Isaiah 41:1-10, Luke 24:13-35
April 23, 2017
“Later that same day…” We used to say that when I was in High School. If we were waiting for something to happen, or for somebody to do something, and it was taking longer than we expected, someone would say, “Later that same day…” It was like we were taking the part of a narrator in a story. It was like saying, “Ok, any time now!” And of course it was worse if there were a number of us, and we were all waiting for just one person! (We were rotten kids!)
Well, this story today from Luke literally took place “Later that same day…” In other words, this was still Easter, wasn’t it! And I want to start today by reminding you of what the people in this Easter story didn’t know. In other words, what they didn’t know that we know. You know I’m big on that! I think that’s so important in understanding these stories from the Bible!
So, what didn’t they know? Well, they didn’t know any of what we know about the Church, about Pentecost, about the atonement, …even about Easter! This was before all of that was “figured out.”
So, what did they know? They knew what they told this “traveler” on the road. They knew about this man named Jesus. It’s likely they even heard him speak. They knew he had been “the hope of the nation.” They knew he had been executed. And they knew that some women had come from his tomb that morning, saying they had seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
That’s what they told the “incognito” Jesus. But even before that, we find that they knew one other thing. They knew their sadness! Luke is very careful to point that out here. No matter what the news of the day might have been, no matter what possible hope there might be, they still had that! “They stood there looking sad.”
I’m not much of a basketball fan. However, when I was in Kansas, pretty much everybody else was! Especially college basketball! They talk about “March Madness” here. Trust me, it’s nothing like out there! Well, I’ll never forget when Roy Williams announced he was resigning as the basketball coach of Kansas University, in Lawrence. I’m telling you, that whole town went into a state of mourning! Williams had “celebrity status” – there, and all over! He had brought KU a national championship! (I watched that happen, too!) Everyone was sad!
On a more serious note, maybe some of you remember the time of the Kennedy assassination. I was very young then, but people talk about how the nation was in major time of sadness and mourning. And I have to think there were all of those kinds of feelings in Jerusalem at the time of this story. This man Jesus, who was full of hope and promise, had been tragically taken from them. There was a sense of sorrow among all the people!
That sorrow certainly showed in these two men. So Jesus began walking with them. There’s a wonderful painting of that in my home church. It’s an image of this story that’s always stuck with me! Jesus is walking with two men, white garments, a dusty path, trees, blue skies, patchy clouds… It’s wonderful! I tried to find a copy of it on line. But I couldn’t find the right one.
I’ve always liked the feeling of that picture. I like that image of Jesus walking along with us. Sometimes that’s the best comfort we can have! Maybe we have times when we don’t understand things completely. Maybe we can’t understand! And maybe Jesus doesn’t start explaining things right away. But he’s there. He’s with us.
We have times like that, don’t we? We have times we aren’t sure about things. Sometimes we’re not even sure about Jesus. We know there’s something important about him – something hopeful. We’ve heard that people saw visions of angels on Easter day, saying he was alive. We’ve read the stories. But we’re still not quite sure what to believe about it. Maybe we even have some kind of sadness.
Well, Jesus wants to walk that road with us. And yes, he wants to explain things to us, even though we might not recognize that it’s him. But he may just walk with us for a while. On the road that day, Jesus started by just letting these men talk. He knew what was wrong. He knew why they were sad. But he let them “get it out,” before he said anything.
Sometimes we’re not sure we can do that. We think we’d better be careful about what we say to God! If we show anger or frustration, God might not like it. If we show a lack of faith, we’re really in trouble. But I don’t think that’s true! I believe sometimes God just wants us to talk. He wants us to pour out our hearts before him.
The other thing I like about this story is that, when Jesus does start talking, he doesn’t just “explain things.” He doesn’t just “inform the minds” of these men. He touches their hearts! That’s so important! The information we put into our minds is great. Things like truth and understanding are good for us! But, do they touch our hearts? When it comes to our faith, that’s what we need to ask ourselves!
Think about it. Some people’s faith is based on information. “I’d better know what to believe, and what to accept!” I think there are times we all think like that. There are times we find ourselves thinking more about what we believe, but not so much about how it affects us!
Think about Paul’s words in I Corinthians 13. There he said “Our knowledge is imperfect… we see in a mirror dimly.” I try to keep that in mind, especially when people are talking “theologically.” Who has the right information about God? Many people think they do – or they think they need to. Yet, I heard years ago – and I think it’s true – that whenever we think we know everything about God and how he works, that’s when we’re the furthest from really knowing!
So if we don’t “know” – if we can’t know, what makes the difference? I believe it all comes down to how “what we know” touches our heart. I believe that’s what’s important to God. And I believe that’s what he wants us to give him – our hearts!
In quoting Deuteronomy 6, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The heart is first on the list! And in some versions, the mind is last!
So, it’s not so much about what we know about God, it’s not what we know about the Bible, it’s not what we know about Easter, or Jesus, or Pentecost, or the Holy Spirit. It’s about how those things that we do know affect us! It’s about how they touch our hearts!!
I’ve always said that God has a “flair for the dramatic!” Look at all the great stories in the Bible – the Exodus, the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors, the story of Noah. They are very dramatic stories! And I believe that’s why. God wants to get past our “knowledge” of things. He wants to touch our hearts!
The story of Jesus is the same thing. It’s not just about atonement. It’s about inspiration. It’s not just about the mind. It’s about our heart. …So then, how is your heart?
Eternal God, you are the maker of our hearts, and you know our hearts. Help us to know how your story touches our hearts. Help us to love you with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. We are grateful that you walk beside us throughout our lives. Help us to feel you close to us. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.