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Apr 16, 2017

Recognizing the Risen Christ on the Road of Life

Recognizing the Risen Christ on the Road of Life

Passage: Luke 24:13-35

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Holy Week 2017

Category: Easter

Keywords: abuse, disappointment, discouragement, doubt, faith, hope, redemption

Summary:

Jesus' disciples' disappointment over His death has much to teach us about how we need to handle our own times of doubt, darkness and disappointment. His resurrection has much to encourage us in those time.

Detail:

Recognizing the Risen Christ on the Road of Life

Easter 2017

Luke 24:13-35

STORY:  I heard recently about 3 friends were discussing death.  One of the guys asked the group, “What do you hope people will say about you at your funeral?”
…1st fellow – I’d like to hear people say of me, "He was such a great humanitarian, who cared about his neighbors, his friends and his community"
…2nd -- "I guess my hopes are a little more localized.  I hope my family and friends will talk about what a great husband and father I’ve been, and how I modeled good family leadership for those around me."
…3rd  fellow was quiet for a moment.  Then he said, “Well, I hope someone says, "Hey look, he’s moving!!"” 

Last week we took a look at Jesus’ Road to the Cross, specifically the people Jesus engaged during that week leading up to his death on the cross at Calvary.  But today, the whole church worldwide is celebrating The Resurrection Road—that series of events surrounding and including the physical, bodily, miraculous resurrection of the crucified, dead and entombed Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago.  We’re not talking fable or fiction.  We’re talking historical FACT, verified by hundreds of eyewitnesses

            Among the numerous, historically verifiable appearances of Jesus after His resurrection is one of my favorite encounters Jesus had with two hikers on the “road to Emmaus.”  It’s one of my favorites because I think so many of us can find ourselves in this story if we’re honest. 

            It’s found only in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24. Let’s walk our way through this passage like these 2 travelers did…but in a lot less time!

(Read Luke 24:13-17

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. 15 As 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?”

So let’s set the stage.  This paragraph introduces us to 2 people the day of Jesus’ resurrection who were still decimated by what had happened when the Romans and the Jews crucified Jesus of Nazareth 3 days earlier.  As we’re going to see, Jesus wasn’t just some well-known public figure when it came to these 2 people.  He wasn’t even just a friend to them. He was someone whose death caused them to question the most fundamental, most life-shaping ideas on which they were staking their very existence. 

 

So let’s start off by getting some of the facts straight first. 

  • What’s the TIMING of this little jaunt? According to vs. 13, it was “that same day” as the beginning of ch. 24.  That would make it Resurrection Sunday, probably mid to late afternoon based on the rest of the story.  It was no “special day” as far as these 2 knew.  But the reality was, it was already THE DAY that changed history.  They just didn’t fully grasp that yet!

APP:  We rarely know what God is doing on the days that may seem most confusing to us.  Any day of our lives when we have an encounter with the living Jesus can become a truly historic day for each of us.  Maybe today is that day for you despite how this may seem like “any other Easter Sunday.”

ILL:  We were talking about this with David a couple of weeks ago in Alabama while driving down I-10.  Like many of us, he can remember the day when he was only 4 years old that Sandy led him in putting his faith in Jesus.  Why should that day among all others, even at age 4, stand out to him for the rest of his life?  Because he met Jesus on his road of life that day as a child.    

Any day we encounter Jesus makes history!

  • WHO were these 2 hikers? 13 just says there were “two of them.” Vs. 9 tells us that they were two of the people gathered with the Eleven Apostles the morning of the resurrection of Jesus.  We’re even given the name of one of them in vs. 18, Cleopas. That’s the only time that exact name appears in the Bible.  It might be a different spelling of a Clopas in John 19:25 who was Jesus’ uncle on his father’s side. If that is who it was, perhaps the others person was his unnamed wife, Jesus’ aunt.  

But I’m inclined to believe it might just have been a couple of the many “disciples” of Jesus who were simply chosen by Jesus to be some of the first to see him. 

NOTE:  Isn’t it interesting how all of the first appearances of the resurrected Jesus were not to the 11 remaining Apostles but mostly women and a bunch of no-name disciples?  I wonder why???  I’m guessing it could be that Jesus loves to reveal himself to everyone--ordinary people on their road of life, not people who already feel ‘special.’

Q:  Feeling rather “ordinary” today?  That’s good.  You’re the kind of person Jesus might just love to surprise sometime soon!

  • PLACE? A country road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about 7 miles (from here to Lowe’s on N. Division…or the Broadway Exit on I-90).  Nothing special about that road either…except WHO these 2 were going to encounter there. 

APP:  We never know where God has planned an encounter with us.  It may be on some well-worn road or path we travel constantly.  Or it may be someplace you’ve never been before.  But be assured that Jesus loves surprising people on their road of life.

 Finally….

  • CONTENT of their road-talk? 14 says, “They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.”  That “everything” was probably focused on

a.) the disturbing and demonic events leading to and including the death of Jesus, and

b.) the events of that resurrection morning.  According to what they tell Jesus in just a moment, they were trying to make sense of life, specifically of their own beliefs about God and what had happened to those beliefs when Jesus was nailed to the cross.

You can just imagine the tone of their conversation. 

  • “I can’t believe this has happened. It’s been three days and it still feels like a very bad dream.”
  • “How could we have been so mistaken?  I not only feel like we’ve lost a family member; I feel like everything I’ve been taught about what to expect from God has been wrong.”   

Vss. 15, 16“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.”

First off, “discussed” here literally means “debated”…like a good married couple…which is another good reason to favor the couple I.D. 

Then there was the recognition issue.  We’ve all not recognized someone we haven’t seen for quite a while. 

ILL:  I had it happen to me just a couple of weeks ago. I ran into a group of seniors, most of whom I knew very well. (I’m talking 70-80 year old seniors, not my senior-ish age people!). But there was one women I didn’t recognize...and never would have if she hadn’t told me who she was.  She was my 5th grade teacher from Hutton Grade School! It’s been almost 50 years since I’d seen her.  (Apparently I hadn’t changed that much since she recognized me!)

            But not recognizing Jesus after 3 days??? Come on.  Even if Jesus went to hell and back during those 3 days when His body was in the tomb (as the Apostle’s Creed says), how could they not recognize Him? 

            The way the original Greek is structured in this passage, it leads many to believe that God was actually keeping these two from recognizing Jesus.  While Jesus’ resurrected and glorified new immortal body was certainly “recognizable” according to all the Gospel accounts, I think there must have been a quality about His new resurrected body that made him initially unrecognizable. Perhaps that will be the case with our resurrected bodies too.  There will be both a similarity and dissimilarity to what we are now. 

Here’s another curious thing.  We know that Jesus’ resurrected body still bore the nail holes in his hands and feet as well as the gash from the sword in his side. Yet His resurrected body was perfect.  So what’s up with that?

 It’s possible that Jesus is the only one in heaven who will bear the marks of suffering on earth, the price of our redemption and salvation.  But I also wonder if God might not be telling us that those things that are part of our suffering for God’s kingdom here in this life might in some way be marks of glory in our new bodies.  We’ll still be glorified, made perfect and with bodies that will never grow old or get sick or die again.  But that which we may have participated in with regard to the sufferings of Christ may become glorious parts of our life with God forever. (Rev. 6—the saints who were slain/martyred because of “the word of God and the testimony they had maintained…”) Just a speculation.

But I think there was something more than just the difference between the mortal Jesus and the resurrected Jesus.  I think the pain of life was hiding God from these two very sincere, very loving people. 

It’s hard to hear or see God when life is painful.

Q:  What painful experiences in your life have made it difficult to see or understand or even trust God? 

ILL:  Counselor I know who specialized in helping people who had experienced Satanic ritual abuse. She was able to help because she had been a victim herself

I once asked her, “How do you really help people who have experienced such horrific abuse?”  She said, “I try to help them see where God was near to them during that period of their life.”

Come again?!!!  Don’t the dark experiences of life seem to prove just the opposite—that God is somehow absent or distant or missing when we’re being abused or suffering under the evil of other people? 

She went on to explain that part of getting our experience in line with the truth (particularly about God) must include helping people to see that God isn’t distant from our suffering.  He’s never been a God aloof from human suffering. (The cross shouts that every day.) Instead, He is right there even if we can’t recognize Him in the moment.

For this woman, it took the form of an African-American nanny that her wealthy and prestigious parents had hired.  On the outside, this was a model family to be envied.  But on the inside it was rotten to the core. 

Yet God had placed this kind, loving, godly nanny in her home. (This was before CPS or any such agency, in the days when a black woman’s accusation would not have been taken seriously, especially in this ‘upstanding’ professional home.) But every time this girl was sexually abused and used in Satanic rituals, this nanny would come find her, clean her up, wrap her arms around her and love her. 

Yes, it took her years to realize that God was right there in the person and arms of this loving black woman.  (And my guess is that this woman had experienced her share of evil and injustice but had found God herself and was now called to help a powerless little girl survive and eventually triumph.)
App: Often God is at work and we don’t even know it. Our eyes don’t recognize it at the time.  For whatever reason, we don’t or can’t see or feel God anywhere.  Just because we don’t see God in the fog of life doesn’t mean He isn’t right there with us!

Think back over those experiences or periods of your life when it felt like God was nowhere to be found, nowhere near.  WHAT was the experience that was blinding you to His presence? 

  • Physical pain of disease or illness or disability?
  • Emotional pain of death of a loved one, or a much-loved relationship, of a dream or a career or a marriage
  • Spiritual pain of seeming silence from God, of unanswered prayers, of disillusionment with the church?

Life’s Resurrection Road often passes through the countryside of disappointment, disillusionment and of doubt.

But that doesn’t mean God isn’t there.  We just don’t have the eyes to see Him…even when we think we are looking as hard as we can for God.  When we are most perplexed and despondent is when God may be the closest. 

But we will probably need to let go of some misconceptions about how God works and even who He is if we are ever to find the resurrection life He has for us out of life’s valleys of the shadow of death. 

Ever had an experience in your life where you almost missed one of the biggest “God-sightings” of your life? 

ILL:  My experience with depression for 3 years in Spain as missionaries.  I was young.  I was self-absorbed (though I looked like I was very sacrificial for others).  God knew I needed to get free of a life built around ministry accomplishments.  So He gave me…a ministry desert

I hated it.  I fought against it.  I railed against Him.  I took it out on my dear wife.  But looking back, God was surely there—in my wife, in fellow Spanish believers, in coworkers, in a host of ways I can now see but was blind to then. 

I have a hunch much of life is like that. Jesus is really very close to us, but we don’t seem to recognize him or his working in our lives.  Only later, sometimes much later, we have enough wisdom or humility to see that He was really very, very close all along.
APP: Maybe you in one of those places right now, wondering where God is?  Has disappointment, doubt, some loss, some unmet longing of your heart made it difficult to hear and see that God is really at work very close to you, maybe right next to you?  The problem isn’t with God.  The problem is with our demands and desires and focus in life.  God is waiting for us to experience a few things with Him… along the road… that will help us know Him and his resurrection power. So he lets us not recognize Him for a while. 

But on with the story. 

17) -- He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” 

ILL

  • How many of you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? Just imagine, if you and a friend were talking about the attack over coffee at Starbucks in, say, Philadelphia (just 80 miles from NY City) the very next day after the attack, 9-12.   What would you have thought about some stranger sitting at the table next to you, turning to you and commenting, “Hey fellas, what’s happening?  You seem a little down. Anything wrong?” 

ANYTHING WRONG!!!???

That would be a conversation stopper, wouldn’t it?  You’d probably freeze in mid-coffee sip and stare dumbfounded for a few moments.   

That’s exactly what Cleopas and Co. did.  These two stopped dead.  The text says, “They stood still….”  Jesus’ question was a trip-stopper. 

Vs. 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?” 

Again, how does Jesus keep from busting out laughing?  “Know the things that happened” in Jerusalem this past weekend!  “They happened to ME!” 

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t get offended by our ridiculous questions?  Makes me wonder how many of my questions, my rantings and ravings are just plain silly from God’s vantage point.  But He’s a great Father who puts up…and smiles at…the comments of His kids. 

Well, Jesus asks another question that will get this conversation going somewhere.  Jesus is good at that – bringing more questions into those times in life when we seem to have more than enough already.  That’s worth remembering in times of crisis and question:  Before God gives us answers to our deepest, most troubling questions and doubts, He frequently adds more questions to our journey than He answers.

Vs. 19, What things?” he asks.   

And here they unload all their doubts and questions on this stranger. 

(Read v. 19-24) “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.”

Here it comes: the whole load of lost hope, gushing out in a stream of disappointments right there on the road to Emmaus. 

Notice a few things from this interchange.

Vs. 19 -- Their disappointment and discouragement was all about Jesus.   “About Jesus of Nazareth…He was a prophet…(vs. 21) but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…it is the third day since [he was crucified]….”

Q:  Have you ever been disappointed with Jesus?  Ever wondered why God works the way he does…on the clock and calendar of his own choosing?  Ever felt disappointment with God

If you haven’t, you are either not very old or not very experienced. J Life hands out some huge reversals that make most any thinking person wonder if Jesus is who we have thought him to be.

Verse 21 says – “But we had hoped….”
Boy, you could write a thousand books around those words, couldn’t you?

“I had hoped my schooling would lead to this or that.”

“I had hoped that romance was the last one.”

“I had hoped my children would….”

“I had hoped my marriage would be….”

“I had hoped this job would….”

“I had hoped this friendship would bring….”

“I had hoped that God would….”
These two believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. But they were hoping for the wrong kind of Messiah—a political Messiah, a Messiah who would deliver their nation from the oppression of Roman rule.  And now this Messiah was dead. And so was their hope

WHY?  Because their hope was in what they had convinced themselves God was going to do– to liberate an occupied territory, an oppressed people, a political entity. 

Their hope even seemed to be in the right person – Jesus.  But actually, their hope was in some limited, nationalistic sort of redeemer.  God had a much bigger plan – buying back every human being, not just one race of humans, from the slave market of sin. 

Hope is fragile.  That’s why Jesus handles it with TRUTH!

APP:  We tend to put our hope in life in people and things that are bound to disappoint or fail us over time.  That is why we need the truth of Jesus’ Word to speak into the seasons or experiences of disappointment.  We need to exchange fragile, incomplete hopes for resilient, God-given Truth.

Listen to what Jesus has to say to us when we are in those places.
(Read v. 25-27)
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.

If we’re going to escape from the despair of dashed hopes, we must be willing to let God straighten out our messed up notions about what He should and shouldn’t be doing to keep life going in the direction we think it should be going. 

There are simply many times in life when our understanding is deficient and God needs to just say, “You’re living out of foolishness right now.  You’re living out of a lack of knowledge about what the whole truth is.”

Then there are many times when our faith is non-existent or misplaced too.  We’re “slow of heart to believeall that God has spoken to us in His Word, the Bible

I’m guessing that these two were like most of us today.  We’re willing to believe the Word of God about all the wonderful blessings God wants to give us, about forgiveness of sins, about the guidance of the Holy Spirit, about the love of the Father.  But what about God’s promises of suffering and persecution and trouble in this world?  We like to believe the Bible selectively rather than completely. 

I think it is fair to say that everyone who is having a crisis with God is having a crisis in one or both of these areas Jesus mentions: 

1.) a failure to know truth as God sees it/knows it AND

2.) a failure to accept that truth and stake our lives on it in faith.   

Like these two, we’re great at giving God the list of reasons why we’re faithless.  God, however, is great on giving us the truths that can set our hearts free while silencing our doubts and confusion.

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

Can you imagine the kind of Bible survey course that next few minutes must have been?  I would be surprised if Jesus went to every book of the O.T. and pointed out how it pointed to Him.  There are over 300 prophecies contained in the O.T. that are fulfilled in the person of Jesus.  I’ll bet that he pointed out passages like…

  • Genesis 3:15: promise to the serpent…and all mankind…in Gen. when God said, “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring [godless people] and hers [god-seeking people]; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
  • Genesis 22 – Abraham tested in the sacrificing of his son Isaac…to the point of reasoning, according to Heb. 11, that if he had to kill this son of promise, God would keep his word to raise up nations through this son by raising him from the dead!
  • Exodus 12 – the Passover lamb whose blood was shed and marked the doorposts of every home who put their faith and trust in God when he said he would “pass over” their house and sins if they exercised faith in Him and his word.
  • Psalm 22 – written 800 years before crucifixion was invented by the Romans and 1,000 years before Christ fulfilled it:
    • 14ff – “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” 
  • 53:5-11, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; and the punishment that brought us peace was upon him…” “He was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth…by oppression and judgment he was taken away…He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death.”
  • 11:11-137 specific identifiers of the Messiah as one who will 1.) be betrayed, 2), by a friend, 3) for 30 pieces, 4) of silver, 5) later cast on the floor, 6) of the temple, and 7) used to buy a potter’s field.

When Jesus encounters foolish and faithless people, he almost always uses his Word to remind them of what is true and call them to build their faith in him upon his reliable and tested Word throughout the ages. 

Well, this resurrection road from hopelessness to hope is just about at an end for Cleopas & Co.    
28)As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29)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.  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. 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?”

Looks a lot like the Last Supper, doesn’t it? Yet what a difference!  There is nothing like a personal encounter with the resurrected Lord Jesus to transform the darkest experiences of life into a highway of hope

  • Our dream may be dead, but Jesus isn’t.
  • Our vision of the future may have been crucified, but God’s plan for resurrection life isn’t.
  • We may be right in the middle of the most perplexing time of our life, and God wants us to know that He’s right there with us…even though we may not perceive it right now.
  • Be thankful that God cares more about truth and our faith-relationship with Him forever than about our temporary happiness or comfort. He’s willing to walk with us in our doubts and misconceptions and incomplete understanding of life so that he can free us from the lies and bring us to truth and faith in Him.

Just like the journey of these two from Jerusalem to Emmaus, God is speaking into each of our lives, even when we think he is dead or distant

The same God who raised Jesus from the dead wants to meet us in our moments of disappointment and turn the journey into one of personal transformation with Him. 

  • Are you ready to turn from a heart that has been “slow to believe” that Jesus is who He claimed to be--the Lamb of God who died for you and rose victoriously over death so that you might be reunited with God forever?
  • Have you invited him to “stay with” you, to share the rest of life and eternity with you? (Rev. 3:20)

PRAYER:

  • (Together)—Confess unbelief and acknowledge “Jesus is Lord”, believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead; invite him to be your Lord and God.
  • What disappointment or doubt-filled experience are you walking through? Jesus wants to turn that darkness into dawn; he wants to walk with you through it and reveal himself in it.  Willing to let go of whatever you had planned so He can take you into what He has planned?
    • Release old dream.
    • Confess “slowness to believe” all of God’s word.
    • Invitation for God to speak into your darkness.

[Bible and Next-Step material here & at Info Center]

HE IS RISEN!  [HE IS RISEN INDEED!]

Questions for Discussion & Thought

  1. Why do you think Jesus waited to reveal himself to these two until He broke bread?
  2. Why do you think Jesus disappeared from their sight as soon as they recognized him in the breaking of bread?
  3. Read the rest of Luke 24 (vss. 36-49). What similarities exist in these two different appearances?  Differences?
  4. Do some more research about the 300+ prophecies that exist in the Old Testament about the Messiah. Pay special attention to the ones that talk about what Jesus focused on in vss. 46-47, namely how “The messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” 
  5. Why do you think that Jesus (and Luke) focused on the importance of those prophecies at this time in His ministry (post resurrection)? (See 24:25,26, 44.)
  6. Too many Christians don’t see the importance of the Old Testament to their spiritual development. Share what the Law, Prophets and Psalms have added to your knowledge of God, of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit. How do you regularly incorporate the O.T. into your reading, study and meditation?  What advice would you have for a new believer about incorporating the O.T. into their spiritual development?
  7. Share about a time you were disappointed with what you had hoped God would do or some misconception you held about how He works or what he does. How does this story of the two on the road to Emmaus help you understand what God was/is doing in your life by allowing that disappointment?