When all you can do is go for a walk
(Luke 24:13-35 / April 26, 2020)
I know we are 2 weeks removed from Easter, but the appointed lessons for this time of the church year still deal with what happened on that first day of Jesus’ resurrection. So, go back in your mind to Easter Sunday. Last week we heard about what happened Easter evening when the disciples were locked in a room for fear of the Jews. Jesus stood among them and removed their fears as he said, “Peace be with you!”
But the events of today’s lesson actually take place before Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples. So, we want to make sure we have this straight in our mind. Today’s events take place in the afternoon of that first Easter Sunday. There are not eleven disciples; there are only two disciples. And the two Emmaus disciples are different from the original twelve. We only know the name of one of them (Cleopas), and this time Jesus makes his appearance not inside a house, but rather outdoors on a walk.
The theme for today’s sermon is: When all you can do is go for a walk. I like that today’s sermon takes place outdoors and, on a walk, because walking is one of the best ways to clear our minds. The two Emmaus disciples were not thinking clearly. They were thinking alright, but because their thinking was influenced by their false expectations their thinking was all wrong, and that is why they were disappointed.
Now, let’s just latch onto that adjective “disappointed” and run with it for a little bit. Or, maybe we should say “walk” with it for a little bit. Because “disappointment” is one of the key struggles of the Christian. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. But then we look at what’s happening in the world and it seems to be all going south. We look at the realities of personal life, and we say, “I thought it was going to be better than this.” “Where is God in all of this?” “If Jesus triumphed over the devil on Easter morning where is the triumph for me?” “I was hoping that…”
Kind of like what the two Emmaus disciples said to Jesus, “But we were hoping that he was going to redeem Israel … But then they crucified him.”
Ah yes. “We were hoping…” Hope is good. But false hopes are deceptive and always disappoint. How much disappointment have you had in your life? It was probably because you put your hope in something that didn’t turn out to be true. You had expectations, but those expectations turned about to be false.
So, let’s turn our attention to these two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Again, they said, “We were hoping …“ That is a key phrase of this text. They inform Jesus what they were hoping--that Jesus was going to redeem Israel (v. 21). They weren't delusional in their hope. They were convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was a true prophet, “mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” In other words, his miracles backed up the claims he made for himself. And so, as far as they were concerned, the Messiah had come. But then they crucified him (v. 20).
Now, keep in mind that the disciples don’t recognize that the man they are speaking to is Jesus. Verse 16 tells us that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” We’ll come back to that phrase in a moment, but for now, Jesus is a stranger to the disciples, and their impression of him is that he is completely out of touch. Verse 18: “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” To which Jesus replies, “What things?”
Well, we already have heard that they discussed the crucifixion, but what about the resurrection? For, it would be one thing if Jesus died, and that was it. Then they might as well just go to Emmaus and never come back. But the women of their group went to the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body. And, they reported seeing two angels who told them that Jesus was alive. And, two of their own fellow disciples also went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, for they did not see him (vv. 22-24). What to make of all of that? These are the things the Emmaus disciples were discussing when Jesus himself approached them and began to walk along with them (v. 15).
So, let’s go back to the reason Jesus kept their eyes from recognizing him. It’s interesting, and I believe worthy of attention, that following his resurrection, people didn’t recognize Jesus right away. Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener. These two Emmaus disciples spent several hours with him, but they didn’t recognize him as Jesus until he allowed them to. Then there is that story of the eleven disciples fishing in a boat. Jesus calls out to them from the shore, but they don’t recognize him (John 21:4ff.).
So, this is purposeful on the part of Jesus. And I am of the belief that verses 25-27 of Luke 24 explain to us the reason why. [Jesus] said to them, “How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Notice where Jesus focuses the gaze of these two disciples. He doesn’t want them fixated on his visible body. He wants their eyes on the Holy Scriptures. Remember what doubting Thomas said last week, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25).
Well, if that’s the case then nobody after the first eye-witnesses is ever going to believe. Because Jesus ascended into heaven and is no longer visibly present on this earth. Which is why Jesus tells Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
So, if you and I can’t see Jesus, how are we going to believe? God has given to us the Holy Scriptures. The Holy Scriptures are all about Jesus. Again, verse 27: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Now, here is the point. If you have to see to believe, you will never believe. Tens of thousands of people saw Jesus during his lifetime and still didn’t believe. There is a story in Luke’s Gospel of a rich man in hell pleading with Abraham in heaven to allow Lazarus, the beggar, to rise from the dead and warn his living relatives to believe in Jesus so that they don’t make the same mistake and go to hell. Do you remember what Abraham’s reply was? He said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
Wow! There is that phrase again: Moses and the Prophets. That’s a reference to the Holy Scriptures which we have in the Bible. Everything you and I need to know to be 100% convinced that Jesus is real, that he rose from the dead, that our sins are forgiven, and that he is coming back to take us to heaven is written for us in the pages of the Bible. In other words, the Scriptures are not only true; they’re not only reliable; they’re not only infallible and without error; but they’re also sufficient.
Sufficient! That means they are enough for us to fully believe, and that nothing else is ever going to help us believe any more. You don’t need to see Jesus with your own eyes to believe! You just need to read and know the Holy Scriptures.
Which brings me to my final point. How many people actually know the Holy Scriptures? Could it be that is why they don’t have faith? Well, yes, it is. And how many believers (you and me) still struggle with doubt and are disappointed by God? Could it be because although we know some of the Scriptures, we still don’t yet know all of the Scriptures? Luke writes that Jesus explained to the two Emmaus disciples what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
You see, the Emmaus disciples surely were familiar with the Scriptures. But they had only focused on the parts of the Old Testament that seemed to mesh with their already preconceived expectations of what they wanted the Messiah to be. So, in their minds they were thinking, “When the Messiah comes he will establish an earthly kingdom. When the Messiah comes he will never die. His throne will last forever” (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 45:6). Remember what they told Jesus on their walk, “We were hoping that he was going to redeem Israel.” But then they crucified him.
To which Jesus replies, “How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter his glory?”
There is a chapter of the Old Testament that for modern Jews is often referred to as the “forbidden chapter”. It is Isaiah 53. Please read it. This is your homework for this afternoon. Isaiah 53 is clearest testimony in the Old Testament that coming Messiah was going to suffer and die for the lost sheep of Israel.
Had the disciples believed all that the prophets had spoken, their expectations of the Messiah would have been correct, and they wouldn’t have been disappointed in the aftermath of Good Friday. And when you and I, as God’s disciples of the New Testament, believe all that Moses, the prophets say in his Word, the Holy Scriptures, we will develop accurate expectations, and the negative circumstances of life won’t cause us to become disappointed with Jesus.
Because there will always be disappointments in this life. But when we are familiar with all that the Bible says about the Christian life, we realize that this earthly life is not the real life; it’s just temporary. We’re just passing through. The real life, the good life, the permanent life, is waiting for us in heaven.
You see, as Christians we do have some mighty expectations, but because they are grounded in Scripture, we will never be disappointed. Make it the point of your life to learn the Scriptures. To learn all of them, for yourself and for your children. And go for a walk this afternoon because that is all you can do right now. And while on your walk, talk with Jesus. Amen.