3rd Sunday of Easter
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! In the name of Jesus, our risen Lord Jesus, friends in Christ,
In 1799 Napoleon took command and became a great French commander and conqueror. He took over many parts of Europe and then Russia whom he felt ought to be his ally started to not play by his rules he became upset. He decided to lead his army into Russia and teach them a lesson. He hoped to win a quick victory and push Czar Alexander I to the negotiating table. He led an army of apparently 650,000 people from all over Europe into Russia. Many people put their hope in Napoleon. Many soldiers relied on him to win a decisive victory and lead them back to their homes. They marched right into Russia and took over town after town while the Russians retreated burning their own cities along the way. Finally, they arrived at Moscow and found the city mostly abandoned and burning as well. But by this time an unusually cold winter had set in and knowing that they couldn’t stay there they set back for Europe with no food and in extreme cold temperatures and hundreds of thousands of soldiers died along the way. This was the beginning of the end for Napoleon’s reign. His hopes dashed. His soldiers’ hopes dashed. His people’s hopes dashed.
So what is it like to have your hopes dashed? You want something, you expect something, you desire something to happen and…it doesn’t. We hope for a nice spring and we get…more snow. We hope for a good diagnosis from the doctor and we get…more bad news. We hope for a raise at work and we get… a pay cut. And what is it like to have dashed hopes? It’s discouraging, disappointing, disillusioning, right?
Well, the disciples in our text also knew what it was like to have dashed hopes. It’s Easter Sunday, all the action has been happening in Jerusalem and what are they doing? They’re leaving! They’re going on a 7 mile trip to the village of Emmaus. They had heard the report from the women who had been to the tomb and seen the angels who said that Jesus is alive, Peter and John had ran to the tomb and found it empty, they had the promises of Jesus that He was going to die and rise again, and…they’re leaving! Also interesting is that as they are going along the road they’re discussing these things and the Greek word used is not the normal Greek word for having a normal conversation. Rather, it’s a back and forth talk, they’re in turmoil, they’re going back and forth trying to figure all this out. They’re struggling, they’re stressed, they’re frustrated, they’re sad, trying to make sense out of all of this. But need they have been? Not at all! Because Jesus had really risen from the dead!
And yet, are we really all that different from them? Are there things in our lives that we find ourselves hoping for and worrying about and stressing about instead of relying on God’s Word and His wonderful promises to us? We find ourselves worried and stressed and bothered by things that are coming up in our life, when in reality we have no real reason to be. We forget God’s promises to be with us, take care of us, watch out over us, work things out for our best.
And so what does Jesus do? All of a sudden Jesus is walking along with them but they don’t recognize Him. And then He asked them what they were talking about. Which is kind of funny since all of the things that happened in Jerusalem centered on Jesus and He of all people would know what happened! But it makes them think through what they were discussing. Jesus had done some wonderful things, powerful things in word and deed, but then he was sentenced to death and was crucified and died. And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to redeem Israel. And now his body is missing and some are saying he’s alive.
So what does Jesus do? First, he confronts them. “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Notice what they had said, “We had hoped.” They put it in the past tense. They failed to listen to ALL of Scripture. Rather, they had chosen to only believe the parts of Scripture that met their preconceived notions of who they thought the Messiah would be. Their sight, their reasoning, their own ideas led them to abandon what Scripture said. They had a misplaced their hope. Jesus hadn’t “redeemed” Israel from her earthly enemies! What’s going on? And their hopes were dashed.
So what did Jesus do? He confronted them because it was a sin not to believe ALL that the prophets had spoken. And Jesus confronts us too. It’s sinful when we fail to believe ALL of Scripture, it’s sinful when we place our hopes simply in this life or the things of this life or having a good life here. It’s sinful when we then get discouraged and disillusioned because our earthly hopes have failed us. God wants us to put all our hope in Him and His sure promises to us in His Word.
So notice what Jesus did next. Remember, this is the most important day in all history! And what does Jesus do? He could have just said, “Hey guys, it’s me!” And immediately disappeared. But he didn’t. Rather he spends the afternoon explaining Scripture to these disciples! He chose to confront their sin and then patiently and lovingly instruct them. And doesn’t he do the same for you and me? He confronts us with His Word so we don’t remain in sin and then He keeps coming to you and me to patiently instruct us in His Word.
And by doing that He shows how important the Word of God is to us. Jesus could have just showed up, tapped them on the shoulder, and said, “It’s me!” And left. But rather, He hid himself from them so He could go through all the Scriptures with them. You see, they weren’t going to have Jesus visibly with them much longer, but they were going to have God’s Word. And God’s Word will never go away no matter what. So Jesus focuses them on it. It was God’s Word that was going to continue to give them the assurance of God’s love, the assurance of Christ’s forgiveness, the assurance God’s guidance.
And the lesson is also here for us. We have God’s Word too. In fact, we have not just the Old Testament but also the New Testament. We have not only the promises and the prophesies about Jesus in the OT, we also have the NT that shows and explains how Jesus fulfilled all of those promises. And as we focus on the Bible we see even more clearly just how reliable our God is. We see how we can depend on him in all things. We see how He came as one of us, lived perfectly for each of us, died innocently on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead assuring us that our sins are forgiven, that heaven really is our home. Over and over again God gives us more and more treasure from the treasure chest of His Word, riches beyond price because they are eternal and they give us certain and eternal hope in life.
Then Jesus opened their eyes and they recognized Him. Then he disappeared from them. Now they knew it was Him and they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened Scripture to us?” Then they didn’t wait to eat supper or wait till the next day, but hurried at once back to Jerusalem to tell the others. This hope now kindled in them a fire of joy that they couldn’t help but share.
You see, Napoleon’s soldiers had dashed hopes because their hopes rested on earth and rested in a sinful human. Any hope or dream that is based on this life will always be unstable and uncertain and unsure. The hope that God gives us through His Word is way different and way better. The hope that God gives us and keeps giving us is sure and certain and will never disappoint us. Because it rests in God who as we see in His Word is absolutely reliable and always keeps His Word. And because of that you can be sure: Jesus IS your Savior, Jesus IS alive, heaven IS your home, and it’s going to be great! That’s your sure hope! That’s your certain hope that carries you through whatever circumstances of life you face here on earth.
It is my prayer for you this week that you be filled with that sure hope of God and that it might burn with joy in your heart. Live with that hope!