In my opinion, one of the most interesting episodes of the original Star Trek series was the one in which Captain Kirk and his crew landed on a planet where they discovered a large sculpture of sorts standing in the middle of the ruins of an ancient city. It was shaped like a huge lop-sided donut and, at first glance it appeared to be made of some kind of stone. But, further investigation led Mr. Spock to see that it was actually a very sophisticated machine-one that was still operational and was designed to function as a window of sorts through which they could look back in time and actually watch history unfold. Using the machine Kirk and his crew were able to see the American Revolution take place before their very eyes. Then, they looked on as Napoleon’s armies conquered Europe and then the machine sped forward a bit and they became firsthand witnesses to the brutality of World War I.Of course this was science fiction, but, if there was such a device-one that would enable you to look back into time, what portion of history would you want to tune in?
Now, as a Christian there are of course lot’s of things I’d love to see. I mean, for example wouldn’t it be wonderful to watch Moses lift his staff and then see God part the Red Sea? I’m sure it would be infinitely better than Cecil B. Demille’s special effects! Or-can you imagine what it would be like to see the expressions on the shepherds’ faces when the angels appeared in the middle of the night to tell them that the Messiah had been born? Or-to look on as the disciples were fighting to keep their boat afloat in that storm on the Sea of Galilee-and then watch as Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and the waves to cease? Wouldn’t it be amazing to actually see Jesus walk on water or feed the 5,000 or to listen as He delivered the Sermon on the Mount? I could go on and on because there are a lot of Biblical events that I would love to be able to witness. Perhaps when we get to heaven God will set up some sort of time portal to allow us to do that!
Well, if He does, one chapter of church history that I will be sure to tune in is described in our text for today. And I want us to look at it together this morning to round out our recent study of Jesus’ seven LAST words…because this text contains some of His FIRST words-some of the first things Jesus said after He rose from the dead that first Easter Sunday. Now, we can’t open a time portal this morning but we can open the Word of God so take your Bibles and let’s do just that. Turn to the Gospel of Luke and let’s read chapter 24:13-36:
13 – Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
14 – They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
15 – As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them;
16 – but they were kept from recognizing Him.
17 – He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.
18 – One of them, named Cleopas, asked Him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 – “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.
20 – The chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him;
21 – 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.
22 – In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning…
23 – but didn’t find His body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive.
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.”
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?”
27 – And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.
28 – As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if He were going farther.
29 – 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.
30 – When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
31 – Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight.
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?”
33 – They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together
34 – and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
35 – Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when He broke the bread.
36 – While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Now, wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on the wall and watch all this take place-to see the expression on JESUS’ face as He talked to these two discouraged disciples who believed He was dead, and then later to see the expression on THEIR faces when they finally realized Who their Companion really was!? Can you imagine how they felt that evening? I mean, first they were thrilled-Overjoyed. But then they remembered their behavior on the road and must have been somewhat embarrassed!
Have you ever been in a situation like these two disciples, where you bumped into someone that you didn’t expect to see and were later mortified by your words and/or actions?
This reminds me of a true story I read years ago about a girl from the farms of the Midwest, who visited Beverly Hills and went into an ice cream shop to get an ice cream cone. She put in her order and then suddenly realized that the person standing next to her at the counter was none other than old blue eyes, Paul Newman himself! She couldn’t believe it! Her heart leaped. But she tried to keep her composure. She didn’t want to act like a tourist and embarrass herself in front of a great star like Paul Newman. So, she tried not to stare or show any emotion. She paid the cashier, turned, and walked calmly out of the store. Well, when she got outside, she took a deep breath and suddenly realized that she had walked out of the store without her ice cream cone. She figured that she must have left it on the counter but she didn’t want to go back in and get it in front of Paul Newman! She just couldn’t do that. So she decided to wait outside the store until Mr. Newman had left the counter. When she looked in and saw that he was no longer there, she walked back into the store to retrieve her cone. But when she got to the counter, she felt a tap on her shoulder from behind. She turned around and: IT WAS PAUL NEWMAN! Flashing his famous smile, he said, “Miss, if you’re looking for your ice cream cone-A moment ago I watched you put it in your purse.”
Well, I think at that moment she felt much like these two disciples must have felt-kind of foolish! Can you imagine their conversation later as they said,
“Did I actually say that? Do you think Jesus heard me? Of course He did-He hears everything! Do you think He’ll say anything to Peter about the way I put Him down for not knowing what had happened in Jerusalem?” I mean, talk about “open mouth….insert foot!”
Now, as I said, I don’t have a time portal this morning-but by using our God-given minds to study His written Word I think we can get a good mental picture of what happened that day. Let’s begin by reviewing the setting. Early that afternoon a disciple named Cleopas and his companion-and many believe this was his wife-these two left Jerusalem for the seven mile hike to their home in the village of Emmaus, a two hour journey that turned out to be the most amazing walk of their lives.
Now, as they began that walk, their hearts were filled with deep sadness because a few days before, the One on Whom they had pinned all their messianic hopes had been cruelly crucified-an experience that was horrible beyond belief for these two disciples. Jesus-their Master and Teacher-had been betrayed, arrested, crucified and then buried. Well, as this couple walked along they found themselves reviewing the events of the past three days and they probably slipped into “iffing.” I imagine they said things like: if only Jesus had RUN from the garden when He had the chance, what a different day this would have been…if only we had stood with Him during His trial…..if only Peter had not denied Jesus….if only Jesus had not admitted to Pilate that He was their king…if only the secret disciples among the Pharisees-men like Joseph and Nicodemus-had spoken out on Jesus’ behalf….IF ONLY… IF ONLY…IF ONLY…
Well, while they were “IF-ING” Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But for some reason they didn’t recognize Him. Since they were walking west, perhaps the setting sun blinded their eyes. Or, maybe they were too preoccupied with their sorrow to identify Jesus. Maybe their tears blurred their vision. Or, maybe they didn’t recognize Him because the last time they had seen Him He was beaten, marred, and bleeding-almost beyond human recognition. And then, I’m sure part of it was their inability to believe that Jesus could rise from the dead. I mean, they had seen Him crucified-they had seen Him run through with that Roman spear. They were convinced that Jesus was dead because in their minds when someone died like that He stayed that way. But you know, I think the MAIN reason they didn’t recognize Jesus was because He blinded them INTENTIONALLY as a way to allow them to verbalize their true feelings so He could then lead them to solve their problems by seeing the truth for themselves.
I say this because in verse 17 Jesus said, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”-a question He used to get them to open up so He could then guide them to the truth.
This reminds me of something we used to say to Sunday School teachers in my days of youth ministry, “Never tell a youth something you can lead him to discover on his own.” Well, these two young people responded with BODY-LANGUAGE that revealed just how defeated they really felt that day. Verse 18 says that when Jesus asked them this question, they stood still, their faces downcast as if they were about to cry-as if re-calling and verbalizing the memories of the seeming defeats of that weekend was just too much for them to bear.
And then after this brief hesitation, Cleopas responded to Jesus’ question, but he did so with a question of his own, saying, “[Stranger], are You the only One visiting Jerusalem unaware of the things that have happened here in these last days?”
Jesus didn’t really answer Cleopas. In fact He played dumb and said, “What things?” And, in this way Jesus guided them to review Who they thought He had been-before He led them to discover Who He is. You see, at this moment these two were living in the PAST and Jesus wanted to show them that He was living in the PRESENT-and by the way, He still is!
Now-I want you to note that their shock at Jesus’ lack of knowledge of the happenings in Jerusalem shows how much Jesus was in the center of the news of that weekend. I mean everyone-even visitors for the Passover-knew about the events that had transpired in the previous days. Jesus’ trial and execution was top news. So, for Jesus to ask, “What things?” -well, this would be like someone coming to you two days after terrorists flew those planes into the Twin Towers and asking why all the flags were at half mast-because Jerusalem was just like the U.S. shortly after 9-11. Everyone knew what things had happened-during that first Holy Week.
Well Cleopas did answer Jesus’ question and in his answer, he showed that at this point he was living in the past, for in his explanation in verses 19-21, he lists all the things Jesus WAS. He was Jesus the Nazarene. He was a prophet. He was mighty in deeds. He was mighty in word. He was loved by and the common people. He was crucified.. Then he toped it all off by saying, “We were hoping that HE WAS the person to redeem Israel.” Did you count all those “He was-es?” You see, for Cleopas and his wife-and I think for all the rest of the disciples at that time-Jesus was now limited to the PAST. He WAS wonderful! We LOVED Him! He TAUGHT us so much! We HAD such high hopes. But He was crucified….and it is all over. For them, Jesus’ death WAS irreversible.
And at this point I want us to note that their problem was they were looking for the wrong kind of Redeemer.
Don’t get me wrong. They expected Jesus to redeem them-but from Roman oppression in the same way that God had redeemed Israel from Egypt, from the Canaanites, from the Philistines, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks. They were looking for a Redeemer Who would bring in a New World order. Well, Cleopas should have been a better student of Greek grammar because the word he used for “Redeem” in verse 21 never meant simply “save” or “deliver.” No, it always meant “to save or deliver-to REDEEM-by paying a PRICE!” I mean, even the word itself inferred that a price had to be paid for their freedom. It would cost something or SomeONE to deliver-to redeem-Israel. And apparently these disciples could not understand the fact that the price to be paid for their redemption was Jesus of Nazareth Himself. To them, redemption simply meant political & national freedom. They had been looking for a Messiah who would deliver them from the Roman yoke.
Remember, they were a conquered and enslaved people. Wherever they went, they saw Roman soldiers ready to suppress any kind of revolt. They heard the cadence of soldiers on the cobblestones of their city streets. These soldiers were billeted in their villages and towns.
Then there were the hated tax collectors, appointed by Roman officials, who administered an oppressive tax system that drained away so much of their wealth into the coffers of Rome. Well, because of all this a restlessness and turbulence lay just beneath the surface of Jewish national life. The slightest spark could have lit the fires of revolt. And they had hoped Jesus would be that spark-that He would release all the pent up fear, anger, and hostility of the people, organize an army, and drive the hated Romans beyond their borders. Like the rest of the disciples, Cleopas and his wife looked for a political messiah who would liberate them from their captors. They wanted to be redeemed – but in a political sense.
Now redemption was why Jesus came. As I told you Easter Sunday that was His main mission. But Jesus provided a redemption-a freedom-that is far greater than mere political freedom. He came to set men and women free from the two most enslaving powers in life: sin and death. He did this through His death and resurrection on our behalf. Once this had been accomplished, Jesus knew that a hope would be lit in the human heart that nothing could ever put out.
But before we criticize Cleopas and the other disciples for embracing this misconception,
1. …I want to point out that, the first thing our study of this text shows is that, in a very real sense, people today still look for the wrong kind of REDEEMER.
I mean they want a redeemer-but not a Lord. They want a redeemer who will solve their problems. They want a redeemer who will help them deal with the consequences of sin-but they still want to sin. Many times as a pastor people have come to me because they didn’t want to live the way God’s Word clearly says they should live. They come to me because they want me to give them an out-obedience is hard and they don’t want it to be hard. In short, they don’t want to pay the price of being a true disciple of Jesus. They don’t want to truly follow Him as Lord. They still want to rule their own lives. But the truth is Jesus can’t really be your Redeemer until you let Him be your Lord. He can’t free you from the power of sin until you yield to Him as Master-in all things!
Well, since Cleopas and the others were looking for the wrong kind of Redeemer, they misunderstood so much-they thought that Jesus was finished-that everything was over. And of course it was not all over and as they talked and listened for the rest of their journey, Jesus led them to discover this-they learned that not only WAS HE….He is! He explained to them how they were wrong in their messianic expectations by showing them that the Scriptures had prophesied that the Christ would have to suffer-exactly as Jesus had suffered that weekend. As verse 27 says, “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
Now think of what happened next. As they journeyed together that afternoon, the same God Who inspired the writings of the Old Testament prophecies, guided them through an understanding of them to help them get back on the road of faith. You see, centuries before His birth the Old Testament described Jesus perfectly. In passages from Genesis to Malachi, the Messiah was portrayed as One Who would be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, Who would perform miracles, enter Jerusalem on a donkey, enter the temple with authority, be betrayed by a friend, forsaken by His disciples, beaten, crucified, pierced, and Who would rise from the dead!
All this was there on paper. It had been for hundreds of years for Cleopas and others to see-but they missed it. They were lost to this truth, because they based their expectations of the Messiah on something other than Scripture and at this point I want us to be sure to note a second truth.
2. You see the Bible is and has always been a ROAD MAP to guide us to faith in Christ.
Several years ago I took Redland’s teens on a cave exploring trip. The owners of the cave gave us a map prepared by expert spelunkers, but they didn’t tell us where we were on the map when we entered the cave and so we immediately became disoriented and at first I thought the map was totally wrong and worthless. So, we tried to find our own way and the more we did the more lost we became. And the more lost we got, the more I realized that if we were ever going to get out of that cave, I had to figure out that map. Well once I did, that piece of yellow paper became more precious than gold! I discovered that someone had taken the time to very carefully map that cave and when I paid attention to his written guidance I found my way out of that dark place.
Now, Someone took the time to very carefully prepare a written “map” to guide you and me out of darkness to the only true source of Light and Life. As John 20:31 says, “These things have been written that you might BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and in believing have life in His name.”
Well, when these three finally arrived at Emmaus after all this “on-the-road Bible study” Cleopas and his wife didn’t want their time together to end, so they invited this wise Stranger to stay and share a meal with them. You know how they felt-I think it was like we are after church some Sunday nights. We’re talking in the foyer and having a great time and we don’t want it to end so we pile in our cars and head to someone’s home and throw a meal together.
And this is what they did. They gathered some cold cuts and sat down to eat and then they asked their guest to say the blessing and as He took the bread and began to give thanks, it suddenly hit them that this Stranger was Jesus Himself! Maybe they noticed the nail-scars on His hands or perhaps the way He handled the bread reminded them of Jesus’ breaking the bread at the last supper or maybe Jesus just opened their eyes-but they realized their Guest was the Lord!
And, the instant they did, Jesus disappeared. I think He vanished while still holding the broken bread up in mid air-leaving it to fall to the table. At this point I want us to note a third very important truth.
3. .Jesus walks the “Emmaus roads of life” WITH US.
I mean these two disciples thought Jesus was gone for good and that they walked in grief all alone that day but they found out this was not true. Jesus was right there with them helping them through a very difficult time. And we need to remember this as well. In fact I have found that when I walk the toughest “roads” of life Jesus draws especially close. So hear this. Whatever you are facing today, whatever you are going through, Jesus is with you. Isaiah 43:1 says, “When you walk through the waters I will be with you…for I am the Lord, Your God.” Remember, as I told you a few weeks ago, Jesus was forsaken on the cross so we would never have to be. He has promised, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” and Jesus always keeps His promises!
Old Testament Professor Adam Welche grew weary of his students praying, “O God, we come into Thy presence…” So one Monday morning at the beginning of his class he led in prayer and said, “O God we do NOT COME into Thy presence for we are never anywhere else.” And that is so true!
As most of you know some of our newest members, Bill and Shannon Dixon just had a baby-their second child-a boy: John Henry! Bill is a cardiologist serving in the U. S. Army. He’s stationed here at Walter Reed and a few months ago-like thousands of other American soldiers, He got his orders to go to Iraq. This meant Bill would be on the other side of the world the day his son was to be born. Well, Bill and Shannon dreaded walking that road and we prayed with them about it. Imagine what it would be like to be separated from your husband at that time-to give birth without him being there-in a new home where you had barely had time to make friends! Think how it would be for Bill to be half a world away-wanting to be with his wife-wanting to welcome his son into the world! Well, Bill shipped out and for weeks Shannon didn’t hear from him. There are no phones or e-mail where he has gone. Their plan had been for her to go to Florida and have the baby there so Bill’s parents could help out but she developed some complications and doctors at Bethesda told her she could not travel. She could not communicate any of this with Bill and had to deal with it all on her own-arranging child care for their daughter Libby, trying to coordinate family visits, not to mention paying the bills and running the household. And all this time Bill had his hands full setting up a mobile hospital and taking care of wounded American soldiers as well as Iraqi civilians. I’m sure both of them felt quite lonely as they walked this rough “road” all these long weeks. I mean Shannon could not pick up the phone and call Bill-and she didn’t want to use the Red Cross channels until the baby was born. She didn’t want to bother him because she knew he literally held the lives of others in his hands. Well, the day of John Henry’s birth-a satellite phone suddenly-unexpectedly-became available to Bill in Iraq and he decided to check on Shannon. He was eventually able to track her down in Bethesda 40 minutes before their son was born.
Now, I believe Jesus arranged all that. He knew their needs. He knew they needed to talk with each other on that special day. Jesus knew they felt alone-but He was with them in this tough time and made it possible for them to talk.
Well, as we LOOK back into time this morning I hope you SEE that Jesus is with you on the Emmaus roads of your life as well, that just as the poem says, when we see only one set of footprints on those especially rough roads of life, Jesus is still with us. In fact it is in those tough times that Jesus carries us! We are NEVER alone and I don’t know about you but I can face anything as long as Jesus is with me!
And then, I think our little journey into the past helps us to see a fourth thing and it is this….
4. …Time spent with Jesus should lead to personal EVANGELISM.
Think of it-the moment these two disciples realized Who they had just spent the day with, they felt compelled to communicate that wonderful knowledge with others. This news that Jesus was alive was too good to keep to themselves. They couldn’t possibly sleep knowing that their friends back in Jerusalem were still grieving. So, even though the sun had already set, they decided to backtrack and return to Jerusalem immediately. In fact, I don’t think they walked-they RAN! Well, that’s the way it is with everyone who meets Jesus. They just naturally want to share Him with others. They want every one to meet Him. Jesus is “news” too good to keep to yourself!
Charles Swindoll recounts a true story as told by Dr. Will Phillips of San Antonio, Texas concerning one of his favorite patients, a wonderful Christian widow named Edith Burns. Now, Edith had a habit of introducing herself by saying: “Hello, I’m Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?” Then she would go on to explain the meaning of Easter and many times in so doing she would lead people to embrace a saving faith in Jesus. One day, with great sorrow on his face Dr. Phillips told Edith that her test results revealed the presence of an aggressive cancer-and that she would not live much longer. Edith’s reply was full of her typical faith. She said, “Don’t be sad Dr. Phillips! Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I’m going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and many of my friends. You have just told me that I am going to a place where I will celebrate Easter forever. And here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!?” As she said this, Phillips thought to himself, “What a magnificent Christian woman this Edith Burns is!”
Well, within a few weeks Edith had reached the point that she had to be hospitalized and she requested that she be given non-Christian room-mates so she could explain to them the true meaning of Easter. Dr. Phillips did all he could to make sure that happened….and as a result several women left that hospital as Christians. Unsaved nurses and orderlies also made decisions to follow Jesus because of Edith’s witness. In fact, pretty much everyone on that floor became a Christian except for the head nurse, Phyllis Cross. She made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith’s faith. You see, Phyllis had been a nurse in an army hospital and felt she had seen and heard it all. She was the original “G. I. Jane” and had been married three times. Phyllis was hard, cold, and did everything by the book. One morning as Phyllis gave Edith a shot Edith said, “Phyllis, God loves you and I love you too. I’ve been praying for you.” Phyllis frowned, “Well, you can quit praying for me. It won’t work. I’m not interested.” Edith replied, “Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home to heaven until you come into the family.”
“Then you will never die,” snapped Edith “because that will never happen.” And she turned and marched out of the room.
Well every day when Phillis walked into Edith’s room, Edith would smile and say something like, “God loves you, Phyllis, and I love you too and I’m still praying for you.” After weeks of this, Phyllis’ heart warmed toward Edith such that she looked forward to caring for her. Gradually they became close friends. One day Phyllis found herself being literally drawn into Edith’s room. She sat down on the side of the bed and said, “Edith, you have asked everyone here on the ward the question, ‘Do you believe in Easter?’ but you’ve never asked me.” Edith said, “I wanted to many times but God told me to wait until you asked and now that you have….” and with that Edith took her Bible and shared with Phyllis the Easter Story. She told her all about Jesus Christ…His life and death and resurrection. And then Phyllis bowed her head and asked Jesus to come into her heart and life.
A few days later on Easter Sunday morning, Phyllis went into Edith’s room to bring her some flowers and she found her dead. Her big black Bible was still open on her lap and a big smile was on her face. Phyllis noticed that Edith had been reading it because her left hand rested on John 14 where Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am there you may be also.” Edith’s right hand was on Revelation 21:4 where it says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain: for the former things are passed away.” Phyllis took one look at Edith’s dead body and lifted her face upward and with tears in her eyes said, “Happy Easter Edith! Happy Easter!”
Then Phyllis left Edith’s room and walked quietly over to a table where two new student nurses were sitting. Phyllis smiled at them and said, “Hello. My name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?” As those Emmaus road disciples learned, that’s the way it is-When we meet Jesus, when we come to know the Risen Lord, we just have to tell someone. We have to share Him with others!
If you are here this morning and are not a Christian, then I hope our look into the past has been eye-opening for you to the point you now see that Jesus is indeed the Christ-the Son of God Who came to redeem you from the power of sin! In fact I echo the words Paul wrote the Ephesians (1:18-20) when he said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe….which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead….” Our risen Lord wants to walk down the roads of life with you. All you have to do is ask Him to forgive you of your sin and to come into your heart and life as Lord and Savior.
LET US PRAY
Father God, Thank You for Your Word-for it is a window through which we can look back and see history and in so doing learn of Your great love. Thank You for the truths that have been revealed in Your Word this morning. Help us to internalize them. We especially thank You for Your Son, our Redeemer, and for His constant presence and guidance in our lives. I pray for any one present this morning who does not know You, that You would knock on their hearts door, and that they would open that door and invite You to join them on their life’s journey. Speak to us all this morning Father…tell us what we need to do in order to be in the very center of Your loving will. I ask all this in Jesus’ name. AMEN
As we sing, won’t you come and share any decision God has laid on your heart?