Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Sermon



13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles[d] from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
17 And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?"[e]
18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?"
19 And He said to them, "What things?"
So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain 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."
25 Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." And He went in to stay with them.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.


Some things are just hard to take in all at once. You know what I mean? You were there. You saw what happened. You may have even experienced what happened. But you don't know what happened. The moment, the time, before you could grab a hold of it, the whole thing went racing past you.

Some of you have had moments like that. For some of you, those moments are a major crisis. You have lost a loved one. And you spend your days, even years later, trying to remember that look that they had that you loved. Or you try and relive those last few moments you spent with them, and replay those final words they said. Or maybe you have a note from that person right before they slipped away, and you put it in your dresser to take out to read over and over. Time keeps moving forward, but you want to get everything you can out of that moment you lived a week, a year, a decade ago.

For others of you, those moments are more joyous. Twenty-eight months ago last Wednesday my wife and I were married. Even today, it seems like a dream I was watching more than a day that I lived. It was in fact, a wonderful dream and a wonderful day. I still remember pulling out my hankercheif to wipe her tears away as we said our vows, I still remember holding her hands and swaying them gently to the music as the congregation sang. I remember how she felt in my arms as we had our first dance.

Yet, a little under two years, I am still learning about the moment. I am still learning about what it means for me and for us as a family. I am still learning what that commitment means. I am still experiencing the power of that moment as my love continues to grow for Jennifer.

The two on that walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, were in the middle of a similar moment in their lives. They had considered themselves believers in Jesus. They had accepted his teachings and tried to follow his ways. Then, a week after the crowds cheered him as he entered Jerusalem, another crowd had cried out for him to be crucified. He was crucified. The powers of Rome and religion had grabbed him. They had spat on him and beat him. They had taken his clothes from him and nailed his hands and feet to a cross. He had gargled on his spit and blood until he could not breathe anymore. Then he had cried out a final prayer and died. They could hardly take it all in. Who are we kidding? They really could not take it all in. Days later they were still trying to wrap their minds around what had happened.

Cleopas and his companion, who most believe is his wife, stayed in Jerusalem for the Sabbath. They were to leave Sunday, but once again more news. The women had went to the tomb, and Jesus was not there. They had said he had risen from the dead. Then some of the disciples had said they had seen the empty tomb but had not seen Jesus. As the day got later, they began to walk the 6 miles home. The Bible says they were discussing what had happened.

Actually the Bible uses a stronger word, "syzetein". This Greek word implies a more vigorous, boisterous discussion, a debate, or an argument. Neither of them really could wrap their heads around what was going on. They were arguing about exactly what had happened, and what it all meant.

Then a stranger comes up to them on the road. He asks what all the hub-ub is about. They tell them all that has happened. They share their opinions. They share that they expected a person to come and deliver Israel from occupation by the Romans and be the Messiah. Then the person they thought was the Messiah died. Then there were rumors that he rose again. They share that they hadn't figured out what was going on yet. They needed someone to help them to take it all in. They needed someone to help them make sense of everything.

The Bible says that the stranger scolded them a little bit for not understanding better. Then he opened the Scripture to them. He started in Genesis, and went through the whole Old Testament, showing how the whole Scripture pointed to Jesus. Then the stranger along the road showed how Moses and the prophets all pointed to Jesus suffering and dying, and then rising in glory.

They got to the house of Cleopas in Emmaus, and he and his companion invited this stranger into their house for the evening. After all, in the ancient world evenings are dangerous times to be walking alone. They get out some wine and some bread. The bible said that the guest blessed the bread and broke it, and in the breaking of bread they recognized that the stranger was not a stranger at all. It was in fact Jesus himself. And as soon as they recognized Jesus, he was gone.

Then they say to each other, "Of course it was Him. Didn't you notice how our hearts were burning within us as he opened the Scriptures"? They run back into Jerusalem at night and tell the other disciples what had happened. It was no longer too much to take in. Somehow Jesus had made sense of all of the confusion, heartache, and frustration that they were feeling. In part, because they took in what Jesus had to offer.

There are a lot of pastors and a lot of believers that will spend Easter offering proofs of how Jesus died and rose again. I think this is important to do. Especially for those of us who make decision in part through reasoning our way through them. Maybe I will do it next year.

But, I think it is important as we look at this passage to notice that faith is not something we work hard to attain, or some secret knowledge that we discover through an obscure philosophy that only a few people find. Saving faith, faith in Jesus, is first and foremost a gift. A gift that we can never earn but we can only receive.

Last fall, and the fall before that I went with some of you on a youth activity to the corn maze out of Old Highway 50 in the lanes east of Pueblo and west of Avondale. This last year I wandered around that maze for well over an hour. I walked and walked and walked. Seeking for a direction, a hope, a way to make it. And finally, at the end, I just walked out. I was angry, frustrated, and I could not make sense of where I was. I could not make sense of where I was going. So, after a while, I just quit.

For me, being lost in the dark in a maze (and I am speaking for myself here) is what my life would be about Jesus. I would not be able to make sense of anything. I would feel lost and alone. I would feel cold and in the dark. I could not make sense of anything without Christ in my life. I could not take it all in. I would just feel stuck. Stuck in my selfishness. Stuck in my heartache and pain. But like those men on the road Jesus FOUND ME, came beside me, and helped me make sense of my life. Gave my life hope and meaning.

I am not saying life with Jesus has always been easy. I will say that Jesus has this amazing way of taking the hard things and the easy things, the bad things and the good things, and knitting them all together in my life so that they make sense, have purpose, and have meaning. So that it all matters. When I take him into my life, I am able to take in all life has to offer.

Here is what I believe. I believe that there are some of you here that are struggling to understand what is going on. I don't know what that struggle is. Maybe you are wounded by some circumstance. Maybe some part of your life feels out of control. Maybe you just feel like your life is floating along, and all the days and years are getting away from you. You are wondering how to make sense of it all.

Let me assure you, that Jesus is longing to come beside you, and guide you. He wants you to surrender your life to him, and allow him to add some light, to offer some solice and direction. Actually, I believe he has been there all along, you just have not listened to him or recognized him.

For the disciples on the road that day, it happened as Jesus opened the Scripture to them. As they were able to hear from God's Word, they were able to be changed. Their minds were convinced by the Word. But even more, the Scripture said that their "hearts burned within them". I urge you to open your hearts to God's Word. Pray before you read God's Word that he would speak to you, and then open your hearts to God's Word by beginning to listen to it and read it. Open it in your homes. Read it together with your spouse. Come to Scripture with your questions and concerns. Let God's Word speak to you. Open your heart to the Word in worship and study with others as God leads you. Don't just read the Word for knowledge! Come to Scripture with your life, and allow it to speak to your life. Put into action what you learn. Believe the truth of Scripture and base your life on it. You will find your life being made new. You might even find yourself with a burning heart.

For the disciples that day, the recognized him when they were at the table. They recognized him in the breaking of bread. Now in Scripture the breaking of bread is synonymous with two things.

First, it is synonymous with church community. If you want to recognize Jesus, it helps for you to invest in some Christian community. You will find as you invest yourself in a Bible Study, in church, in some sort of group of believers, you will be able to see Jesus in a whole new light. In how others bless you. With how you deal with people who make you angry. There is something about being together, working together, studying together, and growing together that helps us to see Jesus, and understand more of what he wants for us.

Breaking of the bread also speaks of this table. As we come to this table, we are confronted with some sobering truths. We remember Jesus died for us. Gave his life for us. We remember he did that because he loves us. And we remember the promise ahead. One of the images we have of heaven throughout Scripture is a giant banquet. A meal of celebration. For all Jesus has done, and for the joy of the life that can be discovered through what he has done. He died on the cross. He rose from the dead. He offers us eternal hope. And when we come to the table, and we in faith take the elements, we cannot help but see Jesus. The Jesus who came to earth to save us. The Jesus who walks along side us on the road we are on. The Jesus who calls out for us to trust Him and his word as we

Jesus urges us to not grasp at the fragments of our lives, or to live our lives as a spectator watching as life happens to us. Jesus urges us to take it all in, as we take in the bread and the cup, and know that he wants to be with us. And I pray that as your do take the bread and cup, you will truly see him, and your heart will burn within you. And you will know Him. And you will know….you have been in his presence.

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