Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sermon: Luke 24: 13-35 Disappointment to Delight

This morning I have a few pictures to show you, and I want you to spot what they all have in common. [...] What was it they had in common?

All the pictures were of disappointment - Chelsea having lost the FA Cup Final - and one guy crying. Diana Vickers after being put out of the X Factor in 2008. Northern Ireland players with heads low after letting Slovakia score (which meant we couldn’t go to the World Cup this summer).

There’s disappointment and sadness all around. Hopes were high, and then they come crashing down. Perhaps we can also be disappointed - maybe our school team gets to the final of a competition, only to lose out. Maybe we have hopes for the future, and then you get sick and can’t go to that birthday party. Maybe you can’t wait for the holidays, but then you’re bored all through them. Or maybe someone you love has died. You don’t get to see them any more, you miss them.

In our Bible reading today, there was some disappointment. Some sadness. The two people are on a long walk. Next month some people from church are doing the Belfast Marathon - and the walkers will be walking nine miles each. Well, the two people here, friends of Jesus, were walking home from Jersualem. They had about 7 miles to go - about from here to Bangor.

And they’re walking slowly. They’re sad. Disappointed. You see, they had been following Jesus, but just two days before they had seen him being crucified. Killed on the cross. They had seen him heal the sick and raise the dead, feed the five thousand and all the rest, but he had died on the cross.

They just can’t believe it. Their hero, the one they thought was going to be the King, God’s King, and he has been defeated. As they walk along, they are joined by a stranger on the road, who joins them, and asks them what they’re talking about.

Do you see the disappointment? Verse 21: ‘But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.’ We had hoped - but not any more. Jesus has died.

Well, they get to the village, and the stranger is still with them, so they invite him in. He’s talked to them along the road, but we’ll come back to that in a wee minute. Remember, they’ve just walked seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they’re tired, it’s getting late and dark.

Yet within an hour or so, they’re out of the house again, and walking back towards Jerusalem - maybe even running! Back the seven miles again, there’s no stopping them now. No hint of disappointment or sadness. Why? What has changed?

Well, in the house, they were having a meal, and the stranger took the bread and gave thanks and gave it to them - and in that moment they realised that it was Jesus! Jesus was not dead, but very much alive! As they recognised Jesus, he disappeared, but they knew it was him - there was no doubt now!

So what was it that Jesus had talked to them about on the road? Let’s look at verse 25-26. Listen out for what Jesus calls the two people: ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.’

Thursday past was the 1st April - April Fools Day (was anyone caught out?) Jesus here calls the two disciples foolish, because they didn’t believe what the Bible said.

You see, Jesus says that the prophets had promised both the crucifixion and also Jesus’ resurrection to new life. It was revealed by God hundreds of years before Jesus was born - but the disciples didn’t understand it all. On Sunday evenings we’ve been looking at some of the passages that spoke in advance about the cross (listen to them online), and tonight we’ll be looking at one of the passages that speak about Jesus’ new life.

Because the Bible tells us about them - written hundreds of years beforehand - we can be sure that the cross wasn’t a defeat. The disciples had been disappointed because they thought Jesus had been defeated. But it was God’s plan for Jesus to die for our sins, and then to rise to new life, defeating death. Jesus had said it several times before he died (e.g. Mark’s Gospel has three predictions), but the disciples didn’t listen or understand.

So what does all this mean for us? 1. Jesus is alive - yes, he died on the cross, but he didn’t stay dead. Elvis Presley is dead. Mohammed is dead. Any other founder of a religion is dead. Jesus is alive. Because he is alive, he offers us new life too.

To understand what Jesus has done, we need to read our Bibles, asking ourselves, how does this help us to see and understand Jesus?

Because Jesus is alive, according to God’s plan, we don’t have to be afraid of death - you remember at the start how we saw the two disciples were really sad and disappointed? Jesus is alive, and has power over death - it cannot harm us or hold us if we are friends with Jesus.

Because Jesus is alive, we can trust the eye witness accounts of the people who saw Jesus after he rose - when the two got back to Jerusalem (having walked 14 miles that night!) they said ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ These two hadn’t believed it when the women had said Jesus was alive, but then they met him themselves. We can’t meet Jesus in the same way today - but we have the eye witness accounts written down so we can be sure that Jesus is alive!

Remember the disappointment at the start? Jesus can take away our disappointment, and instead gives us happiness and joy, because he is alive!

This sermon was preached at the Easter Morning Family Service in St Elizabeth's Church Dundonald on 4th April 2010.

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