Exhortation: China, 1 April 2007
Read: Luke 24
The tomb and the road to Emmaus
The disciples had been confident Jesus was the promised Messiah, the one who the prophets said would deliver Israel from oppression. They believed the kingdom of G od would soon be re-established and all the glorious promises found in the prophets would be fulfilled. This hope encouraged them during the hard times in the ministry of Jesus and as they came up to Jerusalem in the days leading up to Passover they expected something amazing to happen. The response of the people towards Jesus as they came to Jerusalem only confirmed them in their beliefs and expectations
Insert Matthew 21:8-11
The people cried out ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, quoting Psalm 118. This is a Psalm about the work of Messiah, and the acknowledgement of Jesus as Son of David confirmed the belief of the people that it was Jesus who was the subject of the great promises to David. Yes, the disciples at this time were full of expectation that Jesus was about to reveal himself as Israel’s Messiah and deliver the nation.
Their lively hope made the events which followed just a few days later even more traumatic for the disciples. The one on whom they placed their trust, a man who they loved and who loved them, suddenly was wrenched from them. He was arrested by men in the company of a traitor, he was the subject of a corrupt trial, he was beaten and abused by soldiers, and finally he was humiliated by being crucified between two convicted criminals. The disciples had mostly fled when Jesus was arrested and their cowardice must have added to their anguish when their Master was executed.
We should not be surprised, therefore, that the disciples struggled to grasp the reality of the resurrection. In our reading for today, Luke 24, we see how several of the disciples coped with the news of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the opening verse we find the women coming to the tomb to anoint the body for burial.
Insert Luke 24:1
There is obviously no expectation on their part that out Lord would have risen from the dead. In verse 2 they found the tomb open and in verse 3 they found it was empty.
Insert Luke 24:2-3
Three days before, it had seemed as if a door of hope had been slammed in their faces. Now the door of the tomb was open. The stone which would have blocked their way had been rolled away. The seeming disaster of three days earlier was turning to joy. But they did not fully understand what was happening at that moment. Verse 4 says they were perplexed. They did not assume Jesus had risen from the dead. They must have assumed the body had been stolen.
Angels intervened to explain the situation, but imagine how remarkable these words must have seemed to these women on that particular day:
Insert Luke 24:4-5
‘Why seek the living among the dead’. It is a remarkable statement which reveals a universal truth. In our walk we either choose life or death. Most of the world chooses death, even when it is introduced to the gospel. But as brothers and sisters of the risen Lord we have chosen life. If that is our position, why do we sometimes seek the living among the dead? Why do we allow the perishing things of this life, the dead works with which this world is obsessed, to take precedence over the eternal, lively things of the age to come? Why do we allow roadblocks to stop us from rejoicing in our glorious hope of life? The message to those faithful women has its relevance for us today. We wish to be part of the living Jesus Christ when he reigns in Jerusalem, so let us not be associated too closely to the things that are soon to pass away.
Later in Luke 24 we meet two disciples journeying along a road to Emmaus. Perhaps they were travelling home in disappointment after the tumultuous days they had just witnessed. Certainly these events were on their mind as they walked:
Insert Luke 24:13-14
A man joined them and asked them what they were talking about. The men were amazed:
Insert Luke 24:18
In verse 19 they told the stranger about their friend Jesus and in verse 20 how he had been condemned to death. They then gave voice to their expectations of Jesus:
Insert Luke 24:21
Their hopes had been shattered by the crucifixion. Even though verse 23 says they had heard reports that Jesus had risen from the dead they did not believe them. Jesus showed them from the Old Testament how the crucifixion was not in fact a denial of the Messiahship of Jesus. It was in fact the fulfilment of so many prophecies.
Our Lord was gentle with these disciples. They were confused, perplexed and ill-informed but he loved them. They were his friends and he had laid down his life for his friends. So it is that the Lord did not just boldly state ‘I am the risen Lord’ and expect them to accept the fact. What the Lord did was open the Scriptures and clarify its meaning. They were still slow to recognise the full significance but they knew there was power in what Jesus said. As they walked and listened their hearts burned within them as their appreciation grew.
As with the women, there is a lesson here for disciples today. We are all pilgrims on the highway of life. We are walking towards the kingdom of God and often there are things about God’s plan and purpose we do not understand。
It is not uncommon during our walk in Christ for us to become downhearted. We all have such a fervent desire to see the fulfilment of God’s plan when the Messiah is exalted and delivers us from the oppressor. These hopes sometimes are tested by the seeming delay of our Lord. When we start to feel downcast, when we start to think that our hopes have been in vain, we should remember we are not alone. The Lord Jesus Christ walks with us to encourage us. And if we turn to the Bible we can gain insights that help us better understand God’s plan for mankind and we can be reassured of the glory and certainty of our hope.
Although they were greatly encouraged by this stranger they met on the road it was not until they broke bread with the Lord that they realised it was Jesus himself:
Read Luke 24:30-31
As we break bread let us appreciate that the risen Lord is always with us, supporting and encouraging us in spite of our weaknesses and failings. He whom we seek is not dead – he is risen indeed.
Exhortation: China, 1 April 2007 (SPEAKING NOTES)
Read: Luke 24
The tomb and the road to Emmaus
The Lord’s disciples believed he was Messiah
They expected the Lord to establish the kingdom of God and end oppression
It seemed the ordinary people recognised that Jesus was Messiah – Matthew 21:8-11
They quoted Psalm 118 and identified Jesus as Son of David
Only a few days later their hopes were shattered by the crucifixion
Three days after crucifixion women came to prepare body for burial
They did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead
Surprised to find tomb open and empty – angels explain Jesus has risen
Hard to believe the angels’ story
‘Why seek the living among the dead’ – a message for us as well
Do not allow things of this life distract us from the things of the age to come
Two men on road to Emmaus – felt let down by death of Messiah
A stranger joins them – amazed he seems to know nothing about the crucifixion
The stranger helps to correct their misunderstanding by expounding the Bible
The two disciples encouraged by the discussion from the Bible – hearts burned
We can become down heartened
We sometimes begin to doubt when God seems to delay his plan
Remedy is to go the Bible and develop a clearer appreciation of God’s plan
We need never feel like we have been cut off from Messiah
Jesus is with us whenever we break bread
He is always available when we need him – he is not dead, he is risen indeed