Where Are You Going?
Sermon 1859 Luke 24.13-35 April 23, 2023
Come, meet the risen Christ. Think of that in these Sundays after Easter. Work on that in these Sundays after Easter.
Where are you going? Is it the path you have chosen? Has it been chosen for you? Have you given it much thought? Or no thought at all? Where are the guides with answers? Sometimes it seems so out of reach. In the cluttered opinion, you can hardly, hardly hear yourself think.
A million time--where are you going? Crawling on all fours, headed for the door—where are you going? Getting the bike out of the garage—where are you going? Signing yearbooks on the last day of high school--where are you going? Slamming the door in a huff--where are you going?
Is there someone, something that can make sense of it all? Where are you going?
On the first Easter afternoon Luke tells us about two men who thought they were going somewhere, but were really going nowhere.
“Two were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place (19-21).’”
They wanted to get away. Where are you going? Somewhere. Anywhere. Everything they believed no longer seemed true. They kept adding the events of the last three days up. One plus one plus one. They kept getting five. No matter how they looked at it, it didn’t make sense. How could Jesus who had done so many powerful miracles not be able to save himself? How could their own chief priests and rulers betray them? They had thought Jesus was the Savior, forgiveness, freedom and relief from the life they knew. But he was gone, gone for these three days, the exact time he said he would rise from the dead. The clock had run out. It wasn’t to be. You could feel their despair. “We had hoped that he was the one.” Where are you going? Despair leads us nowhere.
This stranger who met them on the road must be from another town, another planet, not to know what they were talking about.
This is where I don’t have to say anything. I live here, along with you. We’ve all been there. We’ve faced something, something big. We’ve chewed it over. It made us toss and turn at night. Everything we thought was wrong. Everything we relied on didn’t work. Give it up. Write it off. Throw in the towel. But you can’t throw in the towel on yourself. Who do you surrender to when no one is taking prisoners?
It isn’t that there weren’t a lot of information for these two to process. They were up to their chins in conflicting accounts.
“In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see (22-24).”
Women. Disciples. An empty tomb. Angels. The information is coming from all over. There are so many differing accounts, how do you know? Confusing.
Where are you going? Some say this is the path to take. Others say that’s a dead end—this is the road you should be on. The more uncertain the answers seem to be, the more vehement they are in expressing their way as the only way.
That has always been the problem. There are so many experts—most don’t know much more than you do. And the stuff they are saying is, well, counterintuitive to say the least. I wouldn’t want my parents to act that way, much less God. So we do what we always do when we are confused and can’t hear ourselves think over the shouting. We retreat. We withdraw. We avoid the conflict. Just look straight on through when we get “the talk.” We’ve got other things to do. A famous British writer cautioned, “Don’t start a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” Unfortunate enough to have had a disagreement on Twitter or some other social forum? You know trolls always have the last say.
Where are you going? This doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere, either. There are certain things in life we need to do. You can’t opt out. Knowing where our life is going is one of those things. How tragic to waste it.
They have been counting on their own ability to piece things together. They were counting on the collective wisdom of the masses. Everything is letting them down. They know it’s a mess. Now Jesus speaks.
“He said to 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?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (25-27).”
They are looking for answers in all the wrong places. The Bible gives the direction they need. The Bible gives the answers which make sense of their journey.
But isn’t that just another one of those voices out there saying one thing or another? Only if you don’t let the Bible speak for itself. If you ask, “What is your church’s position on…” then, yeah, you are going to get as many different answers as there are groups of Christians. Each one will emphasize one thing and leave out another. We’ve seen that from a lot of scientific studies making the news nowadays, too. Instead ask, “What does the Bible say?” If it is what it claims to be, a lamp to my feet and a light for my path, it should be obvious what it says.
Maybe one time we tried that and it just didn’t make sense to me. We decided to read the Bible ourselves, cover to cover. Soon it was full of these laws and weird names and places we didn’t know. A lot of people have experienced that. It’s like they can never figure what the Bible is about. A tribe wandering in the desert? A guy wandering through Europe? Bad cop, good cop?
The Bible is about Jesus. That’s what’s missing. When we try to make sense of the Bible without Jesus, it is a confusing mess. God loves them. God doesn’t love them. They prosper. They get clobbered. Now put Jesus into the picture—and we should! He himself said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me (John 5.29).” And that’s exactly where he landed with these two followers of his.
All the prophets, those men whom God led to write the Old Testament, predicted that the Savior would suffer. He would be rejected by his own people. He would be betrayed by a close friend, for thirty pieces of silver. He would be crucified, like he was just one of the terrible criminals. He would be mocked, even as he was dying. He would cry out to his heavenly Father. He would have a spear pierce his side. He would be buried in a borrowed tomb. These followers didn’t think it right that the Savior should suffer. Jesus told them that was the very job description of the Savior! He must suffer for the sins of the world!
But that wasn’t the end of the story. The Savior would then enter into his glory. These same prophets predicted that he would rise from the dead (on the third day). He would proclaim God’s glory to his brothers. Oh, they predicted Jesus would do a whole lot more, like ascend into heaven, pour out his Holy Spirit on his disciples, send out pastors, teachers and evangelists, and rule everything for the benefit of his believers, but we don’t have to go into that. Jesus was simply trying to show these two the Christ had to suffer and die and rise again!
The conversation went on, for quite a while. Sundown was coming. Time to look for a place to turn in for the night. They tell Jesus, whom they still don’t recognize—they think he is dead, right?—to spend the night with them. Like any considerate person Jesus doesn’t want to impose, but they insist. At the dinner table, when it is time to say the table prayer, Jesus does it. Back then they broke the loaf of bread when they prayed at the table. And then the familiarity of it all hit them. This wasn’t a stranger. It was Jesus. He was alive! And as soon as they recognized him, Jesus’ work was done. Now they believed. He disappeared from their sight. He had others to talk to.
Now their life has direction. Now their life has purpose. “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them. Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread (33, 25).”
It had been too late in the day to go on. That’s why they turned in for the night. Now the fading daylight didn’t matter. They had seen Jesus! They had to tell the others. They were so pumped they must have jogged all the way back to Jerusalem.
But it wasn’t Jesus breaking the bread that convinced them. Listen to their testimony. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scripture to us (32)?” It was the Bible that made the difference in their lives. It was the way Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. What had been a confusing jumble of facts and figures, now was a direct line pointing to Jesus and to what had just happened. It was the reason the Bible was written. The Bible said so.
I am Lutheran for lots of reasons. It all started when my Lutheran dad was so rash as to ask my mom to marry him without asking her Catholic parents’ permission and she was so in love she said yes without telling her folks. It wasn’t until my sister was born that they were welcomed into Granpa and Granma’s house for dinner. Along the way it meant that I was called to Nevada to start a Lutheran church—this one!—in 1989. Between those two events everything is pretty predictable. But I am a Christian for a totally different reason. I can’t ignore the Bible. I can’t argue it away. Unlike all the other holy books in the world, which are really just philosophy books, the Bible makes predictions about what Jesus would do when he would come into the world. Not fortune cookie predictions, “If you save your pennies, the dollars will grow.” Crazy predictions. Wild predictions. Impossible predictions. Virgin Birth. True God and true Man. Bethlehem. Miracles. Crucifixion. Resurrection from the dead. That sort of stuff. And everybody agrees these predictions were made hundreds, sometimes a thousand, years before Jesus was born. Everybody. We’ve got a very famous translation of these Old Testament promises that was written at least 250 years before Jesus was born. God isn’t asking us to blindly believe in him. He is putting his neck out on the chopping block. He offers, “If these promises don’t come true, don’t follow me. Worship someone, something else. Worship yourself if that makes you feel good. But if these promises all come true—you have some thinking to do.”
The promises came true. All of them. The disciples who thought they were going to Emmaus prove it. So does the one who opened the Scriptures to them.
These are the Scriptures that speak of Jesus. This is the Bible that was written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and by believing in him, you may have life in his name. These are the Scriptures that tell us where we are going. We are going to heaven. These are the Scriptures that tells us we will never be alone in that journey. Jesus will be at our side and he will have other believers there for us as well. These are the Scriptures the Holy Spirit will use to strengthen us so that we resist the evil and pursue the heroic and selfless good set before us. The Bible doesn’t tell us everything. It only tells us what we need to know how to get to heaven and how to live a godly life. But that’s enough to let us know we are going to get to where we are going and it is going to be the ride of our life.