No one can forget the images associated with September 11, 2001. Most of us remember exactly where we were when we heard about the first jet crashing into the World Trade Center in New York. We remember the numbness we felt as we realized that thousands of people had died in the rubble of that terrorist attack. We remember the feeling of helplessness as we watched pictures of rescue workers trying to save those still alive. We remember the sadness and numbness as our nation mourned.
Try to imagine how you would have felt if someone had come up to you a couple of days after September 11th and said, “Hey, why so glum?” You would have looked at the person in disbelief. You might have asked where they had been the last few days. How could they not know about the horror that had taken place?
I think this is how those two men walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem felt when a stranger came up to them on the road and asked, “Hey, what’s up?” The two men, one identified by the name Cleopas, were discussing the events involving Jesus that had happened in Jerusalem over the last several days. It is likely the men were headed to their home . . . perhaps in Emmaus.
The men apparently were followers of Christ. In verse 21 we are told that they “had hoped that he was the one who going to redeem Israel”. In verse 24 we are told that some of “our woman (Mark tells us it was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome) 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 him they did not see.” It appears that these two men, though not among the twelve disciples, apparently were part of the inner circle of disciples.
This morning I want you to see a few things about this walk to remember.
THE MEN WERE DISCOURAGED
The first thing we notice is that the men were discouraged. They had followed Jesus thinking that He was going to make life better. They thought He was the long-anticipated Messiah. They believed He was going to redeem Israel. In other words, they believed that Jesus was going to set Israel free from Roman domination. They thought Jesus was the one who would bring God’s blessing back to Israel.
They had this hope, at least, until He was put to death. He was crucified by the very powers they believed He would overcome. Perhaps they were disappointed that Jesus didn’t do something miraculous. He seemed to die without a fight.
Notice something. The men were in Jerusalem when they heard the report of the empty tomb yet they still left town! Wouldn’t you have thought they would hang around to find out what actually happened? These men were so discouraged that they assumed that someone had either stolen the body of Jesus, or the women were confused. They didn’t have the energy to hope for more. When we are discouraged in life, it is easy to lose perspective and focus on the negative.
These men were so preoccupied that they didn’t recognize Jesus as he walked beside them. The text tells us that they were “kept from recognizing Him.” Did their discouragement blind them to the Savior or did the Holy Spirit blind their eyes so the Lord could instruct them without the distraction of recognition.
Have you ever known discouragement? Maybe you have been where these men were. Maybe you are at that point right now.
The marriage you thought would last forever has fallen apart.
The job you loved and trusted to prepare you for retirement is lost in a cost cutting move
The body that was always a source of pride to you is beginning to fall apart
Your joy over a pregnancy results in a miscarriage, stillborn death, or physical problems in the mother or child.
You work long hours and still can’t seem to make ends meet
You put your faith in someone but they let you down
In each case, the excitement you once felt about your faith turns into a “blah” feeling of wondering if God really cares at all. Discouragement is often a part of life. But please see that it’s possible that in your time of discouragement Jesus is walking by your side also. . . you just don’t see Him yet.
THE LORD WAS PATIENT
Second, notice the patience of the Lord. Jesus met them were they were. I think if I had been Jesus I would have run up to those guys and said, “Hey, guess who?” Maybe, after they told me about their day, I might have spread my arms wide and shouted, “Ta-Dah!”
That’s not what Jesus does. He listened to their complaints and He took time to understand their discouragement. He didn’t yell at them, rebuke them, or make fun of them. He met them at their point of understanding and went from there.
Jesus understands where you are in your life. He knows your struggles. He understands your heart. He comes to you where you are and relates to you with kindness and compassion.
We see his patience of our Lord also in the fact that explained to them the plan of God. It was not enough that these men believe that Jesus had arisen from the dead; they needed to understand why He died in the first place. We are told, “beginning with the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (v. 28)
Perhaps Jesus referenced the Prophecies of His birth in Isaiah 7:14 (“a virgin will be with child . . . “); 9:6 (“for unto us a child is born . . . ) and Micah 5:2 (“born in Bethlehem”), or Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 which predict a suffering Messiah.
Perhaps Jesus went to Gen. 3:15 where God spoke to the serpent in the garden, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspringand hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Maybe He explained that even back then God was predicting that there would be one who would be wounded by the Devil (at the cross) but who would finally gain complete and utter victory (at the resurrection).
Maybe he went to Gen. 49:10 the account of Jacob blessing his children. Jacob said to Judah, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongsand the obedience of the nations is his.” This descendant of Judah was the Messiah.
Whatever texts Jesus expounded, the point was the same: God’s plan has been the same from beginning to end. The death of the Messiah was not a surprise, it was part of God’s plan of redemption and new life.
Just this last week Peter Jennings presented another of his “investigative” reports on the Christian faith. This report was on Jesus and Paul. In his report, Jennings with consistent distortion, presented the Christian message as something fairly haphazard. Jesus pointed out to the travelers that there is nothing haphazard about the Gospel. The Bible is consistent in pointing to Christ as the only way of salvation.
His patience is also revealed because Jesus did not force Himself upon them. Look at verse 28. We are told that, “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted 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.”
If these men had not invited Him into the home, they would not have learned about the resurrection until some time later. They may never have seen and talked to the risen Christ.
This is the way the Lord works. He does not barge into our lives. He will speak to us through His word, through other believers, and sometimes through the still and quiet voice in our hearts. He waits for us to receive Him into our hearts and lives.
THE RESURRECTION CHANGED EVERYTHING
Wouldn’t you have loved to be at that dinner table that night? I wish I knew what happened. Why did Jesus take the bread and give thanks? That was normally the job of the host. Did Jesus take the break and say, “May I?” What was it about this act that caused them to recognize Him? Did they see the nail prints in His hands? Did the prayer remind them of the prayers of Jesus they had heard before? Was it simply a matter of God’s Spirit choosing that moment to open their eyes to reality of Christ’s presence? We just don’t know.
Imagine the wide-eyed wonder of recognition. As soon as they recognized Him, He was gone. Don’t you bet that they looked at each other and said somewhat warily, “Did you see what I saw?” As it dawned on them, I’m sure they couldn’t help but grin, laugh, cry, hug each other, and maybe do a little Jewish dance!
They returned to Jerusalem. Remember verse 28? They said to Jesus, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” However, when they realized that it was Jesus in their home, they no longer cared about the time of day. They made the seven-mile trip back to Jerusalem because the news was so great! Do you want to bet the trip back to Jerusalem took a lot less time that the trip from Jerusalem?
Despair was Replaced by Joy. When the two men arrived back in Jerusalem they found the disciples and other believers who had gathered. The room was filled with excitement. They were talking about an appearance of Jesus to Peter (in addition to Mary Magdalene). The men from Emmaus told their story and the room became even more alive.
The room that just hours before had been filled with sadness and gloom, now was filled with joy and celebration! What made the difference? Jesus is alive! These disciples who were hiding from the world, now were eager to share the gospel with the world. Hope replaced despair, boldness replaced fear, confidence replaced confusion, and sorrow was erased by celebration.
I remember Jimmy who was a little boy in Sunday School back when I was working in a small church in college. This particular Sunday there were 6-8 kids in attendance. I sensed sadly that the story of Jesus was unfamiliar to them. I told about some of the great things he did in His life. I told them how people hated Jesus and killed Him on a cross. It was obvious that Jimmy had never heard the story before. He started to cry. I said, “Hang on Jimmy, the story isn’t over yet.” I told him about the resurrection of Jesus. Jimmy with more understanding than many in the church today, broke into a huge smile and pumped his fist into the air! That’s what was happening in the room that night.
While they were still discussing these things, Jesus appeared among them. He showed them His hands and feet and even ate some food (showing He was not a ghost). He opened the Scriptures to them and I suspect answered dozens of questions so they could understand the plan of God. It must have been a wonderful reunion.
The story of the men on the road to Emmaus is a great story. It is fun to imagine what this walk to remember was like. But we must also ask: what does it all mean for us? Is this simply a great story, or does it have practical relevance for our daily living? Let me suggest some lessons to you.
The Resurrection is Real. Eyewitnesses saw Him, talked to Him, ate with Him, and learned from Him. Jesus was physically and bodily back from the dead. It isn’t figurative . . . it’s real. It isn’t a story; it’s history. This one fact of history changes everything,
- We can be forgiven for the sin and the scars of our past
- We don’t have to fear death because He has shown it is not the end
- Though we mourn the death of loved ones, we do not do so without hope.
- Though there are times when the world seems to have the upper hand, we know God is still in control.
Are you going through a time of discouragement in your life? Life is confusing. The future is uncertain. Each morning you wake up weighted down by the burden you bear. Do you understand that the message of Easter is the message you need to hear and comprehend? It is the perfect antidote to discouragement. The resurrection proclaims,
- Our Savior has overcome life’s greatest barrier . . . so He can also help you.
- God is patient and knows the best way to help you in your time of need; He will not give up on you even though you are tempted to give up on yourself.
- God has a purpose. It is His purpose to help you grow to be what the Lord created you to be. His purpose will not be thwarted. The circumstances of life cannot take you under . . . as long as you are holding His hand.
The Resurrection produces Joyful Confidence, Fervent Witness, and Consistent Worship. If you went onto the ball field and you knew for certain that you were going to win, would you play tentatively? No. You would air it out and enjoy the game. You wouldn’t be discouraged by early setbacks. It would be fun because you knew victory was certain.
If you knew for certain that your current circumstances would not overcome you would it change your attitude? If you knew for sure that your illness would not end your life would it change your viewpoint? I think it would.
The child of God does know these things! We know how the story of life ends. Jesus will be acknowledged as Lord of all. Those who trust Him will live with Him in perfect fellowship and unending joy. We need not fear life. There is NOTHING that can separate us from His love. No circumstance, no discouragement, and no moment of failure. We know how the story ends. We can and should live joyfully. It’s time to smile, laugh, and rejoice. Jesus lives and because He lives we will live also.
On the other hand, we know that those who will not trust Christ have no hope at all. It doesn’t matter how much they have, how powerful they are, or how much they say they are enjoying life. They are dying a death worse than cancer. They are dying spiritually and eternally. Having seen the difference Jesus has made in our own life, having found the joy of living, how can we remain silent as others trudge to their death?
To not share the gospel with those who are lost is to be like those who said nothing as Jews were exterminated in World War II. It is like standing as a bystander while someone you know is being assaulted or raped. It is like turning away from your own child when they need your help. It is an unconscionable act. If we care as we say we do . . . .we must share the words of life and hope. Like the men on the road to Emmaus we need to drop everything to go and tell the good news to others.
The resurrection should stimulate and motivate our worship. He is worthy of our praise and our honor. We now understand that He suffered on our behalf and rose to accomplish our redemption! We should live with unceasing gratitude. We should sing His praises, listen to His Words, and turn to Him with the cries of our heart. He has proved that he is worthy.
Finally, the story of the Men on the road to Emmaus brings us to a point of decision. In a sense, our worship this morning has been like the Savior walking along side of us on the road. We have heard the story. As we end our time together you must decide: will you part company with Jesus and let Him go on His way as you travel on to Hell, or will you invite Him into your life?
This is a moment of decision. Does His message burn in your heart today? Has God’s Spirit opened your eyes to the truth? If so, invite Him to be your Savior. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to Him.” (Rev. 3:20). If you invite Jesus to be your Savior and your Lord today He promises to be your Redeemer. He promises to give you new life. He promises to work God’s will in your heart.
If you would like to invite Jesus into your life and become one of His followers rather than simply wave good-bye after our encounter together, I urge you, in the quiet of this moment, to tell Him that this is your desire. Ask Him to be your Savior, to cleanse your sin, and to lead your life. And if you do you will discover that your journey today with the men on the road to Emmaus will become a Walk to Remember in your life too.