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Worship Series: Change of Plans
Worship Theme: All We Can Do Is Go for a Walk
Epistle Lesson: 1 Peter 1:17-21 (EHV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: Luke 24:13-35 (EHV)
Songs: See, What a Morning, You’ll Never Leave Me, On Emmaus’ Road, Just a Closer Walk with Thee (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: All We Can Do Is Go for a Walk
My dear friends in Christ,
Change of plans. That phrase describes our existence since the beginning of March. We’re doing work and school online from home. We watch church on our devices and TV’s. We’re relegated to viewing classic sports contests—1987 World Series, 2014 Game 7 Wild vs. Avalanche. The 1965 All Star Game with Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew starring for the Twins. Now what do we do? Try a new hobby. Do a puzzle. Get out a cookbook and hone those culinary skills. Play a new game. Get outside and do some yard work. Take a bike ride. Maybe all we can do is go for a walk.
On that first Easter, two of Jesus’ disciples found themselves in the same conundrum. They had all kinds of plans. After celebrating the Passover with Jesus, things would go on as normal. They would travel throughout Palestine. Jesus would do miracles. People would be amazed. Jesus would teach. The crowds would learn. Jesus and his disciples would laugh together, share meals together. You know, the things they always did, the same way they always had.
All that changed quickly and dramatically. Jesus was dead. These two disciples had witnessed his execution. They knew where he was buried. It was all over. Their hopes were dashed. All they could do was go for a walk. It was about 7 miles to the town of Emmaus, probably about a 2 ½ to 3 hour journey, depending on how slowly they traveled and how many times they stopped. They set out, sullenly scuffing their sandals along the road, kicking at rocks and discussing the horrible events of the past week.
Somewhere along the way a stranger joined them. He listened to their discussion but appeared to be ignorant of the things that had taken place in Jerusalem. Where had he been? How could he not know? The stranger invited them to fill him in and asked, “What things?”
“What things? Oh, let us tell you what things.” The two men poured out their hearts! “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19 EHV). They shared the whole story—the betrayal, the arrest, the sentencing, the crucifixion. They had hoped Jesus was the one to redeem Israel—to truly buy them back from sin and death—but it seemed they had misplaced their hope. On top of it all, some of the women disciples brought back impossible news that very morning. Jesus’ body was missing. They claimed to have seen angels who told them that Jesus was alive. Some of the disciples went to see for themselves. They found everything the way the women had described it, but didn’t find Jesus.
We’re in the exact same spot, aren’t we? COVID-19 has brought about a change of plans for the entire world. What do we do? All we can do is go for a walk. As we walk, we feel the same way Cleopas and his companion felt. We sullenly kick at the stones and dirt at the unfairness of it all. Jesus can hear our discussions, and he slowly approaches us too. “What things are bothering you?” he asks. His eyes look deep into ours. “Tell me. Pour out your heart and get everything out on the table.” He invites us to be honest and authentic with him.
What “things” do you need to get off your chest and share with Jesus?
- Lord, this is crazy! Who could ever imagine this?
- I can’t handle the uncertainty. What about my job? My family? My bank account?
- I didn’t sign up for this—I can’t go to work each day with this hanging over my head!
- I am overwhelmed working from home and trying to supervise my children’s classes.
- What about me and my special day? Confirmation? Graduation? Birthday? Wedding day? Mom’s funeral?
- What other things would you pour out to Jesus?
We sit and wait. We ask him, “Why aren’t you doing anything? Why won’t you help?” What will Jesus say? How will he answer? We might expect the stranger to utter words of sympathy for the plight of these two men and for you and me. Instead, Jesus said, “How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25 EHV). Jesus points out our weakness. We have the answers. We have his Word. Sometimes we’re too foolish to listen and believe it!
Jesus provided direction for foolishness and doubt. Notice, he didn’t do a miracle in front of them. He didn’t shout, “Surprise! I’m alive!” He pointed them to the Word. “‘Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:26–27 EHV). Jesus not only walked along the road with them. He walked them through the pages of Scripture.
The two men had identified him as a prophet. Jesus showed them he was much more. He quoted Moses: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brother Israelites. Listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15 EHV). Jesus walked them through the prophets’ predictions, including the things Isaiah had prophesied. The Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7). He would come from the line of David (Isaiah 11). He would be pierced for sins, suffer silently, be buried with the rich, and finally would see the light of life again (Isaiah 53).
The stranger pointed out how Jesus of Nazareth had done everything the Old Testament Scriptures promised. As the travelers drew near Emmaus, the stranger told them he would continue on his way. Cleopas and his companion invited the man to stay. It was mealtime and soon darkness would fall. The stranger agreed and reclined at the table. He took some of the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them. Here’s the miracle—suddenly the two recognized the man. This was no random stranger—it was Jesus! He was alive! In that moment Jesus vanished without another word.
Another change of plans! The two disciples had to take another walk—make it a power walk, or even a run. They couldn’t wait to get back to Jerusalem. They were excited and amazed that they had seen Jesus, but that wasn’t the reason for their change of plans. “They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was speaking to us along the road and while he was explaining the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32 EHV). Yes, it was Jesus teaching them. Yes, the risen Savior had appeared to them. But it was the Word that set their hearts on fire! That shouldn’t surprise us either. The Old Testament Scriptures that pointed so clearly to Jesus also pointed to this moment in time. The LORD told the prophet Jeremiah, “Is not my word like a fire?” (Jeremiah 23:29 EHV). Jeremiah himself couldn’t stop that fire from burning! “If I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak in his name anymore,’ then there is a burning fire in my heart, shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in. I cannot!” (Jeremiah 20:9 EHV).
Remember all those things we listed earlier, the things we would get off our chests if Jesus was walking with us? We let it all out, maybe even with some tears and some honest anger about our situations. Jesus’ solution for the change of plans we have experienced is the same one he shared with those two disciples: “Let’s take a walk and talk a little bit.” Does it help a little to hear Jesus say, “Didn’t I have to suffer these things and enter my glory?” (Luke 24:26 EHV). Jesus knows how difficult life can be. He even begged his Father to take the cup of suffering away from him. He begged, but submitted to his Father’s plan because that plan couldn’t change—not if he loved us and wanted to rescue us from our sin and death. Jesus knows the hurt in our hearts, the sorrow over missed family gatherings, the frustration with jobs, the fear of what might or might not happen in the next few months. Jesus knows, so he listens to you and me. He listens intently and intensely.
Once Jesus has listened to us, he’s earned the right to respond. He has some incredible things to share! When we’re struggling because life is crazy and we’ve never seen anything like it, Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace in me. In this world you are going to have trouble. But be courageous! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33 EHV).
When we are facing an uncertain future and wonder how we’re going to make it, Jesus leans in and whispers, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’” (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV). “My Father has you. You are the children he loves. He’ll never let anything take you away from him!”
Do we need strength to face simply to face today? Whether it’s working on the front lines to treat people, or working in an online office or school room, Jesus points us to this heart-kindling promise: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 EHV).
When we’ve missed that special day and everything we’ve worked for feels unrecognized and uncelebrated, Jesus shares the words of the prophet Zephaniah: “The LORD your God is with you as a hero who will save you. He takes great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 EHV). Even if no one else does, God celebrates you. He is proud of your accomplishments. He is excited for your future. He sings an eternal song of love and blessing over your life!
What do these words do for your hearts? I pray that it causes them to burn with love for Jesus, to glow with excitement to hear more of God’s Word, and with a fiery need to share it with someone. Who do you know that is struggling with this change of plans? Who needs to hear Jesus’ voice explaining the Scriptures to them? Maybe all you can do is take a walk with them, even if it’s virtual, and share the fire burning in your heart, a fire that you can’t hold inside!
As we continue to work through this time of quarantine, don’t forget what we’ve heard today. Jesus is always ready to listen, so pour it all out on him. Then it’s our turn to listen. Listen to his voice. Spend time in his Word. See how the entire Bible points to Jesus. Experience the comfort and strength and love he pours into our hearts, and rest, rest in his loving embrace! Amen.