Monday, March 17, 2008

Let's Take A Walk

(Easter Sermon 2008 - Text: Luke 24:13-32)

There is a walk I’d like for you to take with me, today. This walk was taken nearly 2000 years ago. It was a walk taken by three men, two of whom are confused and filled with pain, they think they know more than their companion does—but he knows so much more than they.

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
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."
We are so tempted to view these disciples comically—to view them as dimwits who have no concept of what’s going on! They have half of the gospel message down: He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him…But the resurrection half of the message is walking right beside them! Oh we would be so much more wise and informed! But would we? It’s hard to see clearly when your eyes are filled with tears. Notice how Jesus walks with them in their despair. He doesn’t wait for them to exercise great faith—he doesn’t wait until they are in a better mood—he condescends to walk with them in their pain and confusion, unknown and unrecognized. Have you walked that walk? Your husband loses his job, you're in the middle of an ugly divorce, a family member is involved in a terrible accident, your health deteriorates and never seems to get better, finances dwindle while bills pile up.

You have the suffering part of the gospel message down—but you wonder: Where is God when I need him? Where is Jesus? Where is that resurrection promise? You feel guilty for not having much faith—you feel guilty for wondering.

But it’s really hard to see clearly when your eyes are filled with tears!

So what does Jesus do? In what I see as a gentle rebuke Jesus tells them the issue isn’t dimwittedness as it is a dull heart—and then he opens the Scriptures with them.
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.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29But 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 recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
These aren’t new revelations or even new interpretations. Jesus has been teaching his followers for three years about what would happen to the Messiah. They had heard these things before! It’s easy to criticize them—but when you’re little boy looks up into your worried face and says, “Don’t worry mommy, you told me God is there when we’re afraid” you get an idea of what they were going through. Sometimes we, like they, just need to be reminded.

There is a word play in chapter 24. Jesus opened their eyes after he opened scripture to them. Later on in verse 45 when Jesus is talking with the apostles Luke says: Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke tells us there is a dynamic between the opening of eyes and the opening of scripture. Add to that the breaking of bread—where Jesus is recognized when he serves as host. But it all starts with the Scripture. Luke ties it all together: the opening of the scripture with the opening of eyes and the opening of the mind. It isn’t until they understand God’s Word that they understand God’s presence in the breaking of bread.

This is difficult for us because we are so geared to experience and visual stimulus—we want to experience the resurrected Christ is some mysterious inexplicable way. And yet, the consistent witness of people of faith and the witness of the Bible tells us that the experience of the resurrection is closely tied to hearing or reading the message and then in the joy of breaking bread. Are we surprised that when Christians face the ultimate challenge of death that they usually turn to scripture for a source of hope and strength? It is in meditation upon and listening to the Word that we begin to understand that the resurrected Lord walks with us! It is in prayer and meditation in his word that we begin to grasp his presence. It is in the experience of community and the sharing of food where the joy of resurrection is revealed. My challenge to you is to begin today to open your eyes by opening your Bible—for some of you it may be the first time you really see him—and you may discover that you love him.

I don’t know what kind of challenges and problems you’ve faced this week. In your fear, despair, and frustration it is so easy to miss sight of Jesus. But you’ve heard the word: He is here. In a moment we’re going to take bread and remember we don’t serve a dead teacher, but a risen Messiah! Everything has changed! Don’t let your tears prevent you from recognizing his presence! The pain of the cross is eclipsed by the joy of the resurrection.

In a few minutes you are going to walk out the doors of this building. You will return to facing all kinds of situations: some of you will be content with few challenges; others will be facing very difficult situations—maybe even an uncertain future. I want you to hear something clearly: Jesus walks with you. You may not realize it, it may seem he is in another world, you may not see him, you may not recognize him—not until you open the scripture and break bread with him. Right now, let’s break bread with our host: the resurrected Messiah! And then let’s walk out into the streets of our city living in the confidence that our Lord walks with us.

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