Before I get started. I wanted to congratulate Diana Knapp who won the copy of Triggers in the recent give-away! Congrats Diana! I’d love to hear what you think of the book after you read it!
For many of you, this past Sunday was one of celebration – the celebration of a Savior who is risen. After all, that’s what makes Jesus so different than other religious types. His promises weren’t empty. In fact, the only thing empty was the grave that couldn’t hold Him!
Although my particular church tradition does not observe Lent or Holy Week, I was doing a study on the life of Jesus by Beth Moore that happened to culminate with Jesus death and resurrection this past weekend. I didn’t actually plan it that way, but I was so thankful that it happened that way. It felt like I walked with Jesus that last week and it made Easter Sunday all the more meaningful to me.
The study didn’t end though with Easter Sunday. It went through to the end of the book of Luke when Jesus, blessing His followers, ascended back into heaven. Just like us, the next day dawned after Easter Sunday, and we have to ask ourselves what we are going to do with it.
Because the mundane of Monday always follows celebration of Sunday, doesn’t it?
Some of the Gospels have several chapters after the resurrection, but not Luke. Luke wraps up his Gospel pretty quickly after the women find the stone rolled away that resurrection morning.
But Luke does include a little journey taken on the Emmaus road that is rather interesting, and it is not recorded anywhere else in the Gospels . Although it happened centuries ago, that walk on Emmaus Road has something to teach us today. You can find the story in Luke 24: 13-35.
This part of the story takes place right after the women had gone to the tomb and found it empty. They run back and tell the disciples but it says in verse 11, “But these words appeared as nonsense, and they would not believe them.”
Then Peter runs to the tomb and also finds it empty, but the others still can’t really believe that Jesus is risen. Even though Jesus told them about a thousand times that that was what was going to happen, they just can’t quite bring themselves to believe Jesus.
So, two of Jesus’s followers – we’re told that one was named Cleopas – start on the seven mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and along the way they have an interesting encounter.
As they walk along, discussing the past several days’ events, a man joins them. He asks what they are talking about and Cleopas basically asks the man if he’d been living under a rock since everyone else knew that Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified. In verse 21, we come to an interesting sentence. Because remember, before Jesus died, He very clearly said He’d die but would rise again on the third day. The women had been to the tomb and seen that it was empty. Peter had been to the tomb and also observed that it was empty.
So Cleopas says with this very gloomy, sad look on his face, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.”
Despite Jesus’ promises, despite the evidence staring them in the face, Cleopas and his unnamed companion have lost their hope. I think we can learn a lot from these two men because we sometimes lose our hope too – because we put our hope in something other than Jesus. Let’s look at four ways they misplaced their hope.
They were so overcome by Jesus death that they couldn’t believe in His resurrection – even when the evidence was right in front of them.
We can scoff if we want, but how many times do we miss the obvious blessing or work God is doing because all we can see are the circumstances. Let’s face it, in today’s world, all we have to do is turn on the news or surf the internet, and there are plenty of circumstances that could discourage us and make us feel helpless and hopeless. It’s easy to let the pile of hard stuff obscure the real source of our hope for the future.
Their hope was in earthly deliverance when Jesus offered so much more than that – eternal deliverance.
Cleopas and his friend were upset because even though they believed that Jesus was the Messiah, their idea of deliverance was vastly different than God’s plan of deliverance. You see, many who followed Jesus were expecting an earthly kingdom right then and there. They were wanting Jesus to throw off their Roman oppressors. They were looking so intently for an earthly deliverance, they missed that Jesus had provided an eternal deliverance.
We do the same thing. We see all the problems in this world and we look to a politician or a system or a program to fix it. Psalms 146:3 says, “Do not trust in princes or mortal men, in whom there is no salvation.”
It goes on to say in verse 5, “How blessed is the he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose help is in the Lord his God.”
No matter how many promises someone makes or how good they look, we risk losing our hope when we place it in anyone other than Jesus Christ.
They saw life in the immediate and missed the bigger spiritual picture.
Like Cleopas and his friend, I know I often get so bogged down in the details of my daily life, so immersed in the minutia of the mundane, I totally miss the bigger, eternal picture. Even though we live here on earth every day, this is actually not our home. We are just supposed to be passing through. When we keep that in mind, it is a bit easier to pull back from daily life and catch a glimpse of God’s bigger plans. All Cleopas and his friend could see was Jesus’ death. He didn’t realize that in losing the battle, Jesus had ultimately won the war.
They were so focused on what they considered the answers, they missed Jesus right in front of them.
It’s natural to look for the answers to our immediate problems , but like these two men, we can become so taken up with the “right” answers, we miss Jesus in our midst. We can get so taken up with what the world offers up as a good solution, we forget that God often chooses the most unlikely answers, and people, to reach the best conclusion.
There is a lot going on in the world today – from the crazy election season to the terrorist bombing of the Brussels’ airport. It’s so easy to set our sights on something or someone who can fix it and make it better. In fact, we can get so taken up with the person or thing that we think is the answer, that we forget that no matter what happens, Jesus is ALWAYS the answer, that He never leaves us or let’s us down (which is more than we can say for any human).
So, let’s not only celebrate Easter as a day to remember Christ’s resurrection but let’s allow it to remind us where to place our hope – not in any person, place or thing in this world, no matter how appealing.
People and plans will always let us down, but Jesus is always faithful. He is our anchor of hope. Without that anchor, like the two men walking to Emmaus, we too would be sadly adrift and without hope.