Seeing The Risen Christ

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The Voice of Hope
Seeing The Risen Christ
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Seeing the Risen Christ

Luke 24:13-32

There’s a legend about a king who set aside a special day to honor the greatest person in his kingdom. When the day arrived, a large crowd gathered in the palace courtyard. Four finalists were brought forward, and from these four, the king would select the winner.

The first person was a wealthy philanthropist. The people said this man was deserving of the honor because of his humanitarian efforts. He had given much of his wealth to the poor.

The second person was a very successful physician. The king was told that this doctor was highly deserving of the honor because he had rendered faithful and dedicated service to the sick for so many years.

The third person was a distinguished judge. The people said this man was worthy because he was noted for his wisdom, his fairness, and his brilliant judicial decisions.

The fourth person introduced was an elderly woman. Most of the people were quite surprised to see her there. Her manner was very humble, and she was dressed very simply. She hardly looked like someone who would be honored as the greatest person in the kingdom.

What chance she could possibly have when compared to the other three, who had accomplished so much? But there was something different about her. She had a look of love in her face, understanding in her eyes, and a quiet confidence about her.

The king was also intrigued and somewhat puzzled by her presence. When he asked her who she was, she said: “you see the philanthropist, the doctor, and the judge? I was their teacher!” This woman had no wealth, no fortune, and no title, but she had unselfishly given her life to produce great people. There is nothing more powerful or Christ-like than sacrificial love.

The king couldn’t see the value in this humble lady. He missed the significance of the teacher. Often, we too miss the value of those around us, just as Cleopas and his companion missed the significance of the stranger on the road to Emmaus.

Today, we turn to Luke 24:13 to 32 to review the journey of these two men on the road to Emmaus and to think about our own journey in “Seeing the Risen Christ.” So, listen carefully as I read the text, Luke 24:13 to 32.

As we reflect on this account of the Emmaus Road conversation, we observe several STEPS that can help us on our journey of “Seeing the Risen Christ.”

The First STEP is,

Admit a Lack of Comprehension

Our account begins with two of Jesus’ followers, Cleopas, and another unnamed disciple, walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Some think this unnamed disciple was actually Luke, the writer of this Gospel. While scholars aren’t exactly sure where the ancient town of Emmaus is, it has been suggested that it was a village most likely later called Emmaus-Nicopolis. It fits the meaning of the name Emmaus (hot springs), and also the distances described in the text. Archeology also supports this conclusion.

Emmaus was probably the home of the two travelers. After observing Passover, they would’ve been prevented from traveling home until the first day of the week because it was more than a Sabbath Day’s journey. Whether or not they were present with the other disciples when the women returned early Sunday morning from the empty tomb, we can’t be sure. But regardless of that detail, like the rest of the disciples they were disappointed and confused by the turn of events that were so different from what they expected.

Think about some past event or experience you’ve had that ended so differently than what you expected. Did you relive the events of it? Did you turn things over and over in your mind? Did you ask what you might’ve done differently or if you could’ve changed the outcome by different choices? Sure, you did. Who of us hasn’t done that?

So, here are two disciples walking along and talking together about all the things that had happened in the past few days; trying to sort it out, trying to make sense of the confusing events. Our text says they conversed and reasoned. We get our word homiletics from this. In other words, they were trying to arrange the facts and their experience in an order that would make sense to them and provide the meaning they were missing.

Their discussion was so intense they didn’t notice Jesus until he was already walking with them. Most of us have had the experience of being in earnest conversation with someone to the point where we just shut out our surroundings; we’re oblivious to them. In addition, they didn’t recognize Jesus. Was it supernatural blindness imposed by God or just the clouding of the mind that comes from shock, and grief, and confusion? I believe their blindness was supernatural and it persisted for the time it took to walk several miles.

When I was a teenager there was a popular song that stated, “there is none so blind, as he who will not see.” Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” We sometimes use it in a humorous way, but it can also refer to our hesitancy to let go of our preconceived expectations, our confirmation bias.

When we have our minds and our hopes fixed on a certain goal and expect a certain outcome, it can be very difficult to reorient ourselves to the truth. We are much more comfortable in believing only those things that support what we already believe. We struggle to accept information that makes us challenge our assumptions and beliefs.

By their own testimony, later in this text, these disciples were expecting Jesus to reestablish the kingdom of Israel, to break the yoke of Roman rule. But Jesus had repeatedly told them about His impending arrest, suffering, death, and resurrection. That was not their model for a Messiah, and because His kingdom failed to materialize, they were despondent.

Surely, Jesus knew exactly what they were talking about and feeling, but His question is one of feigned ignorance. “What have you been talking about, and why do you look so sad?” This question leads us to the next step in seeing the risen Christ.

The Next STEP is,

Accept a Request for Explanation

Cleopas is stunned by Jesus’ question and responds with disbelief. Today we might ask, “what rock have you been living under?” He says, “have you been dwelling in Jerusalem all by yourself and you haven’t heard about all the things that have happened? Everybody is talking about them! Where have you been?” Again, Jesus responds by asking “what kind of things?”

So, Cleopas and his companion fill Him in on the details. “Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet who was mighty in both word and deed. His teaching was one-of-a-kind, and He performed all sorts of miracles. Three days ago, He was condemned by the chief priests and rulers of the Jews, and they turned Him over to the Romans to be crucified. And yet, He was the one we hoped was the Messiah, the one who would restore Israel to her former glory and break the power of Rome.

This is now the third day since that awful event, and we are still without hope. And beside these things, we were given strange news by some women from our group who said the tomb is empty. They had a vision of angels who told them that Jesus is alive. And some from our group went to the tomb and verified that it truly was empty, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

Jesus’ request for an explanation allows these disciples to put into words what they’ve been feeling. How many of us have found talking helpful when we experience difficult or confusing things? There’s a release from tension that comes when you can lay the facts out for others to see and evaluate. We need to remember this step as we learn to help people process difficult things in life. Putting our thoughts into words helps us sort through emotions, reasoning, and logic. But it doesn’t always provide answers.

And that leads us to the final step in the journey of seeing the risen Christ.

The Final STEP is,

Acknowledge the Gift of Exposition

Jesus responds to their answer like this; “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!How do you think Jesus said these words? Do you think He was condemning, condescending, exasperated? The apostle James says that God gives us wisdom generously, and without scolding. I believe Jesus’ words were tinged with sadness but spoken with love and understanding.

He could’ve said, “hey guys, let’s get with the program. Why don’t you just believe what I already told you? Why don’t you believe the miracles you were telling me about?” But He didn’t do that. He just took them back to the familiar Scriptures they would’ve learned as young boys in their Torah classes at the synagogue.

He may have gone back to Genesis 3:15 and reminded them of God’s promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent and bring salvation to humanity. He may have gone to Exodus and reminded them of the blood of the slain lamb that delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. Perhaps He rehearsed the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai and reminded them that sacrificial system pointed toward something greater; a sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

Surely, He would’ve taken them to Isaiah 52 and 53 to refresh in their minds the idea of a suffering Messiah, stricken, smitten, and afflicted. He might have mentioned the writings of Daniel and his visions of one like the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven. In all of these Scriptures, He reminded them that suffering was the path to glory for the promised Messiah.

I imagine that the time passed quickly, and they arrived at their destination. Jesus’ actions showed that He intended to go farther. But they compelled Him by the force of their invitation to stay and eat with them. They reminded Him that “the day has turned toward setting.” This was most likely a late lunch after which the two men would’ve still had time to return to Jerusalem in the daylight. To return that distance in the darkness was unthinkable.

As He reclined at the table with them, He blessed the bread and shared it with them. Immediately, their eyes were opened, they recognized Him, and He vanished out of their sight. The impact of recognition evoked an immediate response! They said, “The flame of our hearts was kindled by His explanations of the Scripture.” They had, in our words, “a lightbulb moment.”

In some ways, I’m jealous of these two. Can you imagine having Jesus teach you one on one from the Scriptures? Oh, wait. That’s what the Holy Spirit does for us today, right? Prior to His death and resurrection, Jesus could only be at one place at a time. Today we have the Holy Spirit with us 24/7 and so does every other child of God! And He was sent, according to Jesus’ words in John 16:13, to guide us into ALL truth.

But let me ask you, how often have you and I read the Scriptures and missed Jesus? How often have our preconceived ideas about what the Scriptures mean prevented us from seeing Jesus with fresh eyes of faith? How often has our religion become a comfortable, predictable system instead of a dynamic personal relationship?

I wonder why Jesus took these men on a journey through the Scriptures. Could it be that He wanted them to understand that the truth of Scripture was more powerful than their personal testimony? Somehow, they had followed Him and listened to His teaching for three years, but they missed what the Scriptures foretold about Him. I believe Jesus wanted their faith to be grounded, not in their sight, not in their experiences, but firmly in His unchanging Word. All of those ancient prophecies pointed toward Him and the trustworthiness of His Father.  

Today, if you and I want to truly see the risen Christ, we need to meet Him in the Scriptures. And so, I close with several verses written by the apostle Peter.

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

That prophetic word more fully confirmed is the person of Jesus revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture. Have you, personally, taken these steps to see the risen Christ?

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