Most people know that 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, Cleopas and his wife, as they shuffled down the mountainside walking home to Emmaus. Another traveler joined them. Unbeknownst to them, it was Jesus (vv. 15-16).
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 to see Jesus (vv. 14, 29).
These two disciples were in a hurry to get to their destination. Obviously it was late in the afternoon. And, furthermore, they were caught up in the events of the weekend. They had places to go, people to see, and things to do.
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? (v. 12).What had the women discovered earlier that morning? (vv. 21-22). What did the angels announce to those who went to the grave? (v. 23). What did their companions discover when they visited Jesus burial place? (v. 24). 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.
We have a remarkable ability to shut God out of our lives. We have a tendency to put on blindfolds, as it were, and go through our days as if Jesus does not cross the paths of our lives. We have a distorted way of blaming God for everything bad that happens in our lives while not recognizing Him for the good things.
C. We are prevented from seeing Jesus (v. 17)
These two walking along the road were as low as beetles scurrying along the dusty road with them. They were not happy. They were sad. The New English Bible describes them as "full of gloom." They were followers whose hopes were dead and buried along with Jesus. Their grief slowed their gait.
If you have ever been depressed or have tried to help someone who was, you know that such people have an amazing ability to resist comfort. They can twist the most soothing words with their "yes, buts" and "that's fine for you to say" phrases. They hear everything as bad news. They ignore the truth even when it smacks them in the face.
D. Our pessimistic attitude shuts out faith (vv. 25-26)
While the two on the road to Emmaus had heard the possibility of Jesus being raised from the dead, they simply did not believe it. It was just too good to be true. Jesus rebuked them in verses 25-26. These people did not lack for evidence, they lacked for hope.
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 (vv. 30-31)
Cleopas and Mary eventually did recognize 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.
A. Common gestures (v. 30)
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.
B. Our hearts will feel it first (v. 32)
That moment was burned into their minds for eternity. Their hearts were aflame with Easter fire. They had burning hearts.
The word used for heart refers to everything we are emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. To be burning 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.
Cleopas and Mary caught the fire on the Emmaus Road that day. We can catch the fire in the most mundane of places by simply 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.
By seeing Jesus for what He can do - the giver of life and light. Jesus is the One who can touch our hearts with fire. His fire will renew our depressed spirits. His fire will rekindle our hurting hearts. His fire will give life to a dead existence.
Not seeing what is in front of you
A Coloradoan moved to Kansas and built a house with a large picture window form 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."
(Craig Brian Larson, ed., Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993, p. 241.)
A red mindset
Take a look around where you are sitting and find five things that have red in them. Go ahead and do it. With a "red" mindset, you'll find that red jumps out at you: a red book, red stripes on the American flag, red in the banner on the wall, and so on . . . In like fashion, you've probably noticed that after you buy a new car, you promptly see that make of car everywhere. That's because people find what they are looking for.
Wellington and the fog
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.
(Robert E. Coleman, "The Proven Gospel," Preaching March-April 1994, p. 24.)
Additional sermon starters
Jesus reinstates our sight (Mark 10:46-52)
A blind man came face to face with Jesus one day and Jesus provided physical healing. Not because of the man's desire but because of the man's faith. The blind man believed that there was more to life than meets the eye. He believed even though he could not see.
When death pays a visit (Luke 7:11-17)
Death is no respecter of persons. A widow discovered that through the lost of her son. Jesus, an only son, destined to die, met, encountered the widow's only son, and he was destined to live. Jesus raised this boy to life not for his sake but to show compassion to his mother.