Luke 24: 13-35
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.
He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’
‘What things?’ he asked.
‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women 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 they did not see Jesus.’
He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. 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.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. 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?’
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.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.
SUMMARY OF EASTER SUNDAY’S MESSAGE
We’re going back to take a journey on the original Easter Sunday with two people who were among the first to encounter and experience the risen Jesus.
To understand this story, we need to grasp a little of what was going through the minds of those who had first followed Jesus when he walked the earth 2000 years ago. Israel, at the time, was under Roman occupation and for centuries the Jewish people had been waiting on and praying for a deliverer – the Messiah – who they expected would lead a revolution and destroy all of Israel’s enemies.
When Jesus came along, a movement formed around him. Soon people were on the edge of their seats, hoping and believing that this man could indeed be the Messiah. Then, almost as if in slow motion, the whole thing begins to unravel. Jesus is betrayed by a friend, He is tried and convicted on the basis of false allegations and he doesn’t even fight back. Jesus is mocked, marched through the streets of Jerusalem and nailed to a wooden cross on a hill overlooking the city. On that Friday, as Jesus died - hope died. Dreams were destroyed. Hearts were crushed. Those who had followed Jesus and put their faith in him were shattered and scattered.
That was Friday. When we join the story, it’s now only a few days later on Sunday afternoon.
We meet two former followers of Jesus. One of them is called Cleopas, we don’t know the name of the other one. They weren’t in the inner group of 12 disciples, but they were part of the Jesus movement. They had put all of their hopes in Him. And now that it’s all fallen apart, they’ve packed it all in and they’re going back to their home village called Emmaus. It’s about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem, a 2-3 hour walk. It says they were talking with each other about all that had happened. That’s what we do when we can’t make sense of a situation. We go over it again and again, trying to process all that has happened.
Jesus comes along and walks beside them but somehow they don’t realise it’s him. At their lowest point, when God seems farthest away, when God seems to have failed them – it’s at that moment that God is actually closest to them.
Sometimes we become so overwhelmed with life that we miss what’s right in front of us. We feel that God has abandoned us and we don’t realise that God, in those moments, draws closest to us. It’s only as we look back later that we realise that God was doing something in our lives, that He was walking with us, that He was revealing himself to us, that He was comforting us and strengthening us.
It was no accident or coincidence that Jesus just happened to be walking with these two at this moment. He deliberately sought these two out, He initiated the interaction. He seeks us out too, at our lowest, darkest moments. He comes and finds us when we hit rock bottom.
They express their dashed hopes: “…we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.”
What disappointment would you express with the words: “I had hoped…..”?
Hope is like oxygen, without it life can lose all meaning and purpose. These two had put their hope in Jesus and with their own eyes they had watched their hope hanging on a cross, dying right in front of them.
They’ve heard a rumour that Jesus has risen from the dead, but they don’t believe it. They’re sceptical, that why they’re going the other way our of Jerusalem. However Jesus loves to reveal himself to sceptics and cynics. He’s not afraid of our questions and doubts.
Over the next 2 hours Jesus takes them on the most incredible Bible study there’s ever been. He walks all the way through the Jewish scriptures, the Old Testament, and shows them how all that has happened to Him – His birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection – were all predicted and foretold hundreds of years before they happened. He is showing them that His death on the cross was no tragic accident, it wasn’t plan B – it was God’s plan all along that the Messiah would suffer and die. Jesus life wasn’t taken from him. He willingly chose to give his life away.
They eventually arrive at Emmaus, it’s the end of the journey for Cleopas and his companion. Jesus is about to walk on but they invite him in. There’s something going on inside them, they don’t know what it is yet, but this man walking with them – they don’t want to let him go.
Jesus doesn’t force himself into their lives – he waits to be invited. It’s exactly the same today. Jesus won’t force you to believe. He will draw close to you, He will reveal himself to you – and at that point it’s up to you. You can allow him to leave, and get on with your life. Or you can say. “Jesus, I invite you in. Come into my life.”
Jesus goes inside their house, sits down at the table and as He breaks the bread, suddenly, in that moment, it says ‘their eyes were opened’. Their hope comes alive and their hearts which had grown so cold are now on fire – pulsating with life.
Meeting the Risen Jesus turns their lives around. They go back to those they left behind, the other disciples and proclaim: “It’s true, Jesus really has risen!”
Jesus is alive, therefore hope is alive. Despair has been replaced with joy. Disappointment changes to expectation. Fear becomes confidence. Death has become new life.
One of Jesus’ followers, Paul, would later write this:
“The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. If the same Holy Spirit lives in you, He will give life to your bodies in the same way.” (Rom 8: 11)
The same power that raised Jesus back to life is available to each one of us today. When the Holy Spirit comes and lives inside us – then we really come alive.