A Congregation of Two

TEXT: Luke 24:13-35 – The Events After the Resurrection

An EMPTY Tomb
An EMPTY Tomb

This last week during my morning bible reading, I decided to read in the first four Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke and John] the Scriptures pertaining to the DEATH, BURIAL, RESURRECTION of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  I tried to place myself in that time frame–observing the events of Holy Week:  Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

The evidence was plain–or was it?  How would I have reacted, and how strong would my faith have been on that particular Sunday morning?

I hoped that I would have been a “on fire” disciple/follower of Jesus–not doubting, strong in the words and teachings of my Teacher.

Or, would I have been disappointed in His death–His burial in a borrowed empty tomb–certainly not accomplishing and fulfilling the things I thought Jesus came to do.

With all those thoughts buried in my thoughts and imagination, I decided to re-read the events that took place AFTER the Resurrection.

THE EMMAUS TWO AND THE UNSEEN STRANGER –

ROAD TO EMMAUS
ROAD TO EMMAUS

I am almost certain, you’ve all heard this story in the Gospel of Luke before–based on what happened on a 7-mile walk from Jerusalem.  It is the very heart of the Gospel which highlights the LIVING HOPE found only in the RESURRECTION of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote to his friends at Corinth…

“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.  But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who are asleep”  (1 Corinthians 15:19, 20 NASB).

But on that first Easter day, that LIVING HOPE was far from being established in the experience of two people mentioned in Luke 24:13-35.

We’ve just celebrated together Resurrection Sunday 2015.  Let’s try to put ourselves in their shoes for a time as they set out on their 7-mile journey.

IT WAS A HEARTBREAKING EXPERIENCE –

Have you ever noticed that some of the saddest words in our language begin with the letter D?  For example: disappointment; doubt; disillusionment; defeat; despair AND death.  All are summed up in the words of CLEOPAS and his companion to the stranger who joined them on the Emmaus road.  They had left the events of Good Friday behind them, yet what had occurred was still fresh in their memories.

Does that happen to you? It does me.  I try to put disappointing events that happened in the past behind me–don’t want to talk about them, don’t want to relive them and then all of a sudden, I replay the entire scenario to someone else.  I keep picking the scab over and over again and the wound never seems to heal over.

The News Reports Were In– 

Christ’s tomb was empty and did nothing to alter their thinking, it only confused them.

The congregation of two summed up the situation neatly in Luke 24:21:  “we were hoping that it was He Who would redeem and set Israel free.”

HUMAN HOPE is a fragile thing, and when it shrivels up, it’s difficult to revive.  HOPELESSNESS as a disease of the human spirit is hard to rewire.

Sickness overtakes someone you love, it goes on and on–you pray for a cure, your friends pray for a cure, and despair sets in. It becomes almost impossible to HOPE for recovery; even afraid to HOPE because of not being able to cope with another letdown.

The Emmaus Two–

This congregation of two men, created a wall of HOPELESSNESS around them, entrapped in their own misery.  We had hoped…” BUT…

What they were saying is, “We don’t expect it now, but we once did.  We had it, this thing called HOPE, but now it’s gone.”

Has something or someone come between your relationship with God?  If so, take in the words of the Emmaus story because the heart-breaking experience was only the beginning!

The Travelers Made Their Weary Journey Home–

A child's Sunday School class drawing
A child’s Sunday School class drawing

A stranger suddenly accompanied them along the way.  It was going to be one of the most wonderful walks in history!  We know, of course, it was the risen Jesus, but somehow these Jesus followers didn’t have a clue who He was.  In fact Luke tells us “they were kept from recognizing Him.”

They weren’t allowed to recognize Him for a purpose.  It was so that they might be in the same position as the church some 2,000 years later.

The stranger starts the conversation by asking a question:  “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?”  (verse 17).  So they poured out their sad story to someone who seemed so willing to listen.

The way Jesus dealt with the situation is a lesson for us–to help those who have lost HOPE.  They NEED companionship–they NEED a listening ear before a stream of “good advice.”

Let’s LOVE them by LISTENING, accepting the way they feel.  The last thing they need is a brisk “cheering up” talk or being told to “snap out of the funk.” There will be a time later to point them to a way of HOPE, to the One in whom HOPE is to be found.

But first things first.  They need someone just like you to listen to their story–someone who has “skin on.”

THE HEART-SEARCHING EXPERIENCE –

The congregation of two spokesman, Cleopas, expressed surprise by being asked what was worrying them,  “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”  (verse 18).

There seems to me a note of suspicion in the voice of Cleopas, but Jesus continues patiently and innocently asks,

“What things?”  

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.  “who was a prophet…”

Notice in verse 19, they said,  “He was…” past tense.  Their experience of Jesus was in the past, thinking they were alone in the world.  The CROSS had taken Him from them.

We’ve all heard exciting testimonies of what JESUS has done in their past–but what about the present?  The past is history.

The question we all must face, is JESUS “a present bright reality” to those who give their experience to you and me?  Do we always recognize Him beside us?

LIFE has many distractions:

HARD WORK–ROUTINE–TIREDNESS–BAD HEALTH–

All can grind us down to carry us on mechanically, never lifting our eyes or minds from the dust of the road we’re traveling on.

We become unaware of the GLORY and STRENGTH found in His presence with us.

“I love To Tell The Story…of JESUS and His love” – [An Old Hymn]

THIS STORY in Luke can give us HOPE that JESUS is still there.  He’s the UNSEEN “STRANGER”, walking with us, listening to us and, if we’re willing to hear His voice, revealing Himself to us.

THE CONGREGATION OF TWO–

JESUS took their sorrow, their bewilderment and gave them a heart-ing experience.  How did Jesus do that?  He pointed them to GOD’S WORD–The Scriptures.

Luke tells us in verse 27, 

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in ALL the Scriptures concerning Himself.”

What? The Old Testament? Yes!

JESUS must have given the EMMAUS TRAVELLERS the greatest Old Testament explanation in history–to A Congregation of Two.

What a wonderful anticipation of Jesus at Calvary as He shared Old Testament revelation: the fall of mankind; the apparently victorious Satan in the form of a serpent– told that the SEED, the offspring of the woman “will crush your head and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The problem for the disciples was how to make sense of the CROSS, how to accept it.  Jesus helped them do that, showing them that the CROSS itself was the creative act of God.

THE CROSS of SHAME & SUFFERING had become the CROSS OF REDEMPTION for all who would come to Jesus in repentance and faith.

cross-steps-to-peace-photo-604x270

When Jesus arrives on the scene of our lives, He’s probing our thoughts; it’s the PURPOSE of blessing us.  But how do we respond?  Do we, like the two disciples from Emmaus, welcome His approach in letting Him minister to us?

Sometimes the things He points out are uncomfortable.  Do we really want Him to keep looking and explaining what previously baffled us?

Cleopas and his companion accepted the gentle rebuke that Jesus made,  “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken”  (verse 25).

Maybe, the key word here is “ALL”.  It wasn’t that they hadn’t read the prophets of old, but perhaps they’d read the Scriptures selectively…out of context…concentrating on those parts that spoke of a conquering Messiah–being kind to His enemies–be victorious.

The passages that spoke of a suffering servant didn’t fit with their expectation and they’d tended to skip over those parts.

When they now were given the explanation from the Scriptures they reacted positively, and in fact they wanted more, which led them to…

A HEART SEARCHING EXPERIENCE –

The two-hour journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus seemed like five minutes on that Sunday.  So wrapped-up in conversation with the Lord they hadn’t yet recognized Him.

Luke tells in VERSE 28:  “And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go further.”

JESUS is so gentle with us.  He won’t force Himself where He’s not really wanted as He awaited their invitation to come in.

God gives the world the greatest and most precious GIFT, the Gift Of Free Will–we can use it to invite JESUS into our hearts and souls or…allow Him to pass on.

God gave a test to the Congregation of Two to see if the disciples had more appetite of the things of God.  And they did.  We are told,  And they urged Him, saying “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over”  (verse 29).

That’s the sort of INVITATION that Jesus can’t resist:  “And He went in to stay with them.”  

A basic meal was quickly made ready for their guest.  The bread is on the table and the moment for Jesus’ reveal has come.  How does JESUS do it?

“He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and

began to give it to them.”

THE ACTION of the breaking of the bread–

They saw His hands–they were different from the breaking of the bread and feeding of the Five Thousand, and the Last Supper.  They were the nail-pierced hands of JESUS.  In an instant they knew Him.  And in an instant, He’s gone!

Why did Jesus have to disappear at that moment?  Couldn’t the Lord stayed longer?

He could have but He didn’t because all part of the education, the continued teaching was to last 40 Days on Earth–how to manage without His bodily presence from now on; exactly the same as we have to do some 2,000 years after.

But JESUS is with us still by His Spirit.  He is with us as we fellowship with Him in WORSHIP, and in OBEDIENCE to His command, remembering Him in the “breaking of bread” service.

Christ Is Risen From The Dead!

Christ is the SAVIOR!  Christ is the HOPE of the world!

The TWO DISCIPLES in this story lost no time in retracing their steps to Jerusalem (yes, another 7 miles!) in excitement to SHARE the Good News.  May that be our experience after Resurrection Sunday and for the rest of our life.


BLOG CREDITS:

BIBLE TRANSLATION FOR THIS POST:  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

PHOTO CREDITS (Various): Photo Pin; Google Search Images and OTHER saved photos.

Sermon Notes: Owen Bourgaize Emmaus Experience.

“SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING” in a Nutshell

My mind, as of late, has been focused like many others, on March 31st, 2013: RESURRECTION SUNDAY!  So when reading in First Peter this past week, and starting a Bible Study with my wife Dianne, I was drawn by GOD’S SPIRIT to the HOLINESS OF GOD and the events that Christianity has named–EASTER.

thCAI523QO
“Re-Birthing” in a Nutshell

Where did the Expression “In a Nutshell” come from?

I thought I might insert the phrase into this blog for an ‘attention getter’, but later thought…culturally, would everyone understand the meaning; what do “nutshells” have to do with “spiritual re-birthing”?

How the phrase “in a nutshell” came to mean “brief and concise:

various_nuts_including_hazelnuts_walnuts_and_almon_postage-d172902192036531751exumr_325The idea of having a detailed amount of information about the FACTS, neatly contained in a small, compact nutshell has somewhat evolved to–the idea of having just the facts you need to make a decision, minus the “superfluous waffle.”  In a nutshell became connected to the idea of the information itself becoming compacted.  [References: Forsyth M. 2011. The Etymological Icon Books].

EXPLAINING THE BIBLICAL PROCESS OF “Re-Birthing”  (1 PETER I:1-25):

Where to begin?  When I used the phrase, “re-birthing”, I’m referring of course to the phrase we perhaps hear thrown around in Christian circles… without any emphasis or concern of who’s hearing the message and the understanding: “to be born again”. 

In my Word Detective investigation this past week, I found some interesting facts in the Older Testament (OT).

The Birth of Isaac found in Genesis 21–

The birth of ISAAC was a wonderful, Biblical, and practical example of “birthing” (Galatians 4:22-23. 29; and John 3:36).

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,

but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,

for God’s wrath remains in him.”

JESUS is saying in John 3:36, that those who BELIEVE in Him have (not will have) everlasting life.  To receive eternal life is to JOIN GOD’S LIFE, which by nature is eternal.  So, eternal life begins at the moment of spiritual rebirth.

Isaac’s Birth was Wonderful Because….

By all natural appearances, Isaac shouldn’t have been born.  His parents were far to old to bear children.  Yet, GOD brought Isaac to birth in spite of…Debate, Doubt, Dysfunction, Death of the natural human reproductive systems  (Genesis 15:1-4; 15-19; 18:9-14; 21:1-7).

GOD USED THE MOST EXTREME SITUATION TO SHOW HIS MERCY AND HIS MIGHT:

How important is this to mankind?  It says that any of us–whatever the SITUATION, SORROW, and SINFUL PAST–All of us can experience “spiritual birthing.”

For Abraham is the father of us all–

[16]  “THEREFORE, [inheriting] the promise is the outcome of faith and depends [entirely] on faith, in order that it might be given as an act of grace, to make it stable and valid and guaranteed to all his descendants–not only to the devotees and adherents of the Law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all!  [17] As it is written,  I have made you father of many nations in the sight of God in Whom he believed, Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if the [already] existed [Gen. 17:5]”  (Romans 4:16-17 AMP),

AND, Jesus died on the cross to put US in the family!

In the New Testament, “spiritual  birthing” begins–

It begins WHEN WE OPEN OUR EYES TO SEE JESUS.

With GOD’S GRACE (unmerited favor). when you look, you will see ‘HIM WHO IS WONDERFUL” and have the opportunity to reach out to Him.

“JESUS declared,  I tell you the truth,

no one can see the kingdom of God unless

he is born again.”

(John 3:3 NIV)

YOU MUST BE “BORN AGAIN” !!!

You must be spiritually “birthed” !!!  Your new birth begins your new life; one who experiences TRUE HOLINESS for the first time.

You begin to KNOW GOD in the “re-birthing”, EXPERIENCING HOLINESS IN “HIM WHO IS WONDERFUL”.

Be Holy

“Therefore, prepare your minds [be “ALERT”] for action; be self-controlled [‘disciplined’]; set your hope [focus] fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not  conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as He who called you is HOLY, so be holy in all that you do,  for it is written:  “BE HOLY, BECAUSE I AM HOLY”  (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV). [The Word Detective added the brackets [  ] for emphasis].

The main idea behind HOLINESS is not moral purity but it is the idea of “apartness”–the idea that GOD is separate, different from His creation, in His essential nature and perfection of His attributes.  BUT instead of building a wall around His “apartness”, GOD call us into the “birthing process”, to come to Him and share His apartness.  He says to us, “BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”  You have become “sanctified”.

HOLINESS is not so much something we possess, as it is something that possesses us after we come to JESUS in the “SPIRITUAL REBIRTH”–Born again!!

When you begin to experience HOLINESS for the first time…

HOLINESS isn’t what you feel–it is an experience: “I don’t feel holy so I’m not holy.” 

train

“Don’t Depend On FEELINGS” (courtesy of The Four Spiritual Laws tract):

The promise of god’s Word–the Bible and not our FEELINGS–is our authority.

The TRAIN pictures above, illustrates the RELATIONSHIP we receive in the “spiritual re-birthing”  among FACT (God and His Word); FAITH (our trust in God and His Word), and FEELING (the result of our FAITH and OBEDIENCE) ~ John 4:12.

The TRAIN will run with or without the caboose.  However, it would be useless to pull the train by the caboose.

In the same way, as a “new-born” , we don’t depend on FEELINGS or EMOTIONS: “I know what the Bible says, but I just don’t FEEL very HOLY right now.”

We place our FAITH (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the PROMISES of His Word.

~(“Don’t Depend On FEELINGS” was taken from The FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS of Campus Crusade for Christ.) ~ My wife and I were both led to Christ by this Tract in August, 1972.

I believe it is a GOD-GIVEN condition at your “SPIRITUAL BIRTHING’.  You might not recognize holiness in your life, nor others around you.  BUT that doesn’t change the “birthing process”.

DEATH FIRST, THEN HOLINESS REALIZED–

Burying Like A Seed–No Death No Fruit:

John 12:24:

“I can guarantee this truth:  A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce a thing unless it is planted in the ground and dies.  If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain”  (GOD’S WORD TRANSLATION).

Being “set apart” in re-birth; Experiencing Holiness–

RE-BIRTHING is a High Place of dying out, being crucified with Christ and burying.  Now BURYING may seem more like a horrible place, but remember, we’re talking about “a spiritual re-birth of self”–our mind, personality; who we are.  Your physical body is just a tent where you reside; it wears out eventually, but who you really are doesn’t!

A NEW ROMANCE BEGINS …

WHY?  Because burying our old life opens the way for us to fall so much in LOVE with the Savior, to begin a REAL and RADICAL ROMANCE WITH THE REDEEMER!

In the letter to the Roman Christians, Paul uses a legal and matrimonial illustration (Romans 7:1-4):

Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear FRUIT for God.  (verse 4, AMP)

The picture of “burying” here is beautiful to my eyes, then again I’m a visual person.  Our RELATIONSHIP with all other “spiritual suitors or spouses” must end through spiritual death.  Only the will of JESUS establishes A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH US.

What Is A Spiritual Suitor? 

“Bury what spiritual suitors or spouses?”

Well…other “suitors” or “spouses” can be…

— Sin (Romans 6:6-11).

— Society (Galatians 6:14).

— Perhaps other Christians? (1 Corinthians 2:2).

And, the chief, all-inclusive rival Spouse is… SELF:

“I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who LOVED ME and gave Himself up for me”  (Galatians 2:20 AMP).

The SELF we are to be freed from by death is not the first TRUE SELF, fashioned in GOD’S IMAGE.  It’s a FOREIGN SELF, fashioned after the Satanic spirit clutching hopelessly to be GOD.

It, therefore, manifests itself in ….

PRIDE…

ANGER…

FRUSTRATION…

SUSPICION…

JEALOUSY…

It is this FALSE SELF that CAN and MUST be denied (see Luke 9:23), and it must be BURIED in Christ Jesus.  The clear instruction is…12605297-holy-week

“take up your cross daily, and follow Me”

JESUS HAS TASTED DEATH AND BURIAL FOR US:

He has already delivered us from the rival suitors, to ANOTHER!  JESUS HIMSELF has already paid the price; made the Sacrifice.  He Himself took the Cross, bore ALL the hardness of real death and real burial.

JESUS has experienced the grief of death, so that by dying with Him, we experience the Grace, even the Glory of dying out to old and being re-born to the new.

Along with the apostle Paul, we can gladly say on RESURRECTION SUNDAY…and on any given day of the year...Galatians 2:20.

VERSE 1:  Alas, and did my Savior bleed?  And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head  For someone such as I?

VERSE 2:  Was it for crimes that I have done, He suffered on the tree?

Amazing pity!  grace un-known! And love beyond degree!

VERSE 4:  But drops of grief can never repay  The debt of love I owe;

Here,  Lord, I give myself away,  ‘Tis  all that I can do!

CHORUS: At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,  And the

burden of my heart rolled away,  It was there by faith

I received my sight,  And now I am happy all the day!

“At the Cross”

by Isaac Watts and Ralph Hudson

A LIFETIME TO REFLECT:

MY STORY–Learning to Perfect the Perfection.

Dianne and I got married in September 1964, almost 49 years ago.  In fact, we’ve been saving our blessed abundance for the past three years; in order to be able to celebrate our 50th wedding Anniversary.

The analogy of marriage is very fitting in reflection of “back when…”  We get married in a moment of commitment but it takes a lifetime to learn to live with each other.

It’s similar with entire sanctification (Holiness): A PERFECTION OF COMMITMENT and HEART-CLEANSING IN A MOMENT.  It takes a lifetime, however, learning to perfect the perfection. 

As the Word of God tells us:

“THEREFORE, SINCE these [great] promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates and defiles body and spirit, and bring [our] consecration to completeness in the [reverential] fear of God”  (2 Corinthians 7:1 AMP).

“Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the PURE (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation”  (1 Peter 2:2).

HOLINESS BEGINS AT “SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING”…

We who belong in the family of God have an advocate, “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1 NKJV), who has paid the penalty to forgive our sins by what He did on the cross.  He wants to SAVE US…to be our personal attorney and Savior.  But remember, He is available only to those who call on His name.  If you have the slightest doubt that you are HOLY–that you have ever personally invited Him into your life, do it now!

TODAY’S PRAYER

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for sending Jesus, Your Son, to die on the cross for my sins.  I know I am a sinner and that only He, the resurrected Christ, can forgive and save me.  Jesus, I invite You into my life to become my Savior and Lord.  I give my life to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray,  Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, “SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING”  has taken place.  That’s it in a nutshell!

“So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace that is coming to you…[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].  But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.  For it is written,  You shall be holy, for I am holy”  (1 Peter 1:13-16).