Third Sunday of Easter

April 26, 2020 - Luke 24:13-35

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! But you wouldn’t know it from the two men on the way to Emmaus. They are overcome with sadness, gloom, melancholy. They’re in the throes of woe. They feel pangs of despair. You ever have that feeling of emptiness in your heart after a traumatic experience – perhaps after the death of a loved one or a divorce or even something like a bad break-up? You feel an emotional pain unlike anything else. If you know what I’m talking about, then you’re beginning to grasp what these men felt.

To them – all hope was lost. Poof. Just like that. They explain, “[The things] concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him… But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” Hope… is… gone. He was their hope; He’s no longer their hope; for He is dead.

Their hope – their expectation – of redemption literally died with Jesus. For they used to be filled with hope. They envisioned Jesus in magnificent triumph, ruling His people Israel, sitting on the throne of David. All is well. The Romans are gone. Jesus’ opponents are out of work. A new day has dawned for the people of Israel. A glorious sun has risen. But then they awoke that Friday morning, and by 9 AM their hope of redemption helplessly hung on a cross in agonizing pain, struggling to breath, and condemned to torturous death as a criminal. Their expected Redeemer died. Their hopes dashed to pieces – and nothing to fill the empty void they feel. They carry on in a completely joyless state of gloominess, not knowing what’s next.

Many of you have experienced such sadness, such gloominess, such a feeling of emptiness as these men felt at the death of Jesus. Perhaps you suffered the death of a spouse, the death of a child, the death of a parent, the death of a friend. You may know the pain the men experienced. Maybe you suffered a divorce – studies show that the level of pain experienced by the death of a spouse is also experienced by those who divorce, for the death of a marriage has taken place. Perhaps you’re unable to bear children, which also brings incredible sadness to the barren of what will never be. Maybe you suffer from loneliness and depression. I think we’re all – in one way or another – experiencing that right now. There’s a twitter hashtag proclaiming, “Alonetogether.” They can say it all they want – but let’s be real – that doesn’t make it true. You may be well-versed in the feeling that all hope is gone.

There’s actually much sadness, gloominess, and feelings that hope is gone right now in this moment. More than we realize. Many around the world feel sadness because a loved one or friend has died from corona virus. Many feel sadness because someone they care about has the illness. Many feel gloomy because society has been on lock-down for such a long time. Think of all the things that are lost right now. Meeting together to worship and receive God’s gifts. Can we watch at home? Yep. Is it the same? Not even close. We’ve all lost holy communion for a time. I think of how many families (my own is included in this) that can’t be together as a loved one spends their last days on earth. Families (both biological and congregational) – who are unable to have funeral services. Weddings (the union of man and wife in one flesh) have been postponed. Perhaps you’ve seen stories of grandparents who can’t hold their newborn grandchildren. There’s the plethora of school functions – cancelled/never to get the opportunity/ or simply won’t be the same – high school and college graduations, parties, proms, formals. Kids who didn’t get to finish sports seasons or other extracurricular activities before graduation. Last but not least – businesses are closed, people are out of work, many who work hard to provide for their families – all being told that what they do to provide for their families and serve their communities isn’t essential. What a gut punch, right!?! You’re told that your pastors and you meeting together as the body of Christ as Scripture commands are kind of sort of essential, but not really. There’s sorrow; there’s a feeling of emptiness and gloominess in all of this that should be acknowledged. Many people – perhaps you – feel a sense of lost hope. Poof, gone.

When the two men on the way to Emmaus explain what has made them lose hope, betrayed by the expression of gloominess on their faces, Jesus responds in a way some will consider harsh. The Lord calls them foolish and slow of heart to believe. Now, I don’t know about you, but where I grew up those were fighting words. Nobody wants to be called foolish and slow of anything. But Jesus called them foolish and slow of heart, because they were. For they didn’t believe the prophets. The suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus has been in the Old Testament all along. Right from the beginning. To the serpent in the garden God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall strike his heal.” On the cross the venom of the serpent’s strike brought an end to Jesus. That’s what everyone thought – including His followers like the men on the way to Emmaus. They thought Jesus was done for and all hope gone.

But they didn’t know the Scripture. There’s a danger in not knowing the Scripture. I’ll say it again – there’s danger in not knowing Scripture. Faith comes by hearing Scripture, not osmosis. And all throughout the Scripture – yes the Old Testament – the death and resurrection of Jesus for the redemption of Israel and the world is proclaimed. Jesus’ followers rightly experienced sorrow at the death of Jesus – just as Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus even knowing that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Sorrow is good, because death is an enemy. 

However, Jesus’ followers shouldn’t have lost hope, because the Scripture proclaims hope. And that’s what Jesus showed the men. His suffering, death, and resurrection was necessary. What happened to Him had to be. He had to suffer and die for the sins of the world and He had to rise again to life. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! It was the plan from the foundation of the world, the plan revealed in Scripture – yes, the Old Testament too. So beginning with the five books of Moses and all the writings of the prophets (later Luke will mention the Psalms, the wisdom literature) Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. In all the Scriptures – it’s all about Jesus. Jesus is the message of the Bible because through Scripture the Holy Spirit opens Jesus to us, and as Jesus is opened to us, He opens the Father to us. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Those who see Jesus by faith, see the Father by faith as well – and that faith is gifted by the Holy Spirit.

The men didn’t quite recognize Jesus on the road – although later they would realize they knew and felt something. Where they recognized Jesus is when He took the bread, broke it, and gave it to them. That should sound familiar to you. The Lord’s Supper, right? A definite resemblance. At that point, God opened their eyes to recognize Him for who He is – and He instantly vanished from their sight. Gone. Poof. Just like that. But do you know what wasn’t gone? Their hope. It was renewed. Their gloominess and sadness vanished, but their hope was reborn. They quickly went back to Jerusalem and told Jesus’ followers the very same Easter greeting that we use today. They say, “The Lord is risen indeed.” You can sense that there’s so much joy, relief, and hope in that expression. They realize that through suffering, death, and resurrection Jesus did redeem Israel, He redeemed the world, and He redeemed you. Christ is for you. Who can be against you?

So even though it’s not so fun to admit – just like the men going to Emmaus – we are so often foolish and slow of heart to believe. Day after day, Sunday after Sunday, we have the opportunity to read, hear, study, and meditate on the words of eternal life. The necessity of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection are pictured for us in Scripture. God loved you in this way – Jesus says it was necessary for Him to come to the world to die for you. God considers it necessary to save you and me and all who believe unto eternal life.

Even so, we live our lives so often as if hope is lost. However, Christ has been raised from the dead; death no more has dominion over Him. Those who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death and resurrection – meaning that you already have experienced death and resurrection with Christ. Your sins are forgiven, washed away in the blood of Christ. Christ has been raised from the dead – the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Jesus has turned all our sorrow into gladness – for He tells you that He came specifically to die and rise for you. Your hearts burn within you as this truth of Scripture is opened to you. And like the men on the road to Emmaus, you recognize your Lord in the breaking of bread – His Supper.

God loves you; for He sent Jesus! Hope isn’t lost at all. It increases. Christ is risen, God is for us, and nothing can be against us. In this world we experience sorrow and loss over many things. Whatever loss we do experience in this life can’t possibly compare with what we will receive in God’s kingdom. Seriously. Christ paid for sin. Christ defeated death and the devil. You’re children of God – His precious children – children of resurrection, children of hope. The Lord provides everything you and I need for this life and in the life to come. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ in the midst of all that we truly, really do suffer and sorrow in while we live in the valley of the shadow of death, in Christ we truly can “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!