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.

A Momentary Spark in the Shadows of Darkness

[10]  Who is among you who [reverently] fears the Lord, who obeys the voice of His Servant, YET WHO WALKS IN DARKNESS and deep trouble and has no shinning splendor [in his heart]?  Let him rely on, trust in, and be confident in the name of the Lord, and let him lean upon and be supported by his God.

[11]  Behold, all you [enemies of your own selves] who attempt to kindle your own fires [and work out you own plans of salvation], who surround and gird yourselves (surround yourselves with a belt) with momentary sparks, darts, and firebrands that you set aflame!–walk by the light of your self-made fire and of the sparks that you have kindled [for yourself, if you will]!  But this shall you have from My hand: you shall lie down in grief and in torment.

~ISAIAH 50:10-11 AMPLIFIED BIBLE.

Surrounded by momentary sparks!

Making Scripture PERSONAL!

The Lord obviously wanted me to receive and understand His message in the above verses in The Book of IsaiahWhat do I mean by “personal”?  That’s when a Scripture verse, written to the WORLD, suddenly becomes MINE (or in your case, YOURS).

I recognized that the Holy Spirit had something specifically He wanted communicated.  I roughly understood what the verse meant!  As Mrs. Charles E. Cowman said in one of her books,  “It means we are in darkness” (in relation to some situation we do not understand) “and the temptation is to find a way without trusting in the Lord and relying on Him!”  Instead of waiting on the Lord’s plans, we try to figure it out ourselves.

Serving God in the Midst of Darkness–

There are times in our lives that we find it difficult to see very far ahead.  I remember one time driving home from a retreat with my wife in the local mountains near us.  We had a late supper out and on the way home, the headlights of the car went out.  I couldn’t see a thing!

Doing what men usually do in such circumstances, I pulled the car over to the side of the road.  I then raised the hood of the car, pretending I know what I was doing, then proceeded to tell my wife with all wisdom and understanding: “It’s just an electrical short that had caused the headlights to fail.”  Of course after forty plus years of marriage, Dianne knew I had no idea what the problem was–but kept from making her response, making the situation worse.

Going Ahead in the Pitch of Night!

I decided I couldn’t wait there along side of the road all  night and pulled out into the night.  Dianne’s reaction to my fool-hearty decision was, “You can’t drive home in the darkness without light!”  And of course I had anticipated her question in advance and blurted out, “At least the parking lights are working!” 

As I drove down the dark mountain highway, the Lord whispered in my ear “Mel, try turning the knob on the dashboard back and forth,” or something to that effect.  I did so and guess what?  Yep, the headlight’s ‘dimmer switch’ or whatever you call it had been inadvertently been turned off(who did that?).  We got home finally, but with all the car’s lights working.

Dianne asked me a question after we pulled into the garage:  “Would you have driven all the way home in the darkness without any lights?”  And my definitive answer…”We would have been just fine, regardless.  We were in God’s hands and protection.  My answer sounded convincing.

Our DESIRES Can Sometimes Be Confusing–

Are you experiencing a dark time in your life?  Do you have a wayward child?  Have you experienced financial reversal?  Has someone broken your heart or taken advantage of you?  Are you not able to make sense of what’s happening in your life?

As Christians, we DESIRE to be “overcomers”.  We DESIRE to go to heaven but rather mot die to get there.  In its very substance, LIFE is tragic without JESUS CHRIST in our lives.

Questions We Asked Ourselves In Life–

Life as we know it is filled with “sweetness” and misery; high times and hard times.  As Christians, we desire to be “overcomers” but don’t want much to overcome.

–Do you have a wayward child?

–Have you experienced financial reversal?

–Has someone broken your heart or taken advantage of you?

–Are you not able to make sense of what’s happening in your life?

Thinking We’ve Got It All Figured Out!

We’ve studied our lessons, learned our formulas and memorized the promises of God’s Word.  We think that we’ve got it all figured out and suddenly…we are plunged into a deep, deep darkness.  Why does such darkness come to a Christian?

The question we ask more than any other is “Why?”  WHY did God allow sickness to come to me or a loved one?  WHY did God heal that person and not heal me?  WHY?  WHY?  WHY?

What Do We Do When the Lights Go Out?

When we went to school, we received lesson first, then learned the lessons second.  “Premature Deliverance”…from a situation is when man frustrates God’s work of grace in our lives rather than committing the whole situation to Him; willing to abide in darkness, so long as you have His presence.   REMEMBER, “it is better to walk in the dark with God than walk alone in the light” (Mrs. Cowman).  And that’s what it means.  Often, we have prayed prayers and don’t understand at all what happened.  When in fact, God actually has ANSWERED those PRAYERS. 

PRAYERS like, “Oh God, use me”, or “Increase my faith Lord”, and “Thy will be done”.  And of course, He does have a will for your life, as He has for all of our lives.  But His will is likely to go in directions we never anticipated; areas we never ever thought about or desired.  He will answer those prayers, and all to often we haven’t understood His answers.  This is all consistent with His Word:  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

GOD has directions and plans completely outside-you and that’s the point!  It’s not about you and I.  When He answers those prayers of ours, He begins preparing us for the life and work ahead.  Be abundantly clear here, the work is His and not yours!

THE DEEPEST DARKNESS (ISAIAH 50:10):

This passage of Scripture is not talking about someone who has wandered away from God.  This person fears and loves the Lord: Who is among you who fears the Lord…”

This verse is addressing the person or persons who fears and loves the Lord.  “Fear of the Lord”  MEANS, “love on its knees”.  The person who FEARS God the most–loves God the most.  This person OBEYS God’s voice (v. 10).

There is a distortion of the truth today when a person becomes a Christian–everything becomes like honey and no bees; all sunlight and roses with no rain and weeds.  There is no reason to deny it.

Tens of thousands of Christians across the world fear and love the Lord, yet are experiencing darkness.  More than 150,000 Christians were martyred last year all over the world.

Job said, “Even young children despise me; when I get up, they speak against me” (Job 19:18).

Habakkuk shouted,   “Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help and You will not hear?  Or cry out to You of violence and You will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2).

John the Baptist sent messengers from prison and asked JESUS,  “Are you really the Messiah or should we look for another.”

Each one of these men of God came to a “lights out” time on a ‘dark road’ in life and didn’t understand or comprehend why and what was fully happening to them.

FAITH BORN IN THE LIGHT IS OFTEN DEVELOPED IN THE SHADOWS:

Someone once said that FAITH is like film:  “It’s better developed in the darkness.”

QUESTION:  When have you grown the most spiritually in your life?  When Mr  Trouble comes and knocks at your front door–becoming more mature in the spirit becomes better developed than other times.

So, How Does God Develop Our FAITH In The Darkness?

God says in Isaiah’s passage, it takes two steps:  We are to look to the Lord first—“trust in the Lord” (verse 10).  The Amplified translation uses, “rely on,” “trust in,” “be confident in”.  I like what Warren Wiersbe said, “We live by promises, not by explanations.”

Just because it doesn’t make sense to us at the time, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense to our Heavenly Father.  We must continue to stand on God’s Word, regardless of what’s going on in our lives.  GOD’S WORD never changes and remains constant in ALL of the seasons of life.

The Second Step:

Lean upon the Lord–“let him lean and be supported by his God.”

When you find yourself in the dark and along side a lonely isolated road, you don’t need an explanation–you need God!  It is more important to be with God in a valley of darkness than to be on a mountain peak in sunlight without Him.

There are some things that I want in life that I don’t need, and some things I need that I don’t want.  Only GOD can really discern between bad and good–good and best.  God wants to develop our FAITH; never to doubt in the dark what you have learned in the light.  The TEST OF OUR CHARACTER is not what we do in a worship service but what we do in the dark.

FAITH’S DANGER:

It is better to be serving GOD in the darkness than to be standing alone in “man-made” light (Isaiah 50:11).

One of the most dangerous temptations is to be tempted to light our own fire in the darkness.  If God has permitted the darkness, then we must wait upon the Lord.  We must never get the idea that darkness can overcome light; darkness will run from light.

If you don’t believe this is the truth, then turn on the light in a darkened room and open the closet.  You will find darkness is hiding in the closet!  The only way that DARKNESS can enter is that the light be removed.

So, if the LIGHT has been removed from the situations of your life, then God in His wisdom has allowed you to be in the darkness.  If God is the One who has allowed darkness to come your way, don’t be foolish and light your own fire.  Don’t try to undue what God is already doing.

A man-made fire is deceptive.  It’s like a man getting up in the middle of the night, hearing a disturbance in the house and grabbing a flashlight beside his bed.  And with his flashlight, he goes over to the sundial to see what time it is.

God says that if we light our own fire–[work out our own plans AMP] in the midst of God-planed darkness, then we will suffer.  For an example, God told Abraham and Sarah they would have a child of their own–God gave them a promise.  However, God didn’t fulfill that promise immediatelyAbraham, in the middle of his darkness of doubt, created his own fire with Hagar.  Ishmael was born.  Think about the suffering that followed Abraham and the world because he did not wait on God in the midst of darkness.

IF YOUR SUN HAS SET, IT WILL RISE AGAIN:

Faith’s Daybreak–Psalm 30:5

“For His anger is but for a moment, but His favor is for a lifetime or in His favor is life.  Weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:5

“[The Servant of God says]  The Lord God has given Me the tongue of a disciple and of one who is taught, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.  He wakens Me morning by morning.  He wakens My ear to hear as a disciple [as one who is taught]”  (Isaiah 50:4 AMP).

“Come And Light My Fire Jesus”–

God will awaken us in the morning, even though you may be in the dark shadows now, there’s a better day coming!  If you are in darkness, then TRUST GOD, and He will turn every tear into a pearl, every hurt into a hallelujah.

There is a better day coming.

For non-Christians, this is as GOOD as it gets.  And as Christians, this is as BAD as it gets!

A PERSONAL CHALLENGE TO TAKE:

Take a walk and enjoy the warmth of a sunny day.  And while you are lifting your face, enjoying the warmth of the rays, the sun-rays of sunlight are already 8.3 minutes old when they reach you.  Even though you can experience the warmth of the sun, you’ve never seen the full power of the sun.  You have felt its warmth but never really seen the sun.

In a like manner, we can feel the warmth of God’s presence, but we’ve never fully seen the glory of God.  But there is a time coming as a child of God, that we will see the face of JESUS.  We will fully see what we slightly experienced in this life.  Just remember when the lights go out, GOD is still there in the midst of your darkness.

There Are Treasures Of Darkness–

Have you ever heard someone say, “The stars are out tonight”?  The fact is, stars are out in the daytime, but we can’t see them because of the sunlight.

The stars are there for us to praise the Lord (Psalm 148:3).  We would never have a star to praise the Lord without darkness.  GOD wants to give you a star so you can praise Him even more.  Our trials become stars in order to praise the Lord in the light that He gives us.

So, when the lights go out…reflect on our faith’s devotion, development, discernment, danger, and daybreak (Light),  in the POWER of the Holy Spirit’s fire.