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Gospel: Luke 24:13-35 (NIV)
- Hymn CW 452 “The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done”
- Hymn CW 938 “This Is the Feast”
- Men’s Chorus “He Never Failed Me Yet”
- Hymn CW 519 “There is a Redeemer”
- Hymn CW 512:1,5,6 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”
Easter 3 April 23, 2023
Luke 24:13-35 Pastor Wolfe
Jesus’ Words Bring Hope!
1) His Words Reveal the Truth
2) His Words Inspire Our Hearts
As we continue today in our Easter joy, think back on the appearances of Jesus we’ve already seen. Easter Sunday we heard about Jesus appearance to the women near the tomb. Through tears Mary saw her Savior and her worries disappeared, replaced with comfort. Last week we saw Jesus appear to the ten disciples and then to the same group plus Thomas. Jesus took away their fear with his greeting, “Peace be with you,” and with the promise of his presence. We don’t get to all of Jesus’ resurrection appearances in worship. You have to read the Bible to learn about them. Jesus appeared to seven of the disciples while they were fishing in Galilee. He appeared to Peter privately. To James. To more than five hundred believers.
All of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances served to prove that he was really alive, but they were more than that. Each time Jesus appeared he brought just what his followers needed. For Mary and his close disciples he took something away. Their worries. Their fears. Today we go back to that first Easter Sunday, in the evening this time, and rather than take away a negative, Jesus gives these two disciples something positive. These disciples needed hope. And that is exactly what Jesus gave them.
The first verse sets the scene. “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.” Again, this is still Easter Sunday, just toward the evening now. We don’t know much about these two disciples or why they were going to Emmaus. One is named Cleopas; the other is unnamed. We do know, however, what was on their minds. “They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” Jesus could have stopped these two disciples and simply said, “Hey, I’m alive.” But instead he walked with them for a while. It seems Jesus wanted to show them the truth slowly. To meet them where they were. To build them up not with one shocking reveal, but bit by bit through the words he spoke. He wanted them to have hope not just in a moment for a moment. But long and lasting hope. And that takes time.
You’ve heard over the last two weeks about the despair Jesus’ followers felt at Jesus’ crucifixion. These two were no different. Jesus asked them as they walked, “What are you discussing together?” Luke describes the depth of their discouragement. “They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’
‘What things?’ he asked.” And these two disciples let their emotions flow. Look at verses 19-24 and imagine the tone they must have said this with. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. ‘‘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 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. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”” The events of Good Friday had dashed these disciples’ hopes. They had watched and listened to Jesus. They trusted him and thought he would change their lives for the better. But now he was dead. His closest disciples were in hiding. And it seemed that even his body was carried away. These disciples were lost, confused, and hopeless.
Now let me break into the story for a second. These disciples may not have known it at the time, but Jesus was walking with them for the express purpose of giving them hope again. He was there not only to prove that he was alive but also to deal with their disappointment. The truth about what he had accomplished would give them hope to overcome any despair, present or future. Jesus’ death had to happen. To redeem Israel. Only it wasn’t to buy them back from Rome – it was to buy them back from sin and hell. In fact he had redeemed not the nation of Israel, but the whole world through his suffering and death. Jesus’ resurrection was proof that their hopes had not been misplaced. They just didn’t know it yet.
But we do. Several thousand Sundays later we find ourselves often wandering through a sin-darkened world filled with shattered hopes. The Bible tells us that God rules everything for our good, that he is always with us and always hears us. It tells us he always answers prayer in the best imaginable way. God’s Word promises that God will bless us and restore us. It’s supposed to be a good thing to be a believer! But don’t you find that what God promises doesn’t always match what we experience? We had hoped things would be better for us as his followers. We naturally think that life should be easier as a disciple of Jesus. Maybe not perfect, but definitely better.
Instead we face all kinds of trials and troubles. Our bodies get sick, and wear out, and die. Our relationships become strained and sometime outright broken. We struggle to make ends meet. We had hoped Jesus would do something about the evil in the world. But violence, murder, and hatred seem to thrive while good is looked down upon. Each of us could add our own personal list of hopes that we had that just haven’t come true. But hear the rest of this story from Emmaus, because Jesus is ready to deal with our disappointment. He’s ready to renew our hope too. All we have to do is listen. His words reveal the truth.
Luke told us it was about seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Now, we don’t know how far they were when Jesus came to them, but we know it was long enough for Jesus to have a heart to heart. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Can you imagine a personal Bible study with Jesus? One where he explained everything the Bible said about him? It must have been incredible. By the time they reached their destination, these disciples had been transformed. Their disappointment over Jesus had been removed and their confusion about Jesus had been cleared up. Through it all their living Lord had fanned their smoldering faith into flames.
And they still didn’t even know that Jesus was alive! Luke goes on to tell us, “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 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. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 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?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.”
Do you see the effect the words of Jesus had on these men? These disciples, so lost and forlorn at the start of their trip, were now excited. They were so eager to tell the other disciples that they had seen Jesus that a seven-mile walk to Jerusalem in the dark couldn’t keep them from sharing what they had experienced. The text says “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.” Jesus’ words had changed everything. And they do this not just for these two on the day of resurrection, but for us as well. This is where we find ourselves in this text. All God’s children who hear the word and study the word find our hearts burning with faith too. It’s the joyful realization of the newly converted as they open their eyes and recognize forgiveness for the first time. Or the strong burning glow of the lifelong Christian who has learned through time and trial to trust in God for blessings. Old faith or new faith, God comes to us in his Word to remind us of our Easter victory in Jesus. To inspire us to live and serve our Lord. That is why we keep coming back here for worship to take walks in the Word with our risen Savior. It’s why we devote a third of our service time every week to hearing the readings and digging into them in the sermon. It’s why Christians gather for Bible study together and read the Word at home on their own. When we make time for God’s Word, we find our living Lord revealing his truth and restoring our hope.
Every time Jesus appeared to a believer after his resurrection, he came with a purpose. He brought joy to Mary. Peace to the disciples. Proof to Thomas. Hope to these two. Brothers and sisters, don’t keep God from bringing you these Easter gifts to you. Go home today and open your Bible. Walk with Jesus in the Word and hear his love and promises. Let him restore your hope and renew your faith. Have hope because Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. Amen.