Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-35
Have you ever had someone, or I even suppose something, come into your life that you are pretty sure will change things, and change them for the better?
Maybe it’s a new job, or a new boss. A new teacher maybe. A new house or a new car. Maybe even a new friend. Or maybe it’s a class you are going to take, or to hear a speaker who promises to change your life.
We like to look to others, whether people or things, to help us change our life around. Not that we think our life is all that terrible, but sometime we like to shake it up a little. When something new comes along, it often is accompanied by a feeling of freshness, a bit of energy, a boost. And we like it don’t we?
How many times though does the change not really change anything? Sure, we may change for a few days, maybe even a few weeks or months, but long term, how often do we find ourselves back in our old routines?
I know I am guilty of these things, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. If I am, I guess this is a confession on my part, and you can just ignore it, all you perfect people out there.
Change takes discipline. Even in our Hearing God courses, where we’re learning to hear God speak to us, those changes aren’t permanent if we don’t keep up with the practices we’re learning.
It’s so easy to slip back into our old ways. The hope we have when we start something new can slip away over time. Of course we don’t really want it to slip away do we? We started the change because it meant something to us, we were excited, we had goals to meet. But the temptations of the way things have always been often find a way to creep back in.
Now those are pretty much examples of things we get or do. But what about people? Well, the same thing can happen. We expect something great, we have hope, that a person will help us change, or they will do something for the better in our lives or in our community.
However, if that person leaves, or for whatever reason is unable to do what we hope they are going to do, then we can once again quickly revert back to who we were before. We might even be sitting at home and a memory will flash back to us about the “good thing” that was going to happen, and we’ll remember the excitement of the work going on, and then think, “Too bad it didn’t work out.”
That’s the way it goes sometimes. We can get excited, we can get really hopeful over something or someone, but once we see that it’s not happening the way we had hoped it might turn out, we can lose that hope rather quickly.
It’s sad, but true.
In our reading from Luke today, we are just later in the day of resurrection. The women went to the tomb in the morning. They saw the tomb was empty. They heard the angels say he is alive. They remembered what Jesus had taught them and they were overjoyed as they understood that what they are seeing is exactly what Jesus had said would happen.
The women went to tell the disciples and they didn’t understand what the women were trying to tell them. Peter went to check it out for himself. He saw the empty tomb. But he was still confused. He wasn’t able to put it all together.
And now, later that same day, two disciples are walking out of Jerusalem on their way to Emmaus, and they are talking about what had happened over the last few days and in particular what happened that very morning with the empty tomb.
While they are walking and discussing, a stranger joins them wondering what they are talking about.
Of course, we’re told it’s Jesus, but the disciples are not able to recognize him. We’re told they were not allowed to recognize him.
When we read or hear something in the Bible like “it was hidden from them” then we need to pay attention. We need to pay attention because it’s a pretty good sign that God has an important message to share.
In this case, these two disciples, one of which we know was named Cleopas, they are not able to recognize Jesus. So when Jesus asks, “What are you talking about?” they bring him up to speed as if he had not heard a thing about what has happened these past few days. Which is strange, because this news of Jesus, his death and the empty tomb, would be pretty big news. Everyone is talking about it.
It’s like you’d have to be hiding in a cave for a few days to not hear about it.
The disciples share their sad story. The sad story of Jesus, a great prophet, one who was mighty in deed and word, and how he was condemned and crucified.
Verse 21 is a key verse when they say, “… we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” And then they share the news of the empty tomb and the events of the morning.
Jesus, hearing all of this, hearing their sadness and the confusion, he begins to teach them. As they are walking, Jesus reminds them that the Messiah had to suffer before entering God’s glory. He reminded them of all the prophecies which were telling of his coming and what would happen, beginning with Moses and working his way through the Old Testament. All along the journey, he was teaching, pointing out how these things all pointed to Jesus and the life he lived.
The journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus is 7 miles. We’re talking about a 2-3 hour walk, probably even more as we know people often walk slower when they are talking. We aren’t sure exactly when Jesus joined their company, but we can assume he was there for a large part of the journey, teaching all along the way.
When they get to Emmaus, Jesus looks to keep going. Where? We don’t know. But Cleopas and the other disciple ask him to stay because it’s getting late. Being good hosts, there is a meal for their guest. What’s interesting is that Jesus is the one who is serving. Jesus, breaking social convention, has become the host of the meal in someone else’s home.
Jesus, in his teaching along the journey, has earned some respect from these disciples. They have allowed him to be the host at their dinner table. It should be the other way around. But something about this guy and what he has been sharing for the last few hours has touched these men, and they allow him the honour of being the host of the meal.
And then Jesus does something he last did just a couple of days before, he takes the bread, he blesses it, he breaks it, and he passes it to his friends.
In that moment, Cleopas and the other disciple recognize him. Their eyes are opened and they finally see Jesus! But more than just their eyes, their minds, their hearts are opened too as they understand everything that has happened.
I love their response right after Jesus disappears from the room.
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
Then, after an emotionally draining day, after walking 4 hours along the hot road, they look at each other, jump up and run the 7 miles back to Jerusalem to tell the others. They just have to share with everyone what they have experienced, and it cannot wait.
This really is a great story. Jesus joins them on their walk home, but they don’t recognize him. It’s like he’s wearing a disguise or something. But all along the way he is teaching them, reminding them, sharing with them, and all of it from scripture. All of it pointing to him.
And then there’s the moment which brings them back to just a few days before. Jesus is the host at the table and he blesses, breaks and shares the bread. It’s in that moment everything comes together. It’s like Jesus takes off the mask, they see him and know how it all comes together.
“Were not our hearts burning… while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
They realize the connection to what they were feeling earlier. While Jesus was sharing scripture with them, they were excited, they were moved by what they were hearing. What a feeling that must have been!
Have you ever had that feeling? Have you ever been reading your Bible when you felt moved, you felt excited by the words you were taking in?
Cleopas and his friend are reminding us that scripture is more than just words on a page. These words which are printed in our Bibles are far more than what we read anywhere else.
These words bring life.
The conversation between these disciples and Jesus began hours before with the words, “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.”
Through the events of the last few days, through the news that the tomb was empty, the disciples had lost hope.
The women had their hope back. They had heard the angels tell the Good News that Jesus is alive. They had it revealed to them, they had their hope.
But the disciples still struggled. They were sad, they were confused, they didn’t know what to think. So they went home. Maybe they were leaving the city to feel safe, because who knows what would happen next, especially to those who were friends of Jesus.
And they had lost their hope.
Losing hope is really hard. I think about the times in my life when I lost hope. I think about my time working for Nortel when there were pretty much constant changes as they company tried to save itself from going under. With each change, at least early on, there was hope that the company could be saved. But as each successive change failed, as the company continued in its tailspin, hope drained. More changes, more drastic changes, kept coming, but there was no hope any more. I certainly had no hope that the company could be saved. So God gave me an opportunity, and I took it. I left the company.
All of a sudden I had hope again. I saw life turning around for the better. Even if it meant selling our home and moving away from our friends.
That’s the difference between the types of hope we have in our lives. When we get hope from things of this world, things like work, or money, or a new home, or even other people… what I’ve learned over the years is that those kinds of hope will never last. They will never last.
There is only one kind of hope which lasts forever. There is only one hope which will never let us down.
That is the hope of the empty tomb.
It’s the hope of God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
This is the only source of hope we can truly depend on. And we can depend on it for all eternity.
Don’t we all want this kind of hope in our lives?
The disciples were hopeless after they found the empty tomb because they had put their hope in the humanity of Jesus. Their hope was in the man, not in the Son of God, not in the divinity of Jesus.
When they realized his true nature, through the connection with scripture, through Jesus revealing himself to them at the table… when Jesus revealed himself, not only as alive, but as the Messiah, the Christ, the hope of all the world, their lives were forever changed.
When they had hope in the man Jesus, their hope died with him. But in Jesus Christ the Son of God, their hope was not only alive, it was on fire!
What is your source of hope today?
Is it in earthly things, like people or places or things? Or is your hope in God, the one who created all of this, the one who has made promises to us that will never end?
The promises of God are forever.
Think back to the Old Testament. How God promised to make children from Abraham, even though he was childless in his 90s. He made promises to David that his kingdom would last forever. All of these promises are about relationship, that God will be with all His children, for all generations to come. That these promises would be not just for a particular nation at a particular time, but these promises are for everyone of every generation.
God’s promises are forever, if we become His children. If we accept the cross, which should have been our punishment, our death… if we accept the empty tomb as our empty tomb, as we accept Christ’s resurrection as our resurrection, our hope will be restored.
And it will be a hope that will never leave us.
No longer will we say, “We had hoped…”
We will say, “We have hope!”
And that hope is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gave his life for our life, but who was also raised from the tomb, back to our Father in heaven, so that we too will be in His presence someday.
This hope, these words of Scripture, all of these things bring life.
Jesus said he came to bring us life, so that we may have it abundantly. So that we may be full of hope, hope only God can give.
Let us pray,
All around us we see people losing hope. We see people choosing to place their hope in things, people, places of this world. And we also see how that hope does not last. We too have fallen, we have failed, we have struggled with this.
But in you, Jesus, you give us hope that this world cannot give. We see this in your life, we read it in scripture, we hear it in the stories of people who have welcomed you into their lives as Lord and Saviour.
Lord Jesus, remind us of this hope we have in you. Show it to us in Scripture, reveal it to us in our hearts, let us see the life you have for us when we accept your death as our death, but also your resurrection as our resurrection.
Let us see the hope which will never leave us when we give our lives to you. Refresh us, renew us, show us once again your love for us.
We ask this in your most holy name.
Amen and amen.