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LSB Easter 3A Sermon – Luke 24:13-35

May 8, 2014

May 4, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

And [Jesus] 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. 

This morning, you heard the last of the three great appearances of Jesus on the Day of His Resurrection. You have already heard from Matthew’s gospel about the appearance of the Risen Jesus to the women after their visit to the empty tomb. Last Sunday, you heard from John’s gospel about the appearance of Jesus to the Ten and Thomas in the Upper Room. And now, you have heard from Luke’s gospel the account of the Jesus’ appearing to the disciples along the road to Emmaus.

Each of these appearances of the Risen Jesus is a way that He demonstrates the truth about His resurrection. Each time, Jesus shows that He is alive, that He is no longer dead. His disciples see Him, and they are overjoyed with that fact. What they had feared—that their hopes and dreams about who Jesus was and what He would do were unfounded—was actually unfounded. Their following Jesus wasn’t in vain, but was right on target.

In each of these appearances, the way that the Risen Jesus alleviates the fear and sorrow of His followers varies. The women first see the angel with the message of Jesus’ resurrection, then they see Jesus alive. The Ten and Thomas have Jesus appear in the middle of the locked Upper Room, showing them the signs of His crucifixion. The Emmaus Disciples have Jesus walk with them, giving them more teaching, and then break bread with them. But even with the variances in how Jesus shows His identity and resurrection, a common thread ties the appearances of the Risen Jesus together. Each incident includes a statement about what Jesus said would happen and has taken place. And in each incident, there was at first a refusal to believe or a failure to understand.

That is explicitly seen in the conversation that Jesus has with His followers as they walk to Emmaus. After asking being asked what they were talking about, these two disciples reveal the content of their discussion: “[the things] 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.” These events that happened to Jesus upset the disciples; they reveal their disappointment: “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.”

But recall what else this pair of disciples say that they know: “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.” All of these words are important. They reveal what the now-hopeless followers of Jesus knew. But they also tell what these two men did not believe.

Think again about the words that the two disciples said. The foundation for true hope was actually in their statement. Everything necessary for the disciples’ joy was present. They had heard the women’s report about the angel who had revealed that Jesus was alive. They had heard the confirmation from Peter and John that Jesus’ tomb was empty. Yet they did not believe that Jesus had risen from death. It is somewhat similar to Thomas’ reaction to what the Ten had told him: “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.” 

But there’s even more to what these two disciples were thinking and not believing. It’s in their statement of disappointment: “But we had hoped that He was the One to redeem Israel.” We had hoped. That’s the key word: had. Their statement essentially says: “We once believed in Jesus, but now we don’t.” The disciples know that Jesus was special: “a Man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” But their trust in Him caved, as they witnessed the events of Holy Week: “our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.” The crucifixion and death of Jesus was the blow that knocked the hope right out of them.

That is why the Risen Jesus responds the way He does: “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?” Jesus tells them that the events of Holy Week were not to devastate their faith, but to give them hope. For it is in these events that Jesus’ disciples find salvation. That’s why they were to believe Him. All of it was necessary. Jesus shows them why: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

To restore their faith and reinvigorate their hope, Jesus explains the Scriptures. He tells His disciples what the events mean. He shows them that everything that happened was intentional. Jesus tells His followers what the Old Testament prophesied would transpire, and how He fulfilled what had been foretold. Those who are called to follow Jesus are to find their joy in this. It’s a matter of promises made, promises kept. Though the events of crucifixion and death might not seem the way to bring about salvation, it is what the Scriptures had said would take place.

Ultimately, the whole incident with Jesus and these two disciples boils down to believing the word and message: both the prophecies of the Old Testament and the reports of Jesus’ resurrection. At first, there was a refusal to believe and a failure to understand on the part of the two Emmaus disciples. But when the message and Scriptures were believed, then hope was restored: the two followers of Jesus were made full partakers in salvation. Their faith in Jesus was confirmed in the repetition of the words and testament of Jesus: “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?’”

Notice that change in the two disciples! No more lost hope. No more disappointment. They no longer say about Jesus: “But we had hoped that He was the One to redeem Israel.” Instead, they believe it wholeheartedly, even with hearts afire in exuberance. But this change in these disciples is not a limited experience. There is a shared, corporate belief when the two disciples return to Jerusalem. And what they share is what you also share in this gathering of Jesus’ disciples.

Recall again the last words of the Gospel Reading: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” There is a retelling of the Scriptures and the message and the action that Jesus instituted to remember His work of salvation for you. This is exactly what you do together as Jesus’ disciples, even today. And it is meant for the same results: to make you partakers of the salvation that Jesus won for you by what happened to Him during those three days in Jerusalem. It is the end result of Jesus’ fulfilling what the Scriptures had prophesied: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”

What you do as you gather together is to confess the reality of that statement. You say: “Yes it was necessary. It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and die to atone for my sins, to experience the wrath of God, to offer a perfect sacrifice for my guilt. But it was also necessary for the Christ to rise from the dead, to offer me a share of everlasting life, to show mastery over all things, even death itself. And that display of divine power is given to me as I am called to gather in His name, hear His Gospel, and participate in the Sacrament that proclaims His death and brings me forgiveness, life, and salvation.”

But it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t perform a miracle to prove His identity to those Emmaus disciples. Instead, He did something that can be repeated among mere mortals. Jesus explained what the Scriptures said about Himself. He confirmed the testimony of the women and the angel. He substantiated the news of the empty tomb that Peter and John saw. And Jesus repeated the action of the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday. In those things the disciples find their comfort and salvation. That’s how their hope and faith are restored. It isn’t in the magical, but in the spiritual: their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Their hearts were burning within them as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them.

So it is for you. You aren’t given a miraculous act to receive or perform. But you can repeat exactly what the Risen Jesus did along the road to Emmaus and in the presence of those two disciples. You can receive the same thing that His disciples did. That is what happens each time that the Church gathers together on the Lord’s Day and festival days. You hear the Scriptures read with a purpose: to hear what they testify concerning Jesus. The testimony of Jesus’ death and resurrection is repeated. Through this, you have your eyes of faith opened. Having your eyes of faith opened, you recognize and see Jesus in the breaking of the bread, as the words of our liturgy declare: “As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes…. In giving us Your body and blood to eat and to drink, You lead us to remember and confess Your holy cross and passion, Your blessed death, Your rest in the tomb, Your resurrection from the dead, Your ascension into heaven, and Your coming for the final judgment.”

In these things, the Holy Spirit works and delivers us the results of all the necessary events that the Christ suffered and how He entered into His glory. Your hearts burn with the flames of faith, laying hold of the forgiveness, life, and salvation which Jesus’ death and resurrection provide. No longer are you slow and foolish of heart. Instead, you live in the fervor of faith and wisdom given to Jesus’ disciples as they walk the road to the eternal and New Jerusalem in Paradise. And you will say: “I hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel. And my hope is in what He has done to accomplish this. For this Jesus has fulfilled what the Scriptures said. He died, but He has also risen and appeared to Simon and to all His disciples. And now He has entered His glory, which He now allows me to share.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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