oday we have read again the familiar story of the two dejected, despondent, disciples who had already given up on the dream they had grabbed hold of through the words of Jesus. All hope was gone as they saw him dead and buried. Three days after his death, on that first Easter afternoon, they were on the road back home to try and pick up their shattered lives. What would they do next? Could they get their old jobs back? Would their friends always ridicule them as fools for following the false Messiah? They were so concerned about their problems that they did not recognize Jesus when he joined them on their journey in the wrong direction away from Jerusalem and the other disciples.
Many of us have been on that familiar road to nowhere: No future, no way to turn; yet, just about then Jesus joined us on our journey. He talked and we listened and hope began to find revival. We could share our own stories of how he stepped in just when we needed him the most?
One interesting aspect to our story is that Jesus was not planning to stay with them when they reached their destination, "...he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, 'Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." (v.28-29, NRSV). Do you suppose that you and I have missed him by not encouraging him to stay with us? He does not seem like one who would force his way.
Is this not exactly how our Methodist Movement began in the seeking heart of one small man who opened himself to a fresh breath from above, and felt his heart strangely warmed? He was searching for the Living Christ under every basket and in every corner. And finally Mr. Wesley was surprised by him at a prayer meeting. Unexpectedly John Wesley recognized God's presence and he later wrote in his Journal, "I felt my heart strangely warmed..." and you know the rest of the story. Interestingly, the New Living Translation picks up on Wesley's words in its rendition of verse thirty-two: "They said to each other, 'Didn't our hearts feel strangely warm as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?"
Another obvious aspect of our story is that the experience of finally realizing who had been with them gave them a new direction. They left for Jerusalem within the hour. This is the core of the Good News that although we do sometimes get on the wrong road, we can get back on the right pathway.
A friend hopped on a plane for Chicago but ended up in Philadelphia. He did not intend to end up in Philadelphia; he just got on the wrong plane. The good news was that he was able to change planes and made it to Chicago in time for his appointment. This is life. Whenever we find ourselves embroiled in some wrong way issue God can redirect our path.
And what did the two "wrong-way" boys find when they got back to Jerusalem: It was Easter evening and the others met them with the news that they had already experienced back in Emmaus: "The Lord is really risen! He appeared to Peter!" (v.34,NLT).
"Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road and how they recognized him as he was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them." (35-36,NLT).
What if they had stayed in Emmaus and had not made that six mile walk back again to Jerusalem? Of course, they would have missed out on seeing Jesus again in his resurrected body. They would have missed the fellowship of the disciples. They would have not been able to tell their tale. And, they would have not made it into this book (The Bible).
Many older adults admit that the sad part of memory is the regrets: Not as much the sins and times of rebellion that have been forgiven by Grace, but missed opportunities. That night we just stayed in Emmaus instead of walking all the way back to Jerusalem. After all, it was late in the day, and we needed to visit with family, and we could share our story there, and we had not had our after dinner dessert.
The challenge is to put our hands to the plow and never look back: To follow the leading of the Spirit through whatever doors he opens and to remain faithful to our calling and opportunity. It is the duty and natural desire of those to whom Christ has shown himself to let others know what he has done for their own hearts. This is the message that is the most effective with persons who have been reared in unchurched families. They resonate best with what you have to say about what you have personally experienced.
Would it not be
a shame for your kids to grow up in your home and never hear a word
about your own heart warming experience with the Risen Christ? Or perhaps
you might have told them in empty words but by your deeds your precious
children were turned away from the Lord. Talk about regrets; this would
be life's greatest failure.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor