Call to Worship: Psalm 119: 89-93
89 Your word, O Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
Greeting: Brothers and sisters, our help is in the name of the Lord _Amen
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit - Amen
Confession – Please turn with me to Psalm 51: 1-12 as we acknowledge our unworthiness before God.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner partsa; you teachb me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Let me lead us in prayer
Father God, We stand before you aware of our weakness and smallness before You, all Mighty God!
We really want to do what is right, but we rush headlong towards that which we know is wrong!
We struggle to love one another, even those you have placed in our lives most intimately, Lord.
Forgive us Lord, we plead.
Forgive us and strengthen us.
Let us not become disheartened by our inability to do what is good in your eyes Lord but keep us mindful of your grace, and your mercy for those who will confess their sins. And give us praying hearts and minds and even hands, Lord, to return to your ways.
Hear our prayer, Lord, and give us your peace, now and forever.
In Jesus name we pray – Amen
Brothers and Sisters, but for the grace of our Heavenly Father, we have no hope. But in His love He has given us His Son Jesus, and in Him we have hope …and life everlasting. Turn please, if you will to 1 John 1:9 – 1 John 2: 6
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
B&S, let’s sing: “It’s Your Blood that cleanses me (RJSII – 402)
Offering: B&S, just before we ask to lead us in prayer and in thanksgiving, Let’s set aside a moment for the offering this morning.
The offering is for
(Pastoral Prayer and offertory prayer)
Reading (Luke 24: 1-35 - )
Did any of you watch the programme … Air Crash Investigations? It is the account of the actual investigations of some of the world’s most serious aeroplane disasters.
Some time ago the program was on the investigation of the 2002 mid-air crash between a chartered Russian airplane, carrying a group of children on their way to a holiday excursion, and a DHL freight plane. (Some of you may remember the accident.
The planes crashed 12 kilometres up in the air, after a miscommunication as to which plane was supposed to fly at which height.
77 people were killed, most of them… the children with a heart full of holiday fun that lay ahead for them.
But, what really struck me about this story was an interview with the mother of a child, a 12 year-old, who said:
Everything that meant anything, our hope, our future, died when our children died.
And I found myself thinking….Is it? Is all hope lost… when someone dies?
Is death the end of the line?
For believers, surely the answer is no! Death is not the end of the road! On the contrary!
We proclaim it when we say the apostles creed, when we say…a day will come when the Lord will return to judge the living and the dead – the same Lord we declare we believe, was dead; buried and rose again on the third day from death to be with His father in Heaven.
And although we may not allways think about it this way, every Sunday is in fact a celebration of the fact that our Lord and saviour Jesus, was resurrected from the dead, that He overcame death to establish a new beginning, a new heaven and a new earth.
Now that, too me odes not sound like all hope is gone!
But do we fully understand the implication of our confession? Do we stop often enough to celebrate… yes celebrate in this life, the knowledge that jesus has risen from the dead, has beaten death …for ever, for those who believe. That is why every day, but especially Sundays as we gather in church, should be a celebration!
But sometimes, I think all of us at some stage in our lives, find ourselves at least a bit sceptical, don’t we. And if we don’t declare it with our mouths, we display it in our drooped shoulders, our niggling worries … indeed, sometimes…even in our sadness at the loss of the life of a loved one.
And let me make haste to say, brothers and sisters, God understands that we are sad. Jesus himself was overcome by tears at the loss of life of a friend, Lazarus! So not all sadness is of course scepticism!
But sometimes….scepticism, even unbelief, takes hold of us!
It seems, brothers and sisters, it has for a long time been so…
Even when Jesus was among His people - the Bible tells us - it was no different. In fact, there is a pattern to it all.
In our text, we read that when Jesus marched into Jerusalem, before His crucifixion, there were shouts of joy, Hosannas, as the palm branches was laid before Jesus on his donkey.
Here finally, was the moment the Jews had been looking forward too for so long.
Their Messiah was finally here.
This Jesus, His followers believed, was really the saviour Lord who had come to free the Jews from the Roman yoke; the king who would lead the Jews to greatness, no longer slaves, but the ruler of the lands…just like their prophets had foretold it would be.
Five days later - only five days - their faith falters.
Because only five miserable days later, on what we now call Good Friday, the mighty King, their Saviour warrior has died on the cross.
If only they understood then what it meant, brothers and Sisters. If only they understood, as we can today…one wonders what the world would have looked like by now.
But…it seems they didn’t -////
One could argue of course that those early followers of Jesus deserve some sympathy…
Their King has been humiliated… and tortured … and He did not even put up a fight.
And when he is nailed to the Cross, and His hour comes …//…// He dies!!
Not exactly the picture of a powerful Saviour, a Messiah, is it?
And when He dies, they turn away disappointed – there is no hope here, one can almost hear them say!
And in their hopelessness… they miss the most wonderful moment mankind could ever have hoped for
– the very inauguration of life itself, of everlasting life…the establishment of Kingdom of God of whom you and I are subjects, by His mercy and ordination.
And now it is three days after the crucifixion, a mere three days after Good Friday, and if any hope remained in some, like the weary travellers on the road to Emmaus, they are ready to give up altogether on their faith.
And so the those erstwhile believers walk away from the cross, further and further away from the cross….and with each step they walk away from the cross, they walk towards…hopelessness
//to a feeling of … this is the end!
How far have we travelled away from the cross in 2000 years…..?
But, let’s join the two travellers on that dusty road…
I am in Luke 24…
When we meet these two people, one called Cleopas, the other unknown (possibly his wife) they, too, as we have said, have walked away from the cross in despair.
Luke writes they are pondering the events of the past few days…
And as they walk, they find themselves more and more at a loss for understanding.
Their body language spells it our… There mood is one of disappointment.
And as they walk, Jesus catches up with them and asks … what they are talking about,
and now Luke places them – and their mood - centre stage:
he has them stop dead in their tracks,
right in the middle of that dusty road to Emmaus:
Verse 17 “Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
Luke writes….: “They stood still //////// their faces downcast.
It’s obvious … they do not recognise Jesus.
Then Cleopas asks this man ….this stranger who has broken into their conversation:
verse 18 “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem, and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
B&S ….What wonderful irony in Cleopas’ question:
(Jesus is not the stranger; it is they who are strangers – strangers to the truth!)
They do not recognise Him, just like they did not recognise Him even when He was hanging on the cross!
And it is their lack of faith that is stopping them from recognising Jesus!
Does our lack of faith sometimes stop us from recognising Jesus, even in this day and age?
Do we recognise the love of Jesus, and therefore Jesus Himself, in the many mercies He bestows on our lives, like our daily bread – and the roof over our heads and the joy of loved ones…;
Do we fail to recognise Jesus when he strengthens us in times of despair, giving us renewed hope?
You see, brothers and sisters, the travellers to Emmaus had heard the Gospel many times – just like we have – and yet… how often do we find ourselves back on the road to Emmaus ourselves, with nothing but despondency in our hearts.
Alone with our doubt, unable to see that Jesus is here on the road with us, strengthening us, pointing us toward His cross and saying:
“can’t you see? I have suffered for you, too. I have paid the price for you, so that you, too, may share in God’s glory! I have overcome death so that you may live!
In their ignorance, Cleopas asks… “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
And Jesus replies: 19 “What things?” Jesus is jogging their memories, but they don’t get it. Even when they give the only answer necessary!
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they say. But then they qualify their answer:
“He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
Can you see their unbelief.
Jesus…was (past tense)….a prophet…not the Messiah!
And then the two actually justify their unbelief!
Jesus could not have been the Messiah, for he died! (verse 20)
“The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;” He is dead, they are saying.
Also, he could not have been the Messiah for He did not redeem Israel:
See verse 21 “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And Israel, at that time of course, had not been redeemed, they say.
And what is more, they say… verse 21 and onwards
“…it is the third day since all this took place”.
With other words… three days have gone past, and nothing has happened.
No…! We don’t believe that anything will now change anymore.
And they do not stop there.
Still they carry on to motivate their disbelief: In addition, they say… verse 22 ///
“In addition, some of our women amazed us.
They went to the tomb early this morning …verse 23, “but didn’t find his body. Man are they confused!
They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. But…
Verse 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.”
They are saying…We did not find Him there. We did not see Him….how can we believe that He was the Messiah?
But then the mood in this gospel, changes.
They start walking along again…And Jesus starts showing Himself to them, showing that He truly was the Messiah,
and He does so in a way that they could quite easily, by the grace of God, have seen for themselves
– he reminds them of the scriptures and the fact that it is all there…
just take it and read it and believe it, He says to them!
It is all there, he explains. Why will you not believe?
Why will you not believe it, even now, especially now that you have seen Jesus’ suffering Jesus’ suffering is the living proof that He was the Messiah, for Scripture has always said that Jesus would have to suffer for our sake!
Verse 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?”
This, brothers and sisters, verse 26, is the big idea of this part of Luke’s gospel.
Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
And …did not everybody witness the Christ’s suffering?
Is not everybody still talking about it?
Even today….more than 2000 years later!
Verse 27…and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
But in our weakness, we want proof! That is our nature.
If we were there, perhaps we would have said: what scriptures?
Where in the Old Testament do we see that it was foretold that Jesus would suffer on the cross, for our sake?
“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed. /////////////////////////////
Psalm 22: Old Testament….brothers and sisters, where else do we hear these Words being said:
Psalm 22... 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
The Shepherd Struck, the Sheep Scattered
7 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is close to me!”
declares the Lord Almighty.
“Strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered,
and I will turn my hand against the little ones.
8 In the whole land,” declares the Lord,
“two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.
9 This third I will bring into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
Look towards scripture, Jesus says. It is all there
…and then look towards the cross – remember the cross and my suffering, for in my very suffering lies your salvation, just as God promised.
Jesus did die on the cross, but three days later, He rose again – so look towards his resurrection, too!
Also on this Sunday Morning!
And this Sunday is no more than a remembrance of that Sunday…that Sunday morning when Jesus made it possible for us to hope in His everlasting Kingdom…
And we should not like the Emmaus travellers, loose hope all too soon.
No, Jesus is saying to them, I am not dead …not any longer.
And now, even death is not final any longer!
As sure as the Lord Jesus suffered and died on the cross, as the scriptures said He would, our Lord Jesus also conquered death and sin and suffering, and we should be out celbrating, not be wandering aimlessly around in confusion and in disappointment!
B&S sometimes we live as if we are already dead!
For all intents and purposes, whether we think about it and even believe it or not, Jesus may even return before we ourselves die in this life!
Could it be, brothers and sisters, that if we really believed this….if we fully understood that we are already living in God’s new kingdom – even though His final glory when all sin and sadness pain will be taken away, that then we would live our lives …with more joy in our hearts….with more trust, and hope?
It seems that that is what happened for the men on the road to Emmaus, at any rate when they had reached their destination – and with it the insight they had now received by the grace of God…
At the end of that journey to Emmaus, just before Jesus seemed like He was going to leave the two he had met on their way, they asked him to stay with them for the night.
They were intrigued by this stranger who had told them so many comforting truths…and so they invite Him to stay with them, perhaps share some more with them…this is good stuff!
And now the moment of truth arrives for them – their eyes would be opened and they would understand everything that Jesus had said to them … when?
When he breaks the bread and serves it to them, then Luke says…then their eyes were opened, and they recognised Him! (verse 31)
And then… verse 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?”
And what do they do?
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
Now they do not stop in there tracks any more, as they did when they first met Him. They continue their journey, immediately, full of joy and faith, for their eyes have been opened.
They at once take to the road again, back to Jerusalem, another eleven kilometres stretch, for the news, the knowledge, is too good to keep to themselves.
That is the nature of true faith, brothers and sisters.
It fills us with joy and excitement!
Now the recognise Jesus for who He is,/// /////////
even though he had by then again disappeared from their sight!!
Now they will believe even though he is no longer with them, even though they do not see Him…
for now they understand why the crucified Lord had to suffer…. And they understand that for a little while the Lord may not be with Us, but then after another little While He will come back again! They see this, they understand this…they believe this – in short… the believe!
And so, in Luke’s wonderful style, their journey of doubt on that road to Emmaus, by God’s grace, becomes a journey not towards despair…but towards faith.
When we walk from Church this morning, brothers and sisters, as we set of on the rest of our own personal journey… how will we travel?
Will we take to the road at once with enthusiasm and anticipation?
Shall we not go into this week, into the world, with a feeling of sure hope…in spite of difficult days that will surely come – but in such a way that we do not feel alone, that we do not feel hopeless?
B&S… We know that Our Lord Jesus suffered and died on the cross!
We know that Our Lord rose again on the third day – just as it was foretold by scripture, and witnessed by many!
And as surely as we believe, by Gods grace alone, we will live with our Lord forever - that is what God promised.
Hardship is not the final word…not even death!
Our Lord Jesus has the last word…he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the Last, and with Him we who believe share in His kingdom, now, even now, and forever more.
May the rest of this Sunday and all the days to come, be a celebration of that truth!
Let’s sing in joy and in celebration…BoW 392 (I will sing of My redeemer….)
Please remain standing after the song for the benediction, and then we will sing
BoW 457 (Stand up stand up for Jesus….)
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
a The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
b Or you desired... ; | you taught