This morning I preached at Becontree Avenue Baptist Church in Dagenham.
As we are in the Easter season I chose to look at one of the events of the first Easter Day as recorded in Luke’s gospel.
Unfortunately we were unable to record this morning’s service so it will not be available on the Becontree Avenue Baptist Church website (http://www.becavebaptistchurch.org.uk/index.htm)
As usual we start with the Bible reading I had chosen:
Luke 24:13 – 35
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “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. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 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. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. “
Have you ever been disappointed?
Seen your hopes and dreams dissolve like early morning mist goes when the sun rises?
Things you’ve longed for or worked for, fall part before your eyes.
That well deserved promotion goes to someone else. Sometimes to someone who gets it not through ability but by other means.
Or you’re supporting your football team and the ref is strangely blind to the cheating antics of the opposing players.
Its just not fair!
I am sure we’ve all said it or shouted it at some point in our lives. Its not fair!
Just for a while put yourselves in the place of these two men walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
They are deep in conversation about what has happened in Jerusalem over the last few days.
Its been a roller coaster of a week.
I am sure they would be mentioning the great procession into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. Jesus riding on a donkey. The crowds lining the streets and shouting their praises to God. “Hosanna to the son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” People cutting down palm branches to lay on the road in front of Jesus together with their cloaks.
What a day that was.
Those who cheered on Jesus saw him as a great prophet, perhaps the Messiah – God’s chosen one who would like a second King David free the country from the Romans and restore Israel to its former glory.
They had high hopes that Palm Sunday. And yet Jesus didn’t start the revolution against the Romans.
He had gone into the Temple and drove out the traders (Luke 19:45 & 46) and upset the chief priests and the rabbis. No doubt many of the people cheered him on, particularly those who felt oppressed or downtrodden the vast number of rules and regulations the teachers of the law heaped upon people. Mind you the stall holders will have viewed the matter differently as indeed would the Temple authorities as they calculated their loss of income.
Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his inner circle. He was given a sham trial, disowned by the priests and the rabbis, the very people who should have recognised him for who he was.
Jesus received rough treatment from the Romans who although they didn’t find him guilty allowed him to be crucified. Traditionally prisoners of the Romans were either given 39 lashes or crucified. Jesus received both punishments.
And after the agonising death on the cross, when most of his followers deserted him, Jesus is laid to rest in a tomb which was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers.
And now our heart broken disciples come to consider the day’s happenings.
Some of the women have been to the tomb and, its empty – the huge stone rolled away from the entrance. The women talk about having seen angels. And later some of the men have gone to the tomb and confirm its empty.
What does it all mean?
As they walk along and talk they are joined by a man apparently walking in the same direction. We are told they were kept from recognising him. But then how often have we failed to recognise people, especially if we do not expect to see them where they are.
Jesus asks them what are you talking about and Cleopas replies “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Surely everyone in Jerusalem, residents and visitors alike, must have known what has gone on.
What’s up with this man that he isn’t aware of the momentous events?
But the men explain to Jesus what has happened including that the tomb is now empty.
Jesus replies Luke 24:25 & 26 “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?”
These men were Jews and so were steeped in the scriptures or should have been. Jewish children were taught the scriptures. Every week portions of the scriptures were read in the synagogue.
But then how often do we manage to recall and apply scripture to the situations we face?
I have to be honest with you. I was brought up in a church from babe in arms and would have called myself a Christian from my early days. And yet it was only when we married and moved to an evangelical church that we were shown from the Bible the prophecies relating to Jesus, the Messiah, how his death and resurrection were foretold.
Jesus then unpacks the prophecies about him right back to Moses. There are so many prophecies of Jesus in the Old testament, I wonder if he gave the disciples all of prophecies, or just a selection?
There are some 400 prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament and he fulfilled all of them, although some will also be fulfilled when Jesus returns. The chances of someone fulfilling just 48 of those prophecies has been calculated at 1 in 10 to the power 157, that’s 1 followed by 157 zeroes! You stand more chance of winning the lottery every week.
Some of the prophecies could not now be fulfilled. ie since the Temple was destroyed, no one can claim that they are of the house and lineage of the David. All the records went up in flames when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans. So all these false messiahs that appear from time to time are clearly liars no matter how convincing they may seem.
Here are a few of the prophecies about Jesus:
Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Refers to Mary whose son Jesus mortally wounded satan, the serpent, even though the serpent struck at Jesus.
Genesis 22:8 “ Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice, my son.” Spoken on the hill now known as Calvary where Jesus, the lamb of God, was crucified.
Micah 5;2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Jesus, was indeed born in Bethlehem as we celebrate every Christmas.
Zechariah 11:12-13 “ I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.” Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus. After Judas gave the money back to the priests they used the money to buy what was known as the potter’s field.
Psalm 22 This is just full of references to the crucifixion ie V1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” Words spoken by Jesus on the cross. V7 & 8 “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Words spoken by the crowd of onlookers as Jesus hung on the cross. V18 “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” The Roman soldiers guarding Jesus gambled to see who would have his clothes.
If we look in Isaiah, we have Isaiah 50:6 “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” Jesus was whipped by the Romans. The priests attacked him and pulled on his beard and they also spat on him.
I am sure that having had this amazing Bible study from Jesus the disciples must have had that “penny dropping” moment. They are eager to continue the conversation and encourage this stranger to stay with them.
They finally recognise Jesus when he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it.
Suddenly they are changed from knowing about Jesus and his teachings to knowing Jesus. They have met with the death defeating Son of God who has risen from the dead.
Life will never be the same, as indeed life is never the same for anyone who has come to know Jesus as their Lord and saviour.
The two disciples must do something about this encounter with the risen Jesus and so they rush back to Jerusalem. Never mind that it’s a seven mile walk at night time and who knows how safe the road is, they must share the good news of Jesus despite the fear of the Jewish authorities.
I just wonder how keen we are to share the good news with others. To say we have met with the risen Jesus and life will never be the same again.
To get back to our original thoughts of “Its just not fair!”, it is true that life is not fair and its true that its not fair that Jesus, the son of God should die to pay the price of our sins, but that is what God’s love is all about.
As it says in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
And that is something for which we should praise God and share with others.