Easter 3 – "We Had Hoped" – Luke 24:13-35 – 5/4/14

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“That very day two of them were going to village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem…”

“That very day…” is Sunday. Easter Sunday to be specific. They had come to Jerusalem for the Passover and now that it was over. They were returning home from church just like you will shortly. The 7 miles that they had come would have take them two to three hours to walk. It would have taken them about the same amount of time to return home. How long would it take you to walk 7 miles each way to come to church? Or am I asking the wrong question here?

“…And they were talking with each other about all the things that happened.”

I sometimes wonder what you talk about on your way home from church. Do you discuss ALL THE THINGS that happened? Do you talk about what was discussed in Adult Bible Study? Do you ask the children what they learned in Sunday School? What did you think of the sermon? What do think he meant when he said…” “What about that closing hymn.” “Where did that visitor with the two small children say she was from?”

Or are you already thinking about something else and discussing what’s for dinner?

It’s a proven fact that we internalize things that we hear and see when we talk about them or write about them. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to remember something we hear, especially when we think, ‘I really want to remember that.’ How long will you remember what this sermon is about?

But if you can speak those things out loud and better yet, discuss them with someone, they become much more embedded in us.

This is why the Church has historically insisted that we SPEAK the essential facts of the faith OUT LOUD, rather than just hearing them. Of all Christian denominations, Lutheran Worship is one of the most participatory worship services there is. Congregation and pastor engage in a SPOKEN or SUNG DIALOG all though the service. This helps us internalize what we hear.

I wonder if at least one of the reasons the Christian faith is loosing its hold on our culture in the U.S. is because we’ve made our faith a PRIVITE thing, not something you TALK about let alone DISCUSS with others. We may HEAR the Word. But if we don’t VERBALIZE it, TALK about it, it floats away. Like seed sown on rocky soil, it never really takes root.

So let these two be an example to you to imitate. “…They were talking with each other about all the things that happened.”

“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And He said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”

Try to picture it. You’re driving home from church, talking about ALL THE THINGS that happened, and suddenly you realize that there’s someone in the back seat of the car. And He says, “What is this conversation that you are having with each other as you drive?” And you wonder, ‘Who is this guy?’ And ‘where did he come from?’

And strangely, it doesn’t dawn on you that He’s the One whom you’ve been talking about. And it doesn’t dawn on you because your “eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

So, we can’t really blame these two for not recognizing Jesus. It’s wasn’t their fault or due to their ignorance. Literally it reads, “their eyes being HELD BACK…” They didn’t recognize Him because He didn’t let them recognize Him.

This is strange. Why would He keep them from recognizing Him? Think of all the confusion and doubts He could have cleared if only He LET THEM recognize Him. But instead they’re more confused then ever.

“And they stopped dead in their tracks. And as hard as they tried to be polite and smile, they just couldn’t do it.” “Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, with a definite tone of anger and resentment in his voice. ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” It’s hard for us to keep a straight face. If they only knew how much this stranger KNEW THE THINGS THAT HAPPENED THERE IN THESE DAYS.

And He said to them, ‘What things?’ He’s going to make them recite the story out loud again.

If you’ve ever wondered why we DON’T ask people to say what they believe in their own words but rather, we confess our faith in words that have been carefully hammered and meticulously scrutinized against the Scriptures in Ecumenical Creeds, here’s the reason.

They said, “We believed in Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, who was delivered up to our chief priests and rulers, condemned to death and crucified. And on the third day, which is today, some women amazed us with stories about a missing corpse and visions of angels. And because you know you can’t really trust women, some men went. But they came back just as dumfounded.”

How’s that for a confession of faith? What you verbalize you internalize. If you verbalize weak and confused confession of faith, you will internalize it and your faith will become weaker and you will become more confused. Garbage in, garbage out.

Just listen to the result that this creed has on these two men. “We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.”

“We had hoped…” That’s ‘hope’ in the past tense. There was a point in time when we ‘hoped,’ but that has past. Now they’re ‘hopeless.’

“We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” It’s heartbreaking to think of how many men and women, boys and girls, who have been baptized into Christ, catechized in the faith, were active in the church, but who now say, “We had hoped He was the one…” “But we no longer do.” “Our hope in Jesus Christ is a thing of the past.”

“A sower sowed his seed, and some fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.” (Mark 4:5-6). “WE HAD HOPED.”

This is so sad and so terrible. There is nothing worse than to loose ‘hope.’ We make the decisions in the present based on our ‘hope’ for the future. And when the future arrives and it’s not at all what we HOPED for, we’re devastated.

We married IN THE ‘HOPE’ that this person would make a good spouse. We moved IN THE ‘HOPE’ that this would be a good place to live. We came to this church IN THE ‘HOPE’ that Christ would be preached and the sacraments would be administered and the people would be welcoming.

And what disappointment if our ‘hope’ fails. It’s like the bottom falls out from under us and we don’t know what to do or where to turn. We’re lost.

And how much more devastating is all of this if you have lost hope in the One whom you HAD HOPED would redeem you?
 Let every other HOPE be taken away from me but not my hope in Jesus.
 “…Though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling…” I will not fear because my HOPE is in Jesus. (Ps.46:2-3).
Don’t take away my hope in Jesus.

“We HAD HOPED that He was the One.” “Behold they say, ‘our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are indeed cut off.” (Ez. 37:11)

It all sounds so desperate, so sad, so HOPLESS. Until we remember these words. “Jesus himself drew near and went with them.”

“He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mat.9:36)

They were stripped of their hope and half dead along the road. And He came to where they were and when He saw them He had compassion on them and bound up their wounds, pouring on oil and wine. (Luke 10:34)

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

Oh, what would we give to have heard the sermon these two broken men heard on that Easter Day from the mouth of this stranger?

We can only suppose what He must have pointed them to.

 HOW ADAM’S SIDE IS OPENED FOR HIS BRIDE AND THE SCAR IT LEFT ON HIM – recognize anything?

 HOW ISAAC CARRIED THE WOOD THAT HE HIMSELF WOULD BE SACRIFICED ON THE ALTAR – sound familiar?

 HOW JOSEPH WAS SOLD INTO SLAVERY BY HIS OWN BROTHERS AND THEN FORGIVES THEM BECAUSE IT WAS GOD’S WILL – is your heart beginning to burn a little?

 HOW ISRAEL SACRIFICED THE PASSOVER LAMB AND ITS BLOOD CAUSES THE ANGEL OF DEATH TO PASSOVER THEM – and our hearts burn are definitely burning now.

 HOW MOSES LIFTED UP THE SERPENT ON POLE AND ALL WHO LOOKED AT IT WERE HEALED – and our hearts are burning.

 HOW GOLIATH SHOUTED, ‘SEND YOUR BEST MAN TO FIGHT ME,’ – and our hearts are burning.

 HOW DAVID PRAYED IN HIS DISTRESS, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME… FOR A COMPANY OF EVILDOERS ENCIRCLES ME; THEY HAVE PIERCED MY HANDS AND FEET—THEY DIVIDE MY GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS” (Ps.22) – and our hearts are on fire.

It’s all about Jesus and how His suffering and death was all for us and for our salvation. And it’s all according to the definite will and plan and purpose of Almighty God.

So rather than loosing hope in Him because of his suffering and death, His suffering and death becomes the basis for our hope in Him. It confirms that He is the One to whom the whole Old Testament points and promises.

These two broken men, are being raised from the dead by the Word of God from the lips of God.

They are almost ready to celebrate Easter in the joy that “hope does not disappoint us because the love of Christ has been poured out into our burning hearts”? (Rom. 5:5). But not quite yet.

“So they drew near to the village to which they were going. Jesus acted as if he were going farther, but they URGED HIM STRONGLY, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and they day is now far spent.”

This is how hearts that burn respond to Jesus. ‘Please don’t leave us. Not when we’re just starting to feel alive again.’

“So he went in to stay with them.” SUCH SWEET GOSPEL. He cannot refuse an invitation like this. “Ask and it will be given to you.”

But once in their house, the guest becomes the host.

“When He was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” Sound familiar?

As He held that bread in His hands and lifted it up and broke it and gave it to them, they saw in His hands the mark of the nails. “AND THEIR EYES WERE OPENED AND THEY RECOGNIZED HIM.” They recognized Him by the very marks that had caused them to lose hope in Him.

“Their eyes were kept from recognizing Him,” until they could recognize Him by His suffering and death for them. Only when they were ready to see Him through the cross was what was KEPT FROM THEM now given to them. And the scales fell from their eyes and the blind received their sight.

“And he vanished from their sight.”

And you would think that they would be sad again wouldn’t you. But they’re not. They’re eyes were opened. Their HOPE had not been in vain after all. They were on firm ground again. They were alive again. Their “Hope had not disappointed them, for the love of Christ was been poured out into their hearts.” (Rom. 5:5).

After walking 7 miles home from Jerusalem, they return again that same day. They can’t wait to tell the others “about all the things that happened on the road and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Rom. 15:13)

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