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An Easter Journey
“The Emmaus Road”
Watch it on YouTube at: “Mesquite NV Living Waters Fellowship”
With this new coronavirus and the government’s edicts to stay at home, no gathering over 10 people, and social distancing, there is simmering just below the surface three basic facts that frankly none of us really want to admit, but the truth is more than evident.
1. We Feel Exhausted
This is the actually the way most people felt prior to this new coronavirus threat, when we simply couldn’t keep up with our world’s fast paced life style with instant everything. The pace was killing us, and we were so overloaded that all we could think of doing by the end of the day was going home to crash and burn. Even if we wanted to do something we were simply too tired to try.
But now there’s this new era of the coronavirus and the government’s response, where most of us are being placed on the shelf unable to do anything, even if we wanted to. And even though we may be doing nothing, that doesn’t stop the fact that we feel exhausted and worn out over the anxiety of what the world, and for that matter, what we all are facing.
2. We Feel Empty
For a long time this is how most people felt even in the presence of others. We belonged to this group, or involved in this event. But by the end of the day, not only are we tired, but also we felt an overall emptiness inside, wondering what is the meaning of it all. We may have more, but we are still left unsatisfied.
And now, with this new pandemic, this feeling has intensified. People around the globe are dying from something that we cannot even see, and it doesn’t make sense. What we thought about the world has been changed in a few weeks and we have this overall feeling of emptiness inside not knowing what the future has in store.
It’s as Solomon so aptly put it saying, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2), or more literally, “Useless, Useless, it is all useless.” And so we feel empty inside from the uselessness of it all.
3. We Feel Trapped
The third truth is an overall feeling of being trapped. Many things trap us.
• We’re trapped by debt and don’t know how we’re going to get out of it.
• We may feel trapped by the expectations of others, and this is then followed by guilt, fear, or anger; all of which are themselves traps.
• Others are trapped by bitterness and resentment over what someone has done, and this usually ends with us feeling that no matter what we do it isn’t going to help.
But with these new requirements placed upon us to stay indoors, not to go anywhere, and where the wild animals are reclaiming cities streets, we are likewise feeling trapped. We can’t go out without people looking at us sideways.
And so, this is how most everyone is feeling, that is, exhausted, empty, and trapped.
Today I’d like to introduce you to two such people and the road they found themselves upon. They were disciples of Jesus, and even after they were told that the tomb was empty, they still were downcast and dejected.
Prior to this time, their lives were filled with hope, and not only did they find joy, but also a general sense of renewal, along with a hope that seemed to erase exhaustion, emptiness, and enslavement.
But now they were on a road that led them away from Jerusalem and towards the town of Emmaus. Now it is important to see this picture. These disciples were moving away from Jerusalem, the city of God, capital of the Jewish people, and the city associated with the promise, purpose, and presence of God. And they are on their way to a small insignificant town known as Emmaus, whose name means “obscure,” and “despised.”
Get a sense of this picture with me if you would. These two disciples were walking away from the purposes and promises of God towards obscurity, and in the end, despised, unless they get turned around.
Read Luke 24:13-35
What we see then are two disciples, not of the original twelve, mind you, but ones that followed Jesus’s ministry and traveled with Him. One of them went by the name of Cleopas (KLEE-oh-puhs), while the other disciple we have no name or description. And this is a good thing, because it allows us to place ourselves into this story. This second person could be any one of us.
As disciples they had followed Jesus, but they had thought, like all the others, that things would turn out better, not only for them, but for the nation, because they expected Jesus to overthrow Roman rule and restore Israel to the land of promise and it’s former glory under King David.
But Jesus’s death upon the cross and the empty tomb meant that something different and unexpected occurred, and they didn’t have a clue as to what it was. And it is with this overall attitude that we find these two disciples walking away from Jerusalem and towards Emmaus, heartbroken, and with all their hopes and dreams shattered.
Does this describe any of us?
Have you ever noticed how some of the saddest words in the English language begin with the letter “D?” For example, there is disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, despair, doubt, defeat, and death.
And then there is the name Dennis. When they were looking for the perfect name to associate with Menace, they didn’t choose Jimmy, Bob or Elliot. No, it was Dennis. Further, when I was looking through all the saints of the Catholic Church I ran across Saint Denis, and do you know what he was the patron saint for? Headaches! That’s right; my name is the name for the patron saint of headaches. So when we end our time together and you have a headache, you’ll know why.
Yet, here these two disciples were on the road to Emmaus, and they were dispirited to say the least. Their master, Jesus, the One that they revered, loved and followed, had been horribly put to death. He had been beaten, mocked, spit upon, and subjected to the most degrading and humiliating death ever to be devised by humanity, and that is, crucifixion.
Jesus, who just the week prior was hailed by the masses as the coming Messiah sent by God to save them as they cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” had now shouted for His crucifixion.
So, as these two walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus, we have the distinct impression that they walked with their heads down. Their hopes and dreams were dashed. Even the reports of Jesus’ tomb being empty didn’t raise their spirits; it only seemed to confuse them even more. In fact, their mood is best summed up in their words, “We were hoping.”
Human hope is a fragile thing, and hopelessness is a disease of the spirit that is hard to cure. And so, here you have the Emmaus two, who had erected such a wall of hopelessness that they were trapped in their own little world of misery. “We had hoped,” they said, or to say it another way, “We had our expectations, but they were not met, so we now expect very little.”
Maybe this road describes the one we’re on. Notice that they were discussing the events of the past week, trying to figure out just what happened. With this new pandemic it’s hard to keep up with exactly what is going on. We don’t know what is happening, and we are desperately trying to figure it all out, just as these two disciples were trying to figure out the events of that day.
And into such despair and confusion comes Jesus, and it says that they couldn’t recognize Him, which may very well be because when we are so caught up in our own problems, and difficulties, caught up in the trials and tribulations of life, especially with what is going on today, we really don’t recognize anything other than ourselves and our own problems, even if the Lord Himself is walking besides us.
A little boy’s mother asked if he knew the name of God’s Son. The boy replied, “Yes,” to the absolute delight of his mother. She then asked if he could tell her, he replied,“His name is Andy.”
“Andy,” replied the mother, “Where on earth did you hear that His name was Andy.”
And the little boy said, “In church. We sing a song with His name in it.”
“What song is that,” said the now shocked mother.
And the boy sang, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am His own.”
Now it says one more thing, and that is when they met Jesus on the road their eyes were restrained, which means that there was a purpose and a plan behind it. Maybe it was so they could be in the same condition that the rest of us are in when we travel down these roads of despair, and how we respond when Jesus speaks to us?
And so, Jesus came to these two in order to turn them from obscurity and despair to the purposes, promises and the presence of God. And by taking the time to come and accompany them on this road, and taking the time to explain to them all that God had said in the Scriptures concerning the coming of the Messiah and how they fit the events surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus reveals just how much He does care.
And in the same way He cares for you and me. Now, how do we know that He cares? There are three things from our story that I’d like to share to reveal this truth about Jesus caring.
1. He Knows Where We’re Going
Jesus knew exactly in which direction these two were walking. He knew exactly which road and where upon this road they were. He didn’t stop off at the corner hay and feed store to see if anyone had seen them. He knew exactly where they were, and He knows exactly where we are.
Further, we see that He cares because He didn’t wait for them to come to Him, rather He took the initiative and went to where they were, because He wanted to walk with them, and to talk with them, and to give them a future and a hope, something they had lost.
Jesus knows just where we are and where we are heading. He knows and cares about what is happening in our lives. And He comes along side to help steer us back to the purposes, promises and presence of God.
Literally, Jesus goes out of His way to come to us. Jesus cares and loves us so much that He pursues us down these roads of heartache and pain, hurt and confusion in order to turn us around and start us back upon the right road, or the same road, but now in a more positive direction.
2. He Knows What’s On Our Hearts
Clearly, Jesus knew what was on their hearts even when He asked them what happened. What He was doing was drawing out what they knew, and what they thought, because the first thing that must be done when we feel exhausted, empty, and trapped, is to get our thinking straight about just who Jesus is and what He accomplished for us upon the cross.
Jesus’s death was not in vain as they supposed, rather it accomplished what Jesus and the Father had intended, and that is to pay the penalty price for sin.
Notice something else about how they described Jesus. It isn’t much different than most people today. They say He is a prophet and that His words are powerful, but that isn’t who Jesus is.
Jesus is more than a prophet, or even a good man. With what Jesus said about Himself gives a person only three options, options spelled out by author Josh McDowell. Given what Jesus said about Himself, McDowell came up with this conclusion, that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or that He is exactly who He said He was, Lord. Jesus didn’t give us any other options when He called Himself by God’s Holy Name.
Further, these two didn’t have the right understanding of the empty tomb, as they spoke of Jesus in the past tense saying that he “was” a prophet. But the tomb was empty, and that’s because Jesus rose from the dead and is alive. People make the same mistake today believing that Jesus lived back two thousand years ago, and that He died, but they don’t talk about Him in the present.
Jesus is present with us today, as the Bible declares where two or more are gathered in His name, that He is in their midst (Matthew 18:20). And so Jesus is here with us today, and not in some galaxy far far away, and He is mighty to heal and to help us in our time of need, just as He was available to those disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Yet, as He begins to tell them the truth and of the events of His death, burial, and resurrection, He didn’t use philosophical arguments, rather He pointed them directly back to the Scriptures, because in God’s word there is not only life but also understanding.
God’s word, is powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, the writer of Hebrews says, dividing and piercing through the soul, through our emotions and into our spirits (Hebrews 4:12).
We see this in how these disciples describe their time with Jesus as a burning deep within their hearts? This was truly a heartburn that neither Rolaids nor Tums could relieve. This was no acid reflux from the morning meal, rather this was what Jesus does, and this is what God’s word does, when both are received in person’s heart.
Maybe this speaks to you. Maybe you’re like these disciples, knowing some but not the whole story. Maybe you have an understanding that Jesus died, was buried and rose again, but you have never allowed Jesus to die for you, that is, for your sins, and you have never allowed Him to come alive in your heart, where your heart burns with a love for Jesus and for the things of God.
Just as Jesus drew near and traveled with these disciples, He’ll draw near and travel with us. But Jesus doesn’t just want to hang out. He wants to make an intrusion. He wants to probe into areas we’d rather not have Him probe into, but it’s for our own good, because He wants to bestow a blessing.
But it still boils down to whether or not we are willing to let Him. Do we welcome His intrusion to minister into our lives, or do we still want to keep on talking and explaining things from our perspective. While the things Jesus reveals are uncomfortable, they’re for our good if we would listen and obey.
And so Jesus’s rebuke of these two can be His rebuke of us as well.
He said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25)
Maybe you doubt God’s love and concern for you. Maybe you doubt God’s plan and future He has for you. This brings us to the last aspect of why we know He cares.
3. He Knows How To Renew Our Hope
By and large we live in a world that has forgotten what hope looks like. Now it isn’t that we’ve forgotten the word; rather we’ve changed its meaning. Let me give you a few examples.
• Let’s say I tell you I have decided to preach for only 10 minutes. Now some may respond, “We hope so.” But, really what you are saying is that you doubt the possibility. Smart people.
• We’ve also changed the meaning of hope making it more into wishful thinking, like when we go 65 MPH in a 25 MPH speed zone, and we see a police car with its lights flashing, and we say, “I hope I don’t get pulled over.” That’s wishful thinking, not hope.
Biblical hope is a confident expectation. It is anticipating something with a full assurance that it will come to pass. Such hope is the basis of our faith, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1.) So without this hope there is no faith, and without faith, not only is it impossible to please God, but there’s no salvation without it.
What we see on the part of these two disciples is that their hope was wishful thinking. “We had hoped,” they said. They hoped that Jesus would come and kick some Roman butt, but that wasn’t His purpose. Yes, Jesus will kick out the bad guys when He returns as King, but He came the first time as that suffering servant who would take upon Himself the sins of the world.
What we see is that when they lost hope they lost their vision of God as well. They were hoping in false hope, and because of that they stopped hoping in the Lord. They had built up a false hope and were moving from hoping in Jesus to a past tense version of hope.
This is what will happen when our hopes are based upon the temporary instead of the eternal: when our hope is based upon anything or anyone else other then the Lord.
The disciples said, “We were hoping,” but in what? They were hoping it would be done their way, and in their timing. And in the process they stopped hoping in the promise of the Messiah as spelled out in the Scriptures. They were saying, “We didn’t think it would be like this. This I not what we were expecting.”
And isn’t that just like us? We’ve gotten our eyes and our hopes off of the only One who can meet our expectations, and that is Jesus.
In 1834, Edward Mote wrote a song that speaks to this very thing. He wrote
Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but only lean on Jesus name
On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand.
These disciples’ hope was renewed though their time with Jesus. Prior to His arrival it was all in the past tense, but not after He revealed Himself. Now Jesus is not only the God of their past, but He is the God of their present and future as well.
If your hope has taken a hit because of the events and outcome of this pandemic, remember that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, and if your hope has waned, then make sure you place your hope on what really counts, and that’s in Jesus Christ.
And so, after their eyes were opened to the Risen Jesus, they couldn’t keep the good news to themselves, but that selfsame hour they traveled back to Jerusalem to tell the others.
They stopped their march into obscurity and despair and started back towards the purposes, promises and presence of God. The road was no longer one of shattered hopes, but now it was a road of endless possibilities: A road where hope is alive.
It is where Confusion will become clarity. Discouragement will be turned to hope. Darkness will become light. And worship will replace worry.
And that’s because Jesus rose from the dead. He is the only One who can give real life, and that’s because He lives.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study