Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This week's sermon: Believe!

Luke 24:1-48.
The disciples did not believe the women who came back from the tomb saying that Jesus had risen. Here we see that two of Jesus’ followers had decided to return home to Emmaus. They figured that Jesus was dead, and so everything was over. They were going back to their normal lives. But as they were walking, they couldn’t help but talk about all of the things that had happened. They were trying to process all of these events, to figure out why and how these things had taken place when it seemed they were all on the verge of something wonderful with this rabbi who might have been the Messiah. This is the conversation that Jesus comes upon and asks what they are discussing to pass the time while they walk.
Isn’t it just like Jesus to come up unannounced and invite himself into the conversation? Sometimes he enters so quietly that we don’t realize he is there. These people who had followed him in the flesh did not recognize him, they did not realize that it was Jesus who came asking such a silly question when everyone knew about the rabbi who had been crucified. They are so taken aback that they ask if he is a visitor, just recently come to that area. Cleopas tells this stranger all about Jesus, the powerful prophet who the religious leaders had given over to be crucified. And Cleopas says, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” If Cleopas had known who he was talking to, he would have realized that death is not the end of hope. And then he then freely admits that the women had come claiming that Jesus had been raised and that they had seen angels and the other disciples who had gone to find the empty tomb, only to continue in their disbelief; so much so that these two men were going home. They had given up. They had lost their hope.
And Jesus rebukes them.
That must have been a surprise.
Here was this man who a few minutes before had not even known about the events in Jerusalem, and now he is giving them a Bible lesson on the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus the Messiah. He starts at the beginning and gives them a play by play as to how the Messiah would go through all of these things in order to receive glory. Here is Jesus telling these men who had lost all faith in him all about every scripture that had ever been written concerning himself. They are intrigued at this strange man and ask him to go into Emmaus and stay with them. When they sit at the table to eat, Jesus prays and breaks the bread to give it to them, and suddenly they recognize him. I don’t know what was just so familiar that they knew it was him: the way in which he held the bread, the way in which he spoke so familiarly with God as he gave thanks, or the way that he broke the loaf into exactly even portions. I don’t know, but something clued them in, and suddenly as soon as they know it is him, he is gone.
Suddenly where there was no faith, faith springs anew.
Now they know that Christ has risen from the dead.
They are so excited that they go back to Jerusalem. It was almost evening, and these two disciples were so excited that they made it the 7.5 miles back to Jerusalem before they closed the gates for the night! They ran back to Jerusalem, only to find out they were not the only ones to have received a visit from the Master. They found that Jesus had also appeared to Simon. They all shared stories about their encounters with the risen Christ, probably still in awe and wondering if it was true. Then just as they are finishing their account of Jesus disappearing from their sight, Jesus stands among them.
Jesus wants them to believe, but he is not above coming and standing in their midst to help their unbelief. Jesus is doing the same for us today. He wants us to believe. Based on the truth of the scriptures, yes, but life in Christ is so much more than just believing words on a page. Jesus Christ is still coming and standing in our midst and calling us to believe. He is still calling to us in conversations when we are discussing how we are disappointed that things are not going our way. He is still coming in to show us that we need not give up hope. We need not leave hope abandoned by the roadside. Jesus comes to us wherever we are in the middle of our mess and brings us his hope and his peace. And along with that he brings his power to work in us to repair, rebuild and restore what was broken. Paul says in Ephesians 1:18-22, this is the same power that raised Christ from the dead, and he is using it to work out his plan in us.
Have Hope!
There is something worth hoping for today and every day because Christ is Risen!

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