Divine Service I
Page 151 – hymnal
Order of Worship
Organ Prelude: Pastorale in G Hermann Schellenberg
Confession / Absolution
Hymn: "Who Are You Who Walk in Darkness" #470
Collect of the Day
Old Testament Reading: Acts 2:14,36-41
Gradual: Psalm 116:1-14
Epistle Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-25
Holy Gospel: Luke 24:13-25
Offertory: Jesus, My Sure Defense Max Reger
Prayer of the Church
Organ Postlude: Christ Is Arisen! Carl Piutti
“They Had Hoped”
“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem…”
“That very day…” is Easter Sunday. The women had ran into the house where the disciples were huddled behind locked doors and told their incredible story about the tomb being empty and the angels and they SAW JESUS and HE SPOKE TO THEM. And Peter and John ran out in and then came back more confused than ever. And no one knew what to think. Eventually, two of them said, ‘we’re going home.’ And they left the house and the city and headed to Emmaus.
“And they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.”
I sometimes wonder what you talk about on your way home from church. Do you “talk about the things that happened” in church, in the service?
It’s a proven fact that we internalize things that we hear and see when we talk about them with others, or write about them. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to remember something you hear, especially when you think, ‘I really want to remember that’? How long will you remember what this sermon is about? But if we discuss what we’ve seen or heard with others, it becomes much more deeply embedded in us.
You’ve got to wonder if at least part of the reason that the Christian faith is losing its hold on the culture in the U.S. isn’t because we’ve made our faith a PRIVATE thing, and not something that you TALK about let alone DISCUSS with others.
“While they 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 and discussing “all the things that had happened…” And suddenly you realize that there’s someone in the back seat of the car. And He says, “what are you talking about?” And you wonder ‘who is this guy?’ And ‘where did He come from? Never realizing that He’s the One whom you’ve been talking about.
“They’re eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” We’ll come back to that.
Luke tells us that one of the two men is named Cleopas. The name doesn’t mean much to us, but Luke includes his name here because the people of Luke’s day would have known who this is. He might have been a pastor or a teacher or a deacon in the church, or something.
It’s Cleopas who asks the question – and with a good dose of snarkyness. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?” Can we just imagine the congregation in Emmaus, WHO, AS THEY READ LUKE’S GOSPEL, KNOWS WHO THIS STRANGER IS, saying to Cleopas, “You said what?!” It’s almost hard to read this with a straight face.
“Jesus said to them, ‘What things?’” He’s going to make them recite the story out loud again – which they do.
It’s a good confession of faith that includes most of the essential details of the 2nd Article of the Creed that we just confessed OUT LOUD – His humanity, His suffering and death, even His resurrection from the dead. It’s a good confession of THE FAITH.
The only problem is… it’s not THEIR FAITH. Mingled into their confession of THE FAITH is that nasty little word about THEIR FAITH, ‘ailpidzomen.” “We had hoped.” “We had hoped He was the one to redeem Israel.” That’s ‘hope’ in the PAST TENSE that’s no longer a PRESENT TENSE ‘hope.’ There was a time when they were full of ‘hoped,’ but that time has now past. Now they were ‘HOPELESS.’
This may well be one of the saddest verses in the bible. Where do you go from here? What do you do now? Talk about being lost.
It’s heartbreaking to think of how many men and women, boys and girls, who are baptized into Christ, were catechized in the faith and active in their church, but who now say, “We had hoped He was the one…” “But we no longer do.” “Our hope in Jesus is a thing of the past.”
“We had hoped that He was the one…” But then something happened that didn’t jive with their expectations of the way they thought things should go IF HE REALLY WAS THE ONE. And now they say, “we had hoped…”
“We had hoped that He was the one…” But then life got really busy and there was college and marriage and career and children and hobbies… And all that became EVERYTHING and there was no time left to be in worship and the word and at the Supper, let alone “talk about and discuss these things.” And now they say, “we had hoped…”
Sounds like Jesus’ parable of the sower. “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…”
It all sounds so desperate, so sad, so… ‘hopeless.’ Until we recall those words that we have already heard, “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.” Let’s “talk about and discuss” those words.
Not waiting until they come around or rediscover their faith, “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.” The Good Shepherd “drew near” to His sheep in their confusion and despair.
“He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mat. 9;36). They had been stripped of their hope and half dead. And Jesus had compassion on them. The Good Samaritan, saw them and came to 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 the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
Oh, what we wouldn’t give to have heard that sermon that these two, broken hearted men heard on that first Easter day from this stranger. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” We can only suppose what He must have pointed to.
• How Adam’s side was opened for the sake of His bride and the scar that must have left on him. And showing the His side, ‘recognize anything’?
• How Isaac carried the wood that he himself would be sacrificed on? Sound familiar?
• How Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers and then forgave them because it was God’s will? Ring any bells?
• How Israel sacrificed the Passover lamb – a male without blemish – and its’ blood caused death to pass over them? See any connection?
• How Moses lifted up the serpent on a pole and all who looked at it were healed? And our hearts beginning to burn.
• How the giant, Goliath shouted, ‘Send your best man to fight me.’ And the boy, David slew him and cut off his head. And now our hearts are burning.
• How David prayed in his distress – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me… 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…” And our hearts are burning.
• How Isaiah had prophesied, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” And our hearts are ON FIRE.
The ENTIRE Old Testament is all about Jesus and how His suffering and death was God’s plan for the redemption of the whole world – FOR US and for OUR salvation. Rather than losing hope in Him BECAUSE of His suffering and death – His suffering and death is now the BASIS for our hope in Him. It confirms that He is the Messiah, to whom the entire Old Testament promises and points to. It’s because these things happened EXACTLY AS THEY DID that we HAVE HOPE. As Peter preached to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, “this Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…” (Acts 2:23).
“So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they URGED HIM STRONGLY, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.”
When the Apostle Paul baptized Lydia and her whole family, Luke writes, “she urged us strongly” to “come to my house and stay.” (Acts 16:15).
This is how hearts that burn respond to Jesus. ‘Stay! Please don’t leave us! Not when we’re just starting to feel alive again.’
“So He went to stay with them.” And once in their house, the guest becomes the host. “When He was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them.” Sound familiar?
I promised we’d get back to that part about “they’re eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” And here it comes.
In the beginning, a clever serpent “drew near” to Adam and Eve, and “strongly urged” them, ‘stay.’ And the serpent offered them food to eat, promising that, “in the day that you eat of it your eyes will be opened…” But it was a lie. Because when they ate of that food, they became blind and “they were kept from recognizing” the presence of God among them. And in their blindness, they lost all HOPE in the God who created them in His image and by His love. They no longer trusted that He cared for them let alone loved them. They “had hoped.”
But now, this Jesus of Nazareth, the ‘offspring of the woman’ who ate that deadly food, who was crucified and now risen from the dead, is redeeming all of His Adams and Eves just as God had promised Adam and Eve He would. Now, in this meal, He COUNTERACTS the meal of the serpent. “He took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them.”
“AND THEIR EYES WERE OPENED, AND THEY RECOGNIZED HIM.” And in ‘seeing Him’ in the meal, they are filled once again with great HOPE.
Paul writes to the Romans, “We rejoice IN HOPE of the glory of God… AND HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom.5:3,5).
Peter writes to the church, “Set YOUR HOPE fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13). “The revelation of Jesus Christ” when our eyes will be opened and we too will ‘see’ what we have HOPED FOR all along.
And then we read, “And He vanished from their sight.” You would think that they would be sad again wouldn’t you? But they’re not. They’re eyes were now opened. Their HOPE was now restored. The ground under their feet was firm once again. An excitement based on a FIRM HOPE that they thought had been lost forever now coursed through their veins.
“And they said to each other, did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while he opened the scriptures to us?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.”
How different must this journey BACK TO JERUSALEM have been than the one they had taken just a few hours earlier? “And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together…” How similar and yet how different was that gathering now than it had been that same morning? In the morning it had been the two women who tried to tell their story amidst the confusion and questions and disbelief. But now, the whole house is electric with excitement and HOPE. Now it is these two men who are bursting at the seams to tell their story. But before they can, the eleven had their own story they were bursting to tell… “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
“Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
We let the Psalmist have the final word.
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word, I hope… O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Ps. 130:5-6).