Faithlife Sermons

Luke 24:13-35

Easter 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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So, if you were a fly on the wall in the Ross house over the past month, there’s a phrase you’d hear again and again. Let me set the scene for you: one of us, either me or Melanie, are holding little baby Peter, he’s now a little over a month old, and we have this smile on our face. It’s a special sort of smile that people only learn once they have a baby. It’s a smile that screams desperation, as if the owner of this smile is a few sleepless nights away from total insanity. Okay, are you picturing it? So with that smile, one of us looks to the other and says, “Have a kid they said…it’ll be great they said…you’ll love being parents they said!”
Now, we love our little boy to pieces, but Melanie and I are feeling something that is actually a very common human experience. I know families that at the beginning of this quarantine were a bit excited to get to work from home, see their kids more, work on projects they’ve been putting off. They had this image of what quarantine was going to look like, and now everyone, every single one of these families are beyond tired of being cooped up week in and week out.
What we’re talking about here is disillusionment. It’s the disappointment that you feel when you discover that something was not as good as you believed it to be, when something doesn’t turn out the way you had imagined. Raising a newborn isn’t a continuous stream of sweet, adorable, heartwarming moments. This quarantine hasn’t actually resulted in any of those projects getting done.
Disillusionment. It can be mild, but it can also be severe, and the type of disillusionment that these two disciples are feeling as they shuffle out of Jerusalem is as severe as it gets. But what we’ll find is that their disillusionment poses no obstacle for the newly resurrected Jesus to come to them and give them a new life.

Disciples are disillusioned because what held their story together had unraveled.

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.

So who are these two disciples of Jesus? They are not apart of the famous twelve disciples; they are just two people, probably family members, some think a husband and wife, but they have followed Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Seven days ago, they were rejoicing and hooping and hollering singing out, “Blessed be the One who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna to the Son of David,” as Jesus rode into town like a king. They had seen the countless confrontations between Jesus and the city’s elite, confrontations that ended with Jesus being arrested, tried, sentenced, and executed. That’s how the Passover celebration had ended for these two, and now they were headed home to Emmaus. This was certainly not how they thought the week was going to go.
And so they were talking about these things, probably trying to figure out what went wrong and where to go from there. And on their way home, defeated and disillusioned, a stranger catches up with them. A fellow pilgrim, presumably on his way home from Passover, draws up alongside this couple.

15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

This story is so brilliant and dramatic. We as the reader know that this stranger is none other than the risen Jesus, but for whatever reason, this couple doesn’t recognize him.

17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”

I love how they respond to him - it’s so dramatic and it’s so telling.

And they stood still, looking sad.

The question stops them dead in their tracks. Have you ever had to give bad news to several different people at different times, and you just have to say it over and over again? It’s horrible, because each time you tell the story, you have to reckon with it all over again.

18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?”

So Cleopas recounts what had happened. He gives us the facts. And the funny thing is, he’s got the story completely right. One commentary I read this week said that here we have the gospel according to Cleopas, because he goes through the life and ministry of Jesus, his confrontations, his execution, and even the empty tomb. He’s got all the facts of the story! But two things are revealing in his recounting of the story. Two things that show the disillusionment roaring in their hearts.

And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Do you heart his downcast heart? But wait, the story continues:

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

Right there at the end, with that last phrase, we hear the shattering of their hopes, the downfall of their dreams. These women, unreliable witnesses in that culture, had give perhaps a spark of hope, but when others came to validate the rumours…the tomb was empty, but him they did not see. The conclusion of the gospel according to Cleopas is that Jesus is gone and the bitter disillusionment has set in - we thought this was one thing, but it’s clear that it’s not.
Do you see in Cleopas’ explanation that it’s not just about the last seven days for him and his companion? It’s not just about the crucifixion and the death of their beloved teacher, Jesus. It’s about the unraveling of the story of their lives. “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
From their birth until now, these two disciples had heard, believed, and passed on the hope that God would send someone to them, someone who would liberate them from the hands of their enemies. In fact, here we are at the end of Luke’s gospel, but at the very beginning, an angel had told the priest Zechariah that his son John would prepare Israel for the coming of this liberator, and when his son is born, Zechariah bursts into a song that begins, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us that we should be saved from our enemies.” And now, here at the end of the gospel, these two disciples, fresh off the experience of seeing their great liberator, Jesus, killed by the hands of their enemies, they grieve with downcast hearts, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” They are disillusioned because what had held that story together, this heroic, conquering, liberating figure, had failed them. What held the story of their lives together had unraveled.
But of course, the great irony is that here they are telling this stranger all about these things with disillusioned hearts, how no one has seen Jesus, and who are they speaking to at that very moment?
So after listening to their story, Jesus, who is still unrecognized by these disciples, what does he do?

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Cleopas and his companion had told Jesus the story of their lives and how it had all unraveled. How all that they had been excited about - the healings, the miracles, the teachings - all of that had been meaningless. As Shakespeare famously put into the mouth of Macbeth at the end of that great tragedy, “life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
And how does Jesus respond?
Well some of us may groan a bit because, it looks like he leads them in an in-depth Bible Study. And on the one hand, that’s right. Jesus opens up the Bible, what we call the Old Testament, and he shows how all of it pointed not to a conquering king redeemed through power, but how it all pointed to the hope for a suffering servant to redeem God’s people by his death - that the Messiah would die, and by his death, God’s people would be liberated from their greatest enemies, sin and death, and they’d be gifted new life. So yes on the one hand, Jesus and these disciples have an impromptu Bible Study.
But it’s more than that. This wasn’t some kind of dry, mechanical, study of the Scriptures. By opening up the Old Testament, Jesus was opening up their story that they claimed had unraveled and ended in tragedy. According to Cleopas, God had in fact not been with them like they thought. God had not redeemed Israel like they hoped. God was not involved in their life and their story like they thought. And Jesus walks through the story of their lives and he’s showing them that though it was not like the thought, God had been with them, God had redeemed them, God was more involved in their life and story than they could ever imagine, because the fullness of the hope of the Scriptures was embodied in Jesus.
But they didn’t see it at first. They didn’t recognize that God was with them all along, just like they couldn’t recognize it now. But they will, very soon.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread

So this is odd, because Jesus is the guest, but somehow, he has become the host of this table, and the host of this meal that he is sharing with his disciples.

he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.

If you’ve been at Redeemer for any length of time, you know this scene very well. We rehearse it every single week. “On the night before he died, our Lord Jesus took the bread, and after giving thanks to you, he broke it, and he gave it to his disciples.” This is the Lord’s Supper scene playing out at this table in Emmaus.
For some seven miles of walking, Jesus has been showing these disciples that their story had not unraveled, that God had not abandoned them, that evil had not been victorious, that sin and death did not have the final word, and he ends up at the head of a table with his disciples, and all that he had told them about himself he now shows them, “this is my body which is given for you.” Except what he most likely said was the blessing every Jew would say before a meal: Blessed are you Lord God, King of the Universe, for you bring forth bread from out of the Earth. The bread of life had risen from the grave.
And at last, the disciples saw him.

31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

What do we take away from this amazing story?
Have you ever wondered, why Jesus waits so long to reveal himself? Like, these two disciples lobbed a soft ball for him when they were telling him the story how no one had seen Jesus - talk about a Hollywood-esque, M.Night Shamalan twist! Jesus could have just been like, “Hey check it out! I’m alive! I rose from the dead like I told you!” He doesn’t do that...
He does that for some disciples. There’s another story of a person walking on a road that is well known. Paul, the guy who wrote most of the letters in the New Testament, he was walking on a road to Damascus, and out of no where Jesus appears to him in brilliant light - he’s not concealing himself at all, and almost overnight Paul is utterly transformed. And we know people like that, we hear testimonies like that, stories of people encountering Jesus in a powerful, dramatic way that changes them forever!
But here in this story, Jesus doesn’t do that. He doesn’t reveal himself right away to these disillusioned disciples. But slowly, over the course of a journey, he shows them the truth about himself. It’s a slow, progressive revelation as our hearts that are slow to receive him, gradually begin to warm. And we may look at those who are further on this journey, our who are walking along the Damascus Road, and we may say, Why isn’t Jesus here with me?
But he is. He has been the whole time, and he’s opening up the story of your life to show you that it is not unraveling, it is not meaningless, but you are being guided by the one whose body was broken for you.
So this story should give you hope, if you are disillusioned by life. If you are disappointed with how things have gone, if you are feeling defeated and dismayed, the Emmaus road should give you hope. Jesus is alive, and he is with you, and today he’s come alongside you along the road to listen and to lift your downcast face, so that you can see his.
Let’s pray.
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