Easter is the central event of the Christian faith, yet it has become commonplace for many believers. This sermon will encourage the hearers to look once again at Jesus and to have their hearts touched by the triumph of his resurrection.
Most people know Easter is really big, but they just don't know why. They look but they don't see. That happened to two of Jesus' followers as they were walking away from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village seven miles out of Jerusalem on the western side of the Judean Mountains, toward the Mediterranean Sea. As they shuffled down the mountainside, another traveler joined them. "Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them. But they were prevented from recognizing him" (Luke 24:15-16 HCSB).
I. Why we don't see Jesus
While Luke doesn't explain overtly why the two did not recognize Jesus immediately, I have some suspicions. The reasons the two travelers on the Emmaus road did not recognize Jesus on the first Easter morning are the same reasons we don't recognize Jesus today?
A. We are too busy (v. 29)
These two disciples were in a hurry to get to their destination. Obviously it was late in the afternoon because when they arrived it was "almost evening, and now the day is almost over" (Luke 24:29 HCSB). And furthermore they were caught up in the events of the weekend. "They were discussing everything that had taken place" (Luke 24:14 HCSB). They had places to go, people to see, and things to do. They were busy.
The problem with being busy is that we miss out on the most important in life. We miss our kids growing up. We ignore our spouse's needs. We sacrifice our health. We destroy our souls. And we don't recognize Jesus.
B. We aren't looking for Jesus (v. 16)
These two people did not recognize Jesus because they simply were not looking for him. They had not made the connection between Jesus' promise in Jerusalem with Jesus' presence on the road to Emmaus. Jesus promised that he would rise again on the third day. Doubt and misunderstanding made it impossible to recognize this man as Jesus.
Notice the irony in this text. What day is it? "Besides all this, it's the third day since these things happened" (Luke 24:21 HCSB). What had the women discovered earlier that morning? "They arrived early at the tomb, and . . . didn't find His body" (Luke 24:22-23 HCSB). What did the angels announce to those who went to the grave? "He was alive" (Luke 24:23 HCSB). What did their companions discover when they visited Jesus burial place? They "went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Him" (Luke 24:24 HCSB). The witness of Jesus' resurrection was overwhelming. The evidence of Jesus' returning to life was escalating. These two folks did not see Jesus on the road that day simply because they were not looking for him.
C. We are depressed (v. 17)
The New English Bible describes them as "full of gloom." They were followers, as William Barclay said, "whose hopes were dead and buried" along with Jesus. Their grief slowed their gait. With sandals shuffling and scuffing along the road, they discussed everything that had happened. No doubt there were tears at times, maybe even some sobs. They were too depressed to make the connection that this man walking alongside of them could be the resurrected Savior.
D. We are pessimistic. (v. 25-26)
These people did not lack for evidence, they lacked for hope. It's an amazing thing about us humans; we have an incredible capacity for doubt. We simply don't believe that Jesus will show up in our lives. This God stuff is great for the movies like The Ten Commandments, or for television shows like Touched by an Angel, but not suitable for modern day life in the twenty-first century.
II. When we see Jesus
When the village of Emmaus finally came into sight, Jesus, still incognito, acted as if he were going farther. The couple would have none of it. This stranger had opened their eyes to the possibility, the truth, and the hope of a resurrected Savior. So they urged and insisted that he stay with them. I can imagine Mary busying herself preparing an evening meal and then called them to the table. At the table is where it happened. Read the text. "It was as He reclined at the table with them that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him" (Luke 24:30-31 HCSB).
The moment of recognition came when Jesus broke the bread.
Many believe it was because at that instant they saw his nail-pierced hands. The breaking of bread, as in the feeding of the 5,000 and at the Passover table, was an unforgettable gesture of self-revelation. Resurrection light dawned. Truth pierced their hearts. Hope abounded. The face of Jesus was recognized. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
That moment was burned into their minds for eternity.
Their hearts were aflame with Easter fire. "So they said to each other, 'Weren't our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?'" (Luke 24:32 HCSB). They had burning hearts. The word used for heart refers to everything we are emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. To be ablaze is to be rekindled or renewed or alive. A burning heart refers to the renewing effect Jesus Christ has on the whole person. Men and women with burning hearts are people of faith who have recognized Jesus Christ - alive and resurrected - and allowed his power to make them alive emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. As the apostle Paul reminded us, ". . . just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life" (Rom. 6:4 HCSB).
Just as Cleopas caught the fire on the Emmaus Road that day, so can you. By recognizing Jesus for who he is - the resurrected and living Savior. Jesus is the One who has time for us even we feel we don't have time for him. The One who is looking for us even if we are not looking for him. The One who will replace our sadness with joy. The One who will give us hope even in the midst of our doubts.
I got a big one
When the Pope visited Colorado he was anxious to get to an important meeting. The limousine assigned to pick him up did so and off they went. The Catholic chauffeur knew it was the "Holy Father" riding in the car and wouldn't consider going faster than 55 mph. However, the Pope, anxious to get to the meeting on time, told the driver to pull over, get in the back seat, and let him drive. The impatient pontiff put the pedal to the metal and quickly reached 85 mph on the Colorado interstate. Almost immediately a state trooper hiding off the side of the road turned on his siren and lights, and gave chase. Catching the speeding car, he ordered the driver to pull over. When he saw the driver, he couldn't believe it and immediately called his captain. He said, "I really got a big one today."
The captain said, "You mean the District Attorney?"
"No, sir, much bigger than that."
"You have a Senator?" came the puzzled reply.
"No, sir, you don't understand. This is the top of the line."
"Who do you have? The President?"
"No, sir, please understand me, this is really big."
"Well, for heaven's sake, who have you pulled over?"
"Well, Captain, I'm not sure, but the Pope is his chauffeur."
Not seeing what's right in front of you
A Coloradan moved to Kansas and built a house with a large picture window from which he could view miles and miles of rangeland. "The only problem is," he said, "there's nothing to see."
About the same time, a Kansan moved to Colorado and built a house with a large picture window overlooking the Rockies. "The only problem is I can't see anything," he said. "The mountains are in the way."
Despair to joy
Remember the story from your history class about the Battle of Waterloo? The allied troops under General Wellington fought Napoleon on June 18, 1815, at the Battle of Waterloo, a village in Belgium just south of Brussels. News was transmitted by the use of lights across the English Channel to anxious Brits awaiting the outcome. The words were spelled out, "Wellington defeated . . ." and then a fog, typical of England, fell over the channel. England thought the battle was lost and the dreadful news was spread quickly, throwing the land into despair. But when the fog lifted they could see the final word, "Wellington defeated Napoleon." And the mood in Great Britain changed from one of tragedy to triumph. The whole country exploded in thunderous celebration as the news was relayed. Napoleon had been defeated.
The ultimate pessimist
An instructor said to a new parachute trainee, "When you jump, the rip cord will pull automatically, but if it doesn't, pull the auxiliary chute on your back. If that doesn't work - well, there will be an ambulance waiting for you on the ground." So the trainee jumped, and nothing happened. He pulled the auxiliary cord and still nothing happened. He said, "Of all the luck. And I suppose the ambulance won't be there either!"