Christianity alive and made it the most influential movement the world had ever known. It is remarkable that between the 8th and 12th centuries his writings were more widely read than any other. And that was 400 to 700 years after his death.
But he was not always a saint. Before he was converted at age 29 he lived to fulfill every lust and pleasure. But Augustine had one great quality that saved his pitiful life—a praying mother. She never gave up on him until one day he stopped long enough to listen to the voices around him. Augustine had just heard a sermon by Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.
We are told in public speaking and preaching classes not to read long quotes but I’m going to do it anyway and read something that Augustine wrote. These two paragraphs shaped the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of people throughout history. He is looking back on his conversion to Christianity and the convictions of his heart. Here’s the quote:
“One day, under deep conviction: I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out…So was I weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting and oft repeating, "Take up and read; Take up and read." Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like.
So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find... Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius (his friend) was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh...’ No further would I read; nor needed I for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”
Convictions do not always lead to conversion but Transformation cannot happen unless we are first convicted. We may not recognize the conviction at first but on the road to Emmaus don’t miss the significance of the resurrection: It convicts us. And that conviction can change us and the world around us.
Finally, don’t miss the significance of the resurrection: It can make us witnesses. And this is perhaps the area where most of us fail. You are certainly not alone if you have never spoken to another person about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Very few people live the life of Billy Graham. I recently read that Billy Graham has “preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history -- over 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories” (source: billygraham.org).
You can measure the numbers but you cannot measure the effect upon the world when one man reaches millions. Try to calculate the homes kept in tact, the marriages saved, the children given spiritually mature fathers, the young saved from drugs, and thousands of other influences that Graham has had. You cannot. The significance of that one life cannot be calculated. Even more, there is no lab or library that can account for the impact the resurrection has had upon history.
You take the resurrection out of the Gospel and the house of cards of Christianity will fall to the ground. Paul recognized this when he wrote to the Corinthians. Some were saying that the resurrection never happened. Paul made it clear. He said, if Christ has not been raised then your faith is in vain and the Gospel is nothing but a charade. Scenic Hills United Methodist Church [insert you church here] let me proclaim to you this day that Christ has indeed been raised form the dead!
At the end of this story the two brothers do what is only natural. The get up, walk back to Jerusalem and tell the disciples whom they have seen. That’s being a witness. Telling your friends what you have seen. You do not have to be Billy Graham. You simply tell what you have seen. The resurrection is significant enough to do the rest of the work for you. It was the power behind the witness of the disciples, it was the power behind these two brothers on the road home to Emmaus, it was the power of Paul who brought the gospel to Rome, it was the power of Augustine, and Billy Graham. And it is the power behind your witness as well. On the road home don’t miss the power of the resurrection to convict, to transform, and to make you his witnesses.