Second Reformed Church

Sunday, March 01, 2015

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

“The Road to Emmaus:  The Word”

[Luke 24:13-35]

March 1, 2015 Second Reformed Church

            During the season of Lent, we are again considering what may be called the five biblical principles of church growth.  We begin with an understanding that God Alone causes people to come to salvation – drawing them in – and that growth in faith and obedience are works of the Holy Spirit in us.  Yet, we have means by which we work with the Holy Spirit in our growth – and that is what we are talking about.

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.

We began last time by looking at evangelism in the context of Jesus calling His first disciples.  We saw that when Andrew was pointed to Jesus by John the Baptist, he left John to follow Jesus, and believing savingly in Him – in the Gospel – in the historical facts of the work of Jesus – he ran to get his brother, Peter, to bring him to Jesus that he might hear Him and know Him and believe in Him savingly.

If we have believed savingly in Jesus and His Gospel, we, also, will be prompted and excited to tell others the Gospel and to bring them to hear the Gospel – with the prayer and the hope that they also will believe.

This morning, we are considering the need for the Word of God to be central to our life and worship, if we are to grow in faith and obedience.

And we turn to the history of the Emmaus road encounter:  

            “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.’”

            We see, first this morning, that the disciples were confused, but they had not lost hope in Jesus.

            It was the day after the Resurrection.  Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  And they were discussing what had happened over the past few days – that Jesus – their Rabbi – the One they believed was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior --- the Promised One sent by God to deliver His people from the Wrath of God for their sin – had been taken by the religious leaders, put through a mock trial, then shuttled off to Pilate, where he was coerced into crucifying Jesus – putting Him to death on the cross.  And the clear implication of the text is that they were discussing the Scriptures that they knew from the Temple about the coming Savior – and they were comparing it to Jesus and what happened.

            And Jesus walked up to them along the road and asked them what they were talking about.  (In some way they were supernaturally blocked from being able to see that it was Jesus.)

            They looked sad, and they asked Him if He was the only One Who didn’t know what things had happened.

            And Jesus asked them, “What things?”

            And they explained to Him that the prophet Jesus, mighty in God, Who seemed to fit everything the Scriptures said about the Coming Savior had been put to death.  They didn’t understand what had happened.  They had hoped that He was the One sent from God.  Everything He said and did added up with the Scriptures.

            And then, on the third day, the women had gone to anoint His body, but He was gone.  They were trying to figure out what that meant:  where had His body gone?  Who took it?  How should they interpret what had happened?

            There had to be an answer!

            They were confused, but they had not lost hope.  They knew Jesus was put to death and buried, and they knew that His body wasn’t in the tomb any more.  Everything they knew of the Scripture pointed them to Jesus being the Promised Savior, but they didn’t understand His death and now His body being missing.  What did it all mean?

            Twenty-first century America is very much like the first century Mediterranean world:  We hear people say the body was gone, and we think – someone stole it – they forgot where they left it – most people laugh at the idea of physical resurrection.  Ok, maybe the body was gone, but what does it really mean?

            Secondly, we see that all Scripture points to Jesus and His Gospel.

“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.”

            We might have expected Jesus to gently reveal Himself to them and explain what happened, but He does not.  Jesus is not being quietly exasperated with them – “O foolish ones…” – no, He is angry with them for not understanding – for not understanding things which ought to have been clear to them as believers in the Savior.  In fact, as Luther puts it, “Jesus scolded them for their stupidity.”

            Jesus scolded them for being so slow to understand -- for not putting their minds to the Scripture to understand what it said.  It is as though He said, “What is this ignorance?  After I taught you for three years and you have had the Scripture, but have not spent the time really considering it and understanding it.

            “You should have understood from the Scripture that it was necessary for the Savior to be put to death and return back to His throne in Glory.”

            Now, Jesus is not saying that everything in the Bible is easy to understand.  There are parts that are easier to understand and parts that are harder to understand.  But, as far as what is necessary for salvation and life, we believe in the perspicuity of the Bible – that’s your cocktail word for – it’s plain, clear, and able to be understood.

            What Jesus is saying is that they should have understood that the Savior had to suffer and die and rise – from the Scripture that they knew.  It should not have been the great mystery that it was for them – they should have expected what happened from what God told them in His Word.

            Just considering Isaiah 53 – if they had spent time truly considering it, they would have seen that it could not be about a mere man:

            “Who has believed what he has heard from us?  And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

            “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray;       we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

            “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  And they made his grave with the wicked     and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

            “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

            “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53, ESV).

            Looking back, now, it is much easier, but, even then, a text like this should have led them to understand that the Savior had to suffer to save us from His Wrath for our sin.

            Surely, if we put the Scripture out of our minds, and we never read it, we won’t grow in our understanding of it or in our receiving it by faith and being obedient to it.  Yet we are called to.
           We not only need to read our Bibles regularly, but we need to spend time thinking about what it means – being in worship to hear it explained, praying for God’s help, seeking help from other Christians and good Christian books.
            As we believe that this is the inerrant, infallible Word of God – that is has no errors in it and cannot have errors in it, and we read it and study it and meditate on it – work to understand it, we will grow in understanding and faith and obedience as God the Holy Spirit works in us.

Think about it like this:  let’s say you wanted to become a brain surgeon, and you believe that there is a brain in each person’s head, and sometimes, the brain needs to be operated on.  But, you decide that is enough for you – you are a brain surgeon – but you don’t want to study the books – the chemistry and biology and the physiology – or to practice on brains, because it can be difficult, and sometimes the answers are not immediately clear, and you have to spend time, thinking through what the answer really is.

Would you go to a doctor like that?  Would you say that such a doctor was growing in his or her field?

We ought to be growing.  We ought to be better understanding the Scripture – finding ourselves all the more centered on it.  Finding our hope and joy and being in the God and Savior it tells us about.

So, Jesus began with Genesis 1:1 and took them from there – as they walked – through a Bible study through all of the Scriptures of what we call the Old Testament, and He showed them how everything in all of the Scriptures was about the Savior.  Everything, in all of the Scriptures points to Jesus and His Gospel.

For example, in Genesis 1:1, we are told that God created everything.  In Colossians 1:16, we are told that Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, created everything.  So, we understand that God in Trinity – in covenant – (as we see continuing in Genesis) created everything.  So, the God Who came to earth to save us in the Person of the Son, incarnate in Jesus, is the God Who created us.

Again, not every passage is simple.  But, for example, as we look at the Sacrificial System of the Old Testament and consider the sacrifice of the lamb on Yom Kippur, as we did a few weeks ago, we see that the sacrifice was pointing to Jesus and is fulfilled in Him as the Savior for all those who will believe – such that no other sacrifice is needed.

And, since all Scripture is about Jesus and His Gospel and points to Jesus and His Gospel, any preaching of the Scripture must lead us to see Jesus and His Gospel.  Right preaching must point us to – lead us to – bring us to – Jesus.

If a sermon merely tells us to be nice or good or to obey authority or to love or to care for the environment – it is not a sermon.  All those things may be true, but a proper sermon from the Word of God will point us to the Word of God and expose us to the Word of God and make us desire to seek and hear and know more of the Word of God and to tell others about the Word of God – Jesus.

If a person’s sermon on “living your best life now” or “turning your scars into stars” is not based and founded and pointing to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ Alone, it is not a Christian sermon.  It might be a nice pep talk, but it is not a right handling of the Word of God.  If it’s all about Jesus, Jesus should be central in its explanation.

If the Word of God is rightly preached to us – if we read and study and pray over the Word of God – something should happen:

            “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. When he was at table with them, 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.”

            Third, when we see Jesus as the purpose and the theme of all of Scripture, our hearts burn in us.

            Jesus tested their faith and ended up going back to their home and sharing a meal with them.  And as they ate, Jesus allowed them to see Him for Who He is – and then, “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?’”

            Do you ever feel anything when you read the Scripture and study it and hear it read and preached?  Does it ever move you?  Do you ever find yourself turning to God in awe over what you have understood in His Word?

            We must come prepared – desiring to grow – asking the Holy Spirit to grow us in response to hearing the Word of God read and preached – and as we read it ourselves and in small groups and seek to be more faithful and obedient.

            We must pray that God will open our eyes and help to us to see how all of the Scripture is about Jesus and His Gospel – that we would see and understand His Perfect Word all the more each day that we would be filled with joy in Him.

            If we live lives centered on the Word of God – Jesus and His Gospel – and all that God has revealed to us in His Word – the Holy Spirit will lead us in growing in faith and obedience.  If our worship is centered on the Word of God – Jesus and His Gospel – and all that God has revealed to us in His Word – the Holy Spirit will lead us in growing in faith and obedience.  If our desire is to know God and His salvation – to strive after it – to seek God’s Will and assistance – we will grow.  We will be pleasing sons and daughters of God, filled with the joy of God.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, remove any doubts from us that Your Word is the Word of God, given to us by You for our sakes and Your Glory.  Help us to desire growth in faith and obedience through knowing Your Word and following after You.  Grow Your fire within us.  Draw us to You.  Make us hunger to hear from Your Word.  Help us to see and understand all that You have said.  And may we stand firmly on Your Word, centered in Christ, for it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.  

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