(Sermon text post – Text: Luke 24:13-36 – the Emmaus Road story, but with a “twist.”)
I filled in yesterday for Rev. Ray Petty at George Street UMC in Jefferson City, TN. Joe and I had a very warm welcome from some wonderful folks. It was a good day!
10 Lessons From the Road
Hear these words from Luke 24:13-36
(Read Luke 13:13-36)
May God add His blessing to the hearing and reading of His Holy Word. Let us pray – Father, pour upon us a Spirit of understanding this morning that we may hear both Your words in scripture, and Your words directing our lives this very day. In Jesus’ Name – Amen.
I would venture to say that you’ve heard this story before. And it’s an intriguing story. As I began to study this scripture again last week, I began to see little “applications”, little “lessons” jumping out at me as I read, so I thought we would look at this very familiar story as “Ten Lessons from the Road.”
You know how the story begins. It’s Sunday morning – the day after the Sabbath – to the average Jewish man or woman, it’s just another normal beginning of the work week. The yearly observance of Passover has just ended – perhaps they could catch some of those “after-Passover sales” at the local market…
Oh, it was a little more rowdy than normal, what with that rabble-rouser Jesus being crucified and all, but now things are back to normal and life goes on… like I said, for the “average” Jewish man or woman.
To the small band of followers of that “rabble-rouser”, things were a little different. Two of them, at least, decided to leave Jerusalem and go to Emmaus. We don’t know why they are headed toward Emmaus. It’s clear that they aren’t headed toward Galilee, because Emmaus is in a north-westerly direction from Jerusalem, and going to Galilee that direction would take them through Samaria… and a Jew is not going to go through Samaria if they can help it.
We don’t know if Emmaus was their home or if there was another reason, but at any rate the Sabbath had passed now and they could travel more than “a Sabbath Day’s journey”. The Law, of course, prevented them from traveling little more than a half mile on the Sabbath, and Emmaus was about 7 miles away, which would take, roughly, oh, four hours or so when just walking at a leisurely pace. So, off they set – Cleopas, or Alpheus, as some know him, (who many think was Joseph’s brother – making him Jesus’ uncle) and another man… or possibly a woman. If it is Jesus’ uncle, then maybe his companion is his wife Mary who was actually at the cross… – the scripture doesn’t say who the second person was, but whoever it was, they were talking. Verse 14-15 tells us that they were “conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place” and that they were “conversing and discussing” or they “communed and reasoned” as the KJV puts it.
Of course, “we” know what “things” they are discussing, and so therein lies our first lesson.
- Share your burdens with a friend.
Like we said, we don’t know “why” they are going to Emmaus. The scripture doesn’t tell us, but from the context of the story, we get the feel that perhaps they slipped away without telling anyone. In verse 17, Jesus asks them “what words they are exchanging”. The word “exchanging” carries the image of tossing something back and forth. They were sharing their burden with one another. Do you have someone that you can share your burdens with? We don’t know if these were two men, or a man and his wife, but they were close enough that they were traveling together, and they were sharing and discussing.
And then… Jesus comes along side them. Matthew 18:20 tells us that when 2 or 3 are gathered in Jesus’ name, He is there among them. Now, we normally quote this when our church attendance is low, or there are just a few of us at a meeting, but this is true anytime Christian friends come together – for any reason. If you are sitting with a friend at a hospital – Jesus is there. If you are comforting someone on the telephone – Jesus is a part of that conversation. Share your burden with a (Christian) friend and you can be assured, that Jesus will be there.
Well, Jesus shows up, and verse 16 tells us that their eyes were “prevented from recognizing Him.” Again, we don’t really know why, but one reason might be so that they’d actually listen to Him. We saw how Mary Magdalene responded, and the women, if these two had known it was Jesus, they wouldn’t have “heard” His words for being so overwhelmed and overjoyed at His presence.
And that brings us to our second lesson:
2. Be kind to strangers.
Hebrews 13:2 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” In this case we could say, “No joke!”
So, “What’s the problem?” the stranger says. “Why are you upset, why are you so sad, what are you talking about?”
And the two just stop in their tracks, and Cleopas turns and says to him, “Are you the only man inJerusalemwho doesn’t know what happened this past week?”
It would be like someone coming to us on September 12, 2001 and saying, “Why aren’t there any airplanes in the sky today?” “Where’ve you been?” we might say! But, they weren’t rude to Jesus, or even show fear. Think about it – Jesus had been crucified. One would think that it would be a dangerous thing to be known as a follower of His – yet these two didn’t say “who do you think you are to be asking us such a question.” Or, “What’s it to ya?” They didn’t look at His appearance and determine that He couldn’t be of any importance… no, they said, “Are you a stranger in Jerusalem? Don’t you know what has happened?
And then Jesus says, “Tell me what happened…”
And there’s lesson number 3:
- Be aware of the needs of others.
As we talk with others, we need to always be aware of their needs. Observe if “something” seems wrong, or if their body language indicates something out of the ordinary. Ask them, “What’s wrong?” The song “Blest Be the Tie that Binds” reminds us that as Christians, we are to “share each other’s woe, and our mutual burdens, bear.”
We must ask because we don’t know without asking… but Jesus knew. Why do you suppose He asked them something He already knew the answer to?
And that brings us to lesson number 4.
4. Pray anyway.
In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:8 Jesus tells us that God already knows all our needs before we ever ask… so why pray? There are many answers to that question, but in this case when Jesus asked them, “What’s wrong?” He got them to voice their “real” concern. The real concern was not just that Jesus was dead, but that He didn’t do or accomplish what they thought He would. We need to “pray anyway” to clarify in our own minds and hearts what the need really is.
And that’s our 5th lesson:
5. Look for the deeper need.
In verse 19 we see that they knew all about “Jesus of Nazareth”, but not “The Son of God.” They knew He was from Nazareth (perhaps Cleopas was His uncle). They knew that He was a prophet – “mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and man…” it says. He was a prophet in His doctrine and His doing… but, He was crucified… and things didn’t turn out like they’d expected. Verse 21 gives the real reason for their grief. The NRSV puts it this way “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
“But we’d hoped…” How many times have you said that? “But, we’d hoped… the doctor’s report would be different.” “But, we’d hoped… we’d get the job.” “But, we’d hoped…” any number of a thousand things. How do we really expect God to answer our prayers? What did they really expect to happen?
Verse 21 continues, “And besides this, now it is the third day since these things happened…” They do admit in verse 22-24 that “some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”
The phrase “amazed us” is an interesting phrase. The word “amaze” here means to be “outside of yourself”. We’d say you’re “beside yourself” or “dumbfounded”, but quite literally it means “to be out of your mind.” In other words, they didn’t put much stock in what the women said. (This is one reason why I don’t think the second companion was Cleopas’ wife… I don’t think he’d have said that if she was standing there… at least I hope not…)
Anyway… what did they really expect to happen? And there’s our next lesson.
6. Let God choose the answer to your prayer.
God has an ultimate plan, God sees the bigger picture. We need to let Him answer our prayer in His will, not ours.
The next lesson, number 7 is: Have an open heart.
In verse 25 Jesus said to them – (to paraphrase) “Bless your heart” (Southern version…) “Bless your heart, you just don’t get it, do you? Don’t you believe what the prophets said…? Can’t you see that it was ALL necessary?” He calls them “fools” but this is not a derogatory term. This word means “foolish one” or “you’re being unwise or jumping to conclusions.” In Psalms 14:1 we read, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” And while very few people may say outright “there is no God,” many times it is insinuated that “God has no power” and that is foolish!
And then in verse 27 Jesus teaches us a methodical way to study scripture as we read, “And beginning with Moses and the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
He takes them back to the very beginning. You see, the Jewish people, (and most conservative commentators) believe that Moses actually wrote the first 5 books of the Bible, so when it says, “Beginning with Moses” it means the very beginning.
Perhaps Jesus started at Genesis 3:15, the first promise of the Redeemer, and traced that promise through the Scriptures. He may have lingered at Genesis 22, which tells of Abraham placing his only beloved son on the altar, and I’m sure He mentioned the serpent in the wilderness in Numbers 21:9 and the “star coming from Jacob” in Numbers 24:17.
Surely He touched on the Passover Lamb, the Levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle ceremonies, and the Day of Atonement, all of which symbolically represented and pointed to Him.
He may have told of the Messiah as PROPHET in Deuteronomy 18:18, His KINGSHIP from Jeremiah 23:5-6 and the SHEPHERD from Ezekiel 34:23, just to name a few.
As Jesus is teaching “His Story” I just know, I just know, He took His time with Isaiah 53 which foretold the suffering of the Messiah – in excruciating detail. And then, there was that last haunting cry from Psalms 22:1 “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me…?”
They would remember that this Psalm that begins with such anguish, and written a thousand years before Christ, describes with amazing accuracy, a method of torture and execution that had not even been invented yet; and that this Psalm ends with the triumphant words, “All of posterity will serve Him, and it will be told to coming generations. They will come and declare His righteousness to a people yet to be born that HE HAS DONE IT! (or as the Greek renders it) IT IS FINISHED!”
Whew! Wouldn’t you have loved to have heard that sermon? You see, the key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page; in the Old Testament as well as the New. He didn’t just teach them doctrine or prophecy; He taught them (as verse 27 says) “the things concerning Himself”. And we can only learn this if we study His Word with an open heart. Jesus taught them the Scriptures, period. The Bible is the foundation of our knowledge, and the foundation of our faith.
Well, by now they are nearing their home in Emmaus, and as Jesus prepares to move on, we find lesson number 8.
8. Jesus is not pushy, but is always ready to join us.
Jesus will not impose Himself upon us, but will always stay if we invite Him. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” If we are open to Him, He will open Himself to us. We read in verse 30 “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” And we need to look at this meal for a moment. This was not a miracle meal like the feeding of the five thousand; this was not a sacramental meal like the Lord’s Supper – no this was a common meal. This shows us that Jesus is always ready to join us, even in the most common things, if we but invite Him. In this we see that “everyday” things are blessed by God – not just “Church” things, but everyday things – He provides our “daily bread.”
And then lesson #9 brings us the “Ah-Ha” moment. Verse 31 says “And their eyes were opened…” The Ah-Ha moment comes when the words of scripture becomes The Living Word of God. When we invite Jesus into whatever we’re doing, whether studying, worshiping, praying or just having a baloney sandwich He:
- Opens the scriptures to us
- Meets us at the table or wherever we are
Verse 32: “They said to each other, ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us…’?” “I felt it, did you feel it? Yes I felt it!” One commentator (Matthew Henry) said that “they did not so much compare notes as compare hearts.” I like that. If you’re a child of God, and the Holy Spirit resides in you, then when someone is teaching or preaching truth, there’s just something that just “clicks” in your heart, and you know it is the truth. Paul speaks of this in the book of Romans, especially in chapter 8. And when that happens, we just have to share it! We can’t help ourselves!
So look at what happens in verse 33, “They rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem.” But wait! Didn’t they just tell Jesus that it was “getting toward evening,” and that the day was “nearly spent”? Yes they did! But I’m sure everyone is familiar with the term “second wind”. It may have taken then four hours or so to travel from Jerusalem to Emmaus, but I betcha it didn’t take four hours to go back! They “jumped up from the table and returned to Jerusalem.”
And that brings us to our last lesson from the road.
10. New life begins when we see Jesus.
They were excited to share the news. Even though it was “toward evening”, and the day “far spent”; even though they were going to stay at Emmaus – but now – Now they had seen Jesus! And they had to get back to the others to share the news with them and comfort them. How will others know what Jesus has done in our lives if we do not tell them? How will others be comforted if we do not comfort them? 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us that God is the source of all comfort and that He comforts us so that we can comfort others.
So they take off back to Jerusalem, and lo and behold when they get there, the other disciples know too! And how? He had appeared to Peter! We don’t know if this happened before He appeared to the two on the road, or after He appeared to them, but He has appeared to Peter. And I imagine them all laughing and crying and slapping each other on the back and jumping around – He IS alive! He WAS raised! It IS true! And at that very moment – Jesus appears in the room and says, “Peace be to you…”
And Peace be to you, too. What do you know that excites you? What prayers has God answered for you? If you leave here and say to someone “Jesus is alive!” They may look at you kinda like the disciples looked at the women when they said that, but if you leave here and share with people what God has done in your life – that’s real. There is a lady in our church that is so excited to share that it has been “2 weeks;” “3 weeks” since her husband quit smoking. We’ve been praying for him, and God is strengthening him. You think that’s a minor thing? Not to her. And anytime God is glorified, it’s never a “minor thing.” But, others will not know if we do not tell them! Jump up from here and run tell someone you know what Jesus has done for you!
(Prayer) Father, we know that through Your son Jesus the Christ, that You have promised to be with us to the end of the age. We pray this morning that our eyes would be open to see You in every situation and circumstance in our lives; that we would listen to You as we walk and be in conversation with You so that we may see our deeper need.
Father I pray for those who don’t know the joy of walking with You; who’ve never felt their hearts “strangely warmed”. I pray, I plead, that they would, however unknowingly, invite You into their lives and that You would reveal Yourself to them in the everyday matters of daily living. So that they then, may jump up and tell others about You. This I pray in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
Closing hymn – “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”
First of all, if you’ve never surrendered your life to follow Jesus, let me encourage you to do that this morning.
If you have – but you’ve just never seen much of Him – let me encourage you to specifically ask Him to be a part of your daily life.
And, if you know the joy of His presence – let me encourage you to tell somebody today what Jesus has done for you!
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