Third Sunday of Easter April 22-23, 2023
“Life’s Journey” Luke 24:13-35
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Easter Sunday, either here at church or at our homes, had a myriad of emotions. There was worry and anxiety. How would it all go at church? Would the breakfast, served by our youth turn out ok? Would the eggs get scrambled? Would the pancakes come out soft and delicious? The music program that day was extensive – so many people having a part in it – would it go as practiced and hoped? Could the sopranos hit those high descant notes at both Sunday services? I wondered if some folks I hadn’t seen for some time would be back in their pews for Easter worship. And sometimes at home we have worries and anxiety as well. Would our house be ready for the “white-glove inspection” by some folks in our family? Would the meal come out as hoped? Would everyone get along? Easter, as great a day as it is, can be one that increases our blood pressure.
That is true for many of us now. It was true for the people who were involved in the real event of Easter – the resurrection of Jesus Christ – as well. It was later in the afternoon, I’m guessing between 4:00 and 6:00, and two of the believers of Jesus Christ were on their way from Jerusalem to a little town called Emmaus. 7 miles. It would take about 2 hours to get that far. And during those two hours just about every emotion that one could have about Easter was felt by those two guys as they spoke to the stranger who had come to walk with them.
As they walked, Jesus, whom they were kept from recognizing, asked them a question about their conversation, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17). These two were depressed. The Bible describes it like this, “They stood still, their faces downcast.” (Luke 24:17). They were troubled, emotionally in pain. Their hopes had been dashed. They told that stranger all about Jesus. They said that He was powerful in word and deed. But he had just been crucified. They couldn’t believe that that man walking with them hadn’t heard what had occurred in Jerusalem in those past days. He must have had his head in the sand.
They were sad. They were robbed of hope. They said, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) And then they got confused. Perplexed. Some women had gone to the tomb and saw amazing things – angels, the stone rolled away from the tomb and when looking inside they didn’t see his body. It just didn’t make sense.
Do you know what those two men experienced that day? Life’s journey. That is what they got. And they got it all within two hours. Perplexed. Confused. Clueless. Discouraged. Inquisitive. Saddened. They were on life’s journey. I bet you’ve been there too.
But that is not all there is to life’s journey. What I see in this account is a life of God providing divine necessity. After Jesus had witnessed the pain and heard the questions that they had, He spoke in this way, “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? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)
It is necessary that God the Father reveals His Son in the word of God – the Scriptures. God needed to speak. He desires all of us to listen. Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, who pastored for a number of years at Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora and now pastors in Texas, wrote the book, “Has American Christianity Failed?”. In his chapter titled, “God Speaks”, Wolfmueller begins, [You’ve heard the phrase] “I’m spiritual, not religious.” This anti-creed of American culture is as close as it gets to a universal doctrine of our age. No doubt you’ve heard someone say it, or you’ve seen it on a bumper sticker. Everybody, apparently, wants to be spiritual, but no one wants to be religious. What is the difference? To be “spiritual, not religious” is to have a god who doesn’t talk. (Page 38)
I hadn’t thought about it like that but that, really, is what that phrase means. God doesn’t have any words. You have no one to tell you about a path that you should go. No one speaks and tells you of an action of sacrifice or forgiveness or new life. God is silent to those who are “spiritual but not religious”.
Jesus, speaking about this journey of life, tells us that our God isn’t silent. He speaks. He challenges. He directs. He comforts. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
It is with divine necessity that God speaks into our journey of life. Our lives may contain sadness and perplexity and hopes that too often seem to be dashed. It is with divine necessity that God would send the Savior who had to die for us. Those two couldn’t put any sense into the crucifixion of Jesus. Why would that happen to the one who was going to redeem Israel? And Jesus speaks of how this had to be, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Have to. Must. No other way. I know we can point the finger at Pilate, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the ugly crowd, Judas, Peter and speak about their hand in the crucifixion. But Jesus speaks about crucifixion having divine necessity.
The only way that we have forgiveness of all of our miserable sins is for Jesus to receive the wrath of God upon Himself. He is our substitute. He took our place. Like the Scriptures say, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us…” (II Corinthians 5:21) Like the Scriptures say, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10) Like the Scriptures say, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)
Being on life’s journey coupled with God’s divine necessity is a good thing. God is not silent. He speaks with authority. Jesus comes to bear our guilt and pay the obligation for our sin. And the third thing I saw in this reading is that His divine necessity is to fulfill all of God’s promises. When Jesus was speaking to Cleopas and the other man it says, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” You will find Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus spoke about this very thing in John 5, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (Verse 39) Paul would say this about Jesus completing God’s word, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (II Corinthians 1:20)
I think most of us know how we feel when we are “stuffed” with a giant Easter or Thanksgiving meal. We loudly announce, “I can’t eat another bite.” When we are overly satisfied with food we feel that we can’t take even one more spoonful. Satisfaction ends desire. But in life’s journey that is not true concerning desiring to know the things of God and what God desires to speak to us. In our Emmaus road account we read this, “When he (Jesus) was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:30-32)
“I can’t eat another bite” doesn’t apply to Scripture and our desire for it. The more we hear, read, learn, and meditate on the Scriptures, its truth and how it directs us to trust Jesus, the more we want to hear, read, learn and meditate on them. In regard to the Scriptures, the very word of God, satisfaction and desire go together. As they said in Emmaus, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
That afternoon on a road between Jerusalem and Emmaus, the journey of life was being made. In a matter of a few hours, only 7 miles, two lives that had been sad and confused and without any answers to some big questions, got to know that Jesus always had things in His hands.
You and I are on a journey as well. God wants us to see His divine working. He wants us to know He has a bright and brilliant plan for us. He has placed His divine work of Jesus into our lives. Amen!!