4th April, 1999
Easter Sunrise Service
The Emmaus story is a literary and spiritual jewel. It is at once a moving story, a testimony to the Resurrection, and an explanation of the empty tomb. It has what literary scholars call "verisimilitude", the ring of truth.
The opening words of v13 link this story with the entire Easter event. "That same day" ties the narrative to Jesus' resurrection. Two travelers are speaking together v14 about the resurrection appearance of Jesus. They are two followers of Jesus who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover. They had greeted Jesus on his triumphal entry to Jerusalem and were now returning home.
Emmaus is a village 11 kilometres from Jerusalem. The two were talking about events that bewildered them. Then the incredible event: v15 "As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them." They were baffled trying to understand this most momentous weekend in history. They "discussed" the events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The word literally means, "throwing back and forth" different ideas. But these down hearted and discouraged people gazed in despair and did not recognize the stranger. The grammar is passive: v16 "they were kept from recognizing him."
V17 When Jesus spoke the two travelers stopped short and "stood still". One of the two, Cleopas, is named v18 because Luke's readers knew him. v19 What follows is one of the most amazing encounters in history. They tell the Risen Jesus that Jesus had been crucified. V20 They described Him as "a prophet". They said some had reported Him risen from the dead. They couldn't believe it. They did not go and investigate for themselves, nor wait to find an answer.
They "had hoped," He would be their Deliverer and Saviour. The past tense of "hoped" is a pathetic reminder of their inability to recognize Jesus or to believe the report of the empty tomb. V21 "And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. V22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning v23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. V24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
The saddest commentary on this is found in v15-16 in the words "Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him."
1. WHY DO PEOPLE NOT RECOGNISE JESUS?
Fear Prevents Some Recognising Jesus. Those disciples were getting out of Jerusalem because of the threat of persecution. Soon believers in the resurrection of Jesus, men, women and children, would be imprisoned for their faith. Like the people of Kosovo, this Easter, these two were fleeing the city because of fear.
Prejudice Prevents Some Recognising Jesus. In Sydney an inter-faith dialogue between Anglicans and leaders of another religion abruptly ended. One bluntly told the Anglicans their beliefs about Jesus were unacceptable. Their aggressive response ended the dialogue. Dialogue cannot continue while people have closed minds and eyes, due to prejudice.
Doubt Prevents Some Recognising Jesus. People whose minds are filled with doubts and mere hopes never come to the point of recognising Jesus. Doubt destroys faith.
In University missions, I have been amazed how some academics that argue for intellectual freedom, have closed minds towards the person of Jesus Christ. Their superior attitude keeps their eyes from recognising Him.
It is a great tragedy when adults allow their fears, prejudice, and doubts to keep their eyes from recognising Jesus. Is there a better way? In a moment I will return and tell you, how like the two on the Emmaus Road, you too can recognise the Risen Jesus Christ.
2. HOW DO WE COME TO RECOGNISE HIM?
It is possible for normal people to recognise the presence of the Risen Christ. Over the centuries millions of Christians have testified that Jesus is alive! That he is risen! He is risen indeed! "But how can I recognise Him?" asks someone who is walking towards the sunset.
You Must Study The Scriptures To Recognise Jesus. The Bible is the primary witness to the Risen Christ. You must read it. Jesus said to the two on the Emmaus Road, v25 "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! V26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" v27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. " The Bible is the sacred Word of God through which His Word, the living Word Jesus, is revealed.
You Must Serve Others To Recognise Jesus. Jesus cares for people in need and is always to be found where others need to be served. Our service to others is a way of opening our own eyes. It was v28 "As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. V29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." By offering hospitality to a stranger at nightfall they were going to be blessed. The stranger needed food and lodging. The Bible says Jesus "acted as if" He was going to continue His journey. His polite action seems intended to draw out a very strong response from Cleopas and his companion, who then "urged him strongly" to stay.
3. You Must Break Bread To Recognise Jesus. The recognition occurs round a table. V30 Jesus took the role of the host and broke the bread, giving thanks. Of course this recalls the feeding of the five thousand. But more. It was a reminder of the Last Supper. Whether it was through the actual breaking of bread or through the fact they saw the nail scars in the hands, we know not. Only it was the moment of truth. V31 The two recognized Jesus. Their eyes "were opened". Again the passive tense. It wasn't something they did: Jesus was revealed to them.
Recognising Jesus as the Saviour and Risen Lord is always the result of a divine act. God is the revealer of the risen Christ. As Jesus "opened the Scriptures" now God "opened their minds". Upon their recognition of them, abruptly Jesus disappears. V32 Cleopas and his companion reflected on their feelings of intense inner warmth. V33 "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread."
Recognising the Risen Jesus occurs every day of the year when believers gather round the Lord's Table in Communion. When they hear the scriptures, commit themselves to serving others, and break bread together Jesus is recognized.
TIME magazine this week features the one hundred greatest thinkers of the century. One thing many great thinkers shared was a moment a colleague of mine calls, "the ah uh" moment. That is the moment when, after thinking about a problem, they say "ah uh."
They have the answer! There is a moment of illumination, a "eureka" moment when some great thinker makes an important discovery. Everything was as before, but now a new illumination, a recognition of truth. Many people have suddenly recognised Jesus like that!
Years ago I buried Mrs Blanche Markey. Her husband, Tom Markey was blind and totally dependent upon her. He took his blindness badly. His wife wore herself out looking after Him. On her death he was devastated. Everything was black. He groped in the darkness. I visited him regularly and read the Scriptures and shared the communion. Tom came to faith in Christ. Now everything looked different! He had a new vision of himself, his wife and their future together in eternity. He sang long forgotten hymns. Ten months later he died. Before his death he asked me to bury him, and to tell people his life had been changed by Jesus. He wanted people to sing the hymn: "Once I was blind, but now I can see, The Light of the world is Jesus."
He had recognised the Risen Christ as clearly as any blind man who now could see. What about you this Easter? Do you want to recognise Jesus as your Risen Lord and Saviour? Talk now to one of our counsellors who can help you recognise Jesus.
Rev Dr Gordon Moyes
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