Second Reformed Church

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"The Road to Emmaus: Hospitality" Sermon: Luke 24:13-35

“The Road to Emmaus:  Hospitality”

[Luke 24:13-35]

March 15, 2015 Second Reformed Church

            A fourth principle of Church and Christian growth is hospitality and fellowship.  We are distinguishing the two in this way:  we ought to share hospitality with all people, and we also ought to share fellowship – based on our mutual belief in the Gospel – with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

            We have said:  First, if we want to grow as Christians and the Church, the Word of God must be central to our life and worship. Second, if we want to grow as Christians and the Church, we must obey Jesus and evangelize. Third, if we want to grow as Christians and the Church, we must engage in regular hospitality and fellowship with non-Christians and our fellow Christians. Fourth, if we want to grow as Christians and the Church, we must pray rightly, privately, and corporately. Fifth, if want to grow as Christians and the Church, we must receive the Lord's Supper frequently, properly and worthily.

            And we have in this one history of the Emmaus Road encounter the centrality of the Word of God with Jesus as the Center and Theme of the Word – as Jesus revealed to the disciples that all of the Scripture points to Him.  And we have seen that the Lord’s Supper comes along side of the reading and preaching of the Word as a “help meet” – as one of the two visual displays of the Gospel that God allows and commands us to use – so it was that the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread – in the blessing, breaking, and giving of the elements of the Lord’s Supper.

            Hear the account once more:

            “That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’ And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ And he said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to him, ‘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. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’ And he said to them, ‘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.

            “So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them.”

            Here, we have an example of fellowship – Cleopas and his friend – as well as Jesus – were believers – well-versed in the Scriptures.  They had met Jesus along the road and discussed the Scriptures with Him – and they didn’t want the time to end, so they invited Him to stay at their home.

            They were gathering together as Christians to be together as Christians to enjoy Christian company and talk. 

            If we want to grow in faith and obedience, we ought to spend time with other Christians outside of formal worship.  Now, we live in different times – in first century Israel, it was common for Christians to gather in each other’s homes – in twenty-first century New Jersey – for many of us – our home is a sanctuary, an escape, or something else, which makes us not want to have people over – or at least not often.  We don’t have to have each other into our homes; still we ought to get together now and then.  That’s one reason we try different Bible studies and topical studies on different days and nights and times – that we would come together in this building to talk about things as Christians.

            We also ought to gather with non-Christians now and then to talk with them and take interest in their lives.  I know some of you gather at the Senior Center and have a group of friends there – some of whom are not Christians – and you share your lives with each other in support of each other and to uphold each other and so that you grow together.

            Even brief encounters:  Do we talk to service people?  Mail carriers?  Shop keepers?  Wait staff?  Do we take any time to get to know them – however briefly?  How many of us know anything about the lives of the people who take care of us during the week?

            We are a private culture!  And a certain amount of privacy is alright, but we also are called to care for each other – and that involves knowing something about each other, sharing our lives together, and sharing in the study of God’s Word together.

            We are knit together in Christ as His Body, as Christians.  The Church is not merely a group of people in a volunteer organization, but we – together – make up this living thing called the Church.  And as we share in each other’s lives more and share the Scripture together more – we grow stronger together in the One Body that we are, with Christ as our Head.

            Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, and “Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’” (Mark 12:29-31, ESV).

            The core principle in sharing hospitality and fellowship is loving our neighbor as ourself.  And that means everyone, as we are told:  “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him” (Exodus 23:5, ESV).

            If we see someone with a need that we are able to fill – from simple needs to proclaiming the Gospel to lifting each other up as we grow in faith and obedience together – we ought to show love by doing whatever it is that we are able to do.  And it makes no difference whether it is someone we like or not.

            Remember that does not mean that we have to be a doormat – it can be easy to think that we must be at everyone’s beck and call just because we have an ability to do something.  That is not the case.  We must be wise in all that we do – and do all to the glory of God.

            We may remember another question that was put to Jesus was, “Who is my neighbor?”
“Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise’” (Luke 10:30-37, ESV).

            In our Heidelberg Catechism, we are told that part of what it means what God commands us not to steal is:  “Q. 111. But what doth God require in this commandment?  A. That I promote the advantage of my neighbor in every instance I can or may, and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others; further also that I faithfully labor, so that I may be able to relieve the needy.”

            Hospitality and fellowship include getting to know others – both outside the Church and inside the Church – and learning how we might be able to help each other to grow by using those gifts and abilities that God has given each of us so we can give.  And, we are also to work – not merely to provide for our own needs – but so we will have enough to give generously to the Church and then to others who are in need.

            Our text continues:  “When he was at table with them,”

            Jesus ate dinner with the disciples He met on the road.

            In the first century, it was common to share hospitality and fellowship over a meal.  In fact, in the book, Eating Your Way Through Luke’s Gospel (http://smile.amazon.com/Eating-Your-Through-Lukes-Gospel/dp/081462121X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426342957&sr=8-1&keywords=eating+your+way+through+luke%27s+gospel), I was fascinated to find that – almost without exception, whenever Jesus is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, He is either going to a meal, eating a meal, or coming from a meal – that’s how important food is to hospitality and fellowship – and even evangelism.  Food breaks down barriers and puts people at ease so we can talk more and learn more about each other and how we can care for each other, and with our brothers and sisters, we can also discuss the Scripture and what it means and what God is calling us to do and be.

            That doesn’t mean we always have to provide food for there to be hospitality or fellowship, but it can be very helpful.  Think about the times you have sat down over food with other people and gotten to know them and, hopefully, also come to seek after the Word of God.

            Perhaps, if you sit down to a meal with someone you don’t like, you – or both of you – will grow because of the interaction you will have over the meal.  It may not happen, but if we offer the meal and sincere conversation to someone, we will likely grow, even if the other person does not.

Our text concludes:  “he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:13-35, ESV).

And we saw last week that the Lord’s Supper is a visible representation of the Gospel that works alongside of the preaching of the Gospel.

And so, we see we grow as the Church and as Christians as we engage in hospitality with all people and fellowship with other Christians.  We grow as we proclaim the Gospel to others and discuss it with our fellow Christians.  We grow as we learn more about other people and truly care about them.  We grow as we find ways to meet each other’s needs as we use the bounty – the excess – the riches – and the gifts and abilities that God has given us for the Church and for others.

            As we consider these things, I wonder if any of us can think of someone who does not deserve our hospitality or fellowship.  Is there anyone you can think of that you would say was unworthy of even having you try to sit down with and talk to, or share some food with, or provide for a need?        

            Listen:  No one is beneath us.  We cannot dismiss anyone out of hand.

            Here’s why:

            “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27, ESV).

            Everyone was created in and bears the Image of God.  Something in each person proves the existence of the God of the Bible – the One Almighty God. 

            So, if we harm another person, simply by not doing good to them, we are attacking the Image of God.

            If we directly do something to harm another person or keep them from growing in faith and obedience to God, we are attacking the Image of God.

            If we turn someone away when we are able to help, we are attacking the Image of God.

            The primary reason we are to love our neighbors as ourselves is that they bear the Image of God.

            All humans are image-bearers of God – so we ought to love them and seek their good and proclaim the Gospel to them and encourage their growth in faith and obedience to God

            We grow as the Church and as Christians when we share in hospitality and fellowship.

            Let us pray:


            Almighty God, You have put people in our way, so we would talk with them and care for them  -- share food and other things that we have that can meet their needs – and proclaim the Gospel to them and study Your Word with them.  Forgive us for turning people away who bear Your Image.  Forgive us for thinking we are too good to care for and share with anyone.  Forgive us for thinking that we have nothing to give and no need to grow and no reason to help someone else grow.  Send the Holy Spirit afresh on us and awaken us that we would be able to truly care for each other and all those You put in our way.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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