“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” Luke 24:21
Millions upon millions of Christians are worshiping Jesus world-wide this morning , celebrating who He is and what He did by dying on the cross and raising from the dead three days later. The resurrection of Jesus is the defining moment in history, the defining moment in our faith, and the defining moment in our lives as Jesus followers. There’s often a tangible sense of excitement connected to this global celebration. But we all know that every day does not feel like Easter Sunday.
There are days where the excitement and celebration is not as heightened.
There are days where our faith is tested.
There are days when we struggle to have hope.
We may be surprised that our experience and our story parallels the story of two men
traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus almost 2000 years ago. You can read their story in Luke 24:13-35.
For these two men this testing of faith and struggle for hope was very real and personal. We only know one of their names, Cleopas, but we know they were both disciples of Jesus. At some point in the previous three years they had been exposed to Jesus’ ministry. They had listened to him teach thousands of people sitting on the hillsides and watched him miraculously heal the blind, the crippled, the lepers. They saw him reach out to those on the fringe of society- the social and religious outcasts. At some point in the process they responded to His simple invitation of “follow me.”
They said yes to following Him.
They embraced what Jesus taught- his values, the way He lived.
They had joined the movement, very possibly leaving everything they had to follow Him and now…
THEIR LEADER WAS DEAD.
We don’t have to wonder what their mindset was walking on the road that day: we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. This is not the ending they expected.
Jesus was not the first or the last person to come on the scene to claim to be the Messiah: Simon of Peraea, Judas of Galilee, Athronges, Menahem ben Judah, Simon bar Kokhba. Each of them were killed and their movement died with them. This is not the end Cleopas and the other disciple expected.
Let’s make sure we are clear on what they had expected:
- Jesus would liberate Israel from Roman bondage
- Israel would be at the top of the pecking order again.
- Jesus as the Messiah would be large and in charge.
- As His faithful followers they’d be on top and in charge with Him.
Let’s make sure we understand their formula:
I say yes to Jesus + I obey Jesus = My life is on top!
That’s how many of us live our lives in general: if I wear the right label and I do the right things, then my life will turn out well. Also known as karma: good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering.
Here’s the problem with they faced with their formula: Jesus was the perfect person and he was just betrayed, beaten, and crucified on cruel Roman cross. It’s not what they expected.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation.
You’ve worn the Jesus label.
You’ve done the right things.
You feel like your life is in the crapper.
You want to give up on the whole God thing.
How do we see Jesus responding to these two followers who’ve given up hope?
While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. Luke 24:15
Jesus joins them on the path. He went on this journey with them . Not just the seven miles of Jerusalem to Emmaus- He joined them on their journey of faith. No matter where we are on the journey, Jesus is not intimidated- not by our questions, our struggles, our fears, our issues. He willingly walks with us. No matter how much we think we’ve committed to Him, we cannot outdo His commitment to us. We see these promises throughout scripture: I will never leave you nor forsake you… I am with you always… Nothing in all of creation can separate you from my love.
Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27
Jesus teaches them and reminds them who He is. He wanted them to understand. The resurrected Jesus, the Son of God, was walking with them, teaching them. They just did not recognize Him. For how many of us is that true? Jesus is speaking to us and we don’t recognize His voice. The questions spring deep within our soul, the desire for purpose and meaning beyond the here and now. Are we willing to listen to what He’s saying? One aspect of the Bible that give me great confidence in its accuracy and authority is how the prophecies in the Old Testament point to Jesus. BUT it’s not enough just to study the Bible. We need Jesus to speak to us through the scriptures. We need Him to open our eyes to see, our ears to listen, our minds to understand.
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Luke 24:30-31
I don’t want to overspiritualize this profound moment. Jesus was sharing a meal with His followers. Who do you share meals with? Your friends. I can only imagine the number of meals they’d shared before in a similar manner. I don’t believe it’s by accident that in this moment of fellowship and friendship, they recognized Jesus.
See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. Luke 24:37
Jesus invites them to touch and see. They needed to know with certainty He is alive. Jesus invites us to see whether He is true, real, and authentic. He wants us to know with certainty. He wants us to experience a real and personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus. For some of us the challenge is that we are afraid of what the implications might be if we encounter the resurrected Jesus.
Think about their dilemma: the equation was not working the way they expected: wore the right label + did the right things= Jesus was dead. Now He’s alive. Are they on top or not? What did they miss?
When we trust Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives NO ONE can promise us that we’ll never experience poverty, disease, or heartbreak in this life. In fact, I can almost guarantee that all of us will experience one of those challenges and some of us will face all of them at some point.
Exhibit A is the stories of several other disciples who Jesus invited to “touch and see:”
But something clicked in their hearts that day. They realized that Jesus is the Son of God, He is bigger than our sins, and He is bigger than death. When you know you are forgiven of all your sin, freed from guilt, and guaranteed eternal life with God, you do not have to live in fear. You can life a life of faith, courage, and hope.
Jesus never promises to remove us from this crazy world or this life’s journey but He does promise to not only join us, not only teach us and guide us, not only invite us to encounter and experience Him. He promises to place His life in us and live His life through us. That’s the prize. That’s the promise.
Because He is alive and He is present.
When we die to ourselves and turn to Him,
He brings hope to the hopeless.
He brings healing to the sick.
He brings freedom to the enslaved.
He brings strength to the broken.
He bring purpose to the mundane.
He brings forgiveness to the condemned.
He brings life to the dead.
When we give Him our lives, He gives us His life.
I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
The Apostle Paul, Galatians 2:20