The Hope of Easter – Luke 24:13-24

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Luke 24:13-24

I heard a story about a man who went on vacation to Israel with his wife, and his very difficult-to-deal-with and ever-nagging mother-in-law, and while they were there sadly the mother-in-law passed away.  So, the man was trying to figure out what to do with the body, where to bury her, and he went to a local undertaker and asked about it.  The man said, “Sir, it will cost you $5,000 to ship her back to the States, but you can actually bury her right here in the Holy Land for $150.”

So, the man thought about it for a few moments and said, “Alright, I’m going to go ahead and ship her back to America.”

And the undertaker said, “Sir, did you hear what I said?  You can bury her here in the Holy Land for $150, why would you want to spend $5,000 to ship her back?”

And the man replied, “Well, a long time ago, a man was buried here and three days later he rose again from the dead.  And I can’t take that chance.”

You know, you just can’t ignore the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  It changed human history.  It’s changed most of our lives.  And because Jesus died and rose again, we have HOPE.  If Jesus had never risen from the dead, then we’d have no hope.  But He did.  And because of that we have hope.

Where Is Your Hope

Our hope is in God, through Christ Jesus.  Our hope isn’t in technology, which is changing all the time.  Our hope isn’t in human solutions.  Our hope certainly isn’t in politicians and governments, because they’ll disappoint.  Don’t even put your hope in preachers because we’ll disappoint you too.

Listen, if you knew me as well as I know myself you wouldn’t even sit there and listen to me preach today.  But before you turn off your computer or flip the channel think about this, if I knew you as well as you know yourself I wouldn’t talk to you.  So, we’re a good match, aren’t we?  No, our hope is in God.

It’s been said that man can live 40 days without food, 3 days without water, about 8 minutes without air, but not 1 second without hope. 

So, let me ask you; have you lost hope?  Has this whole COVID-19 thing caused you to be sort of like a rudderless ship without any real purpose or hope in life?  Maybe you’ve tuned in today and secretly you’re a little discouraged.  Maybe your life hasn’t gone the way you’d hoped it would go.

Think about it.  Perhaps you were hoping you’d be married by now but you’re still single.  Or maybe you were hoping that your marriage would be stronger, but the fact of the matter is that it’s unraveling.  It might even be falling apart.  Some of you were hoping your business would’ve succeeded, but it just went belly up.  In recent weeks many people across our nation (even our world) have lost loved ones to this virus.  There are some who are watching today that are simply without hope.  If that’s you (even a little bit), I just want to say I’m glad you here.  You’ve come to the right place.

If you have your Bibles, I want to invite you to turn with me to Luke 24.  We’re going to read about two disciples that had lost hope on the first Easter.  Like some of you, they were “down in the dumps.”  They’d lost hope.  They were burned out.  In their minds, Jesus somehow failed in His mission to be the Messiah.

See, they held the view that when the Messiah came He was going to establish His kingdom and rule as King of kings and Lord of lords, which, in their case, meant the overthrow of Rome (the power that occupied Israel at that time).  And though that’s true – Scripture speaks of the Messiah coming to rule and reign – they failed to understand that He must first suffer and die.  So, when Jesus, their friend, their hero, their Messiah, their Lord, was suddenly arrested on false charges and beaten and then murdered in cold blood before their eyes, it seemed as though something had gone horribly wrong.

It was like the train was off the tracks, and so these guys were so down-hearted, so discouraged, so hopeless that they said, “We’ve got to get out of town.”  So, they left Jerusalem.  They wanted to put as much distance between themselves and that bloody cross as possible.  And they headed to a town called Emmaus.  And as they were on their way somebody joined them.  Turns out to be Jesus Himself, but they didn’t know it at the time.  So, let’s read what happens here in Luke 24:13-24:

13That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.  14As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.  15As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.  16But God kept them from recognizing Him.

17He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.  18Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19“What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said.  “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.  20But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed Him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified Him.  21We had hoped He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.  This all happened three days ago.

22“Then some women from our group of His followers were at His tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report.  23They said His body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive!  24Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, His body was gone, just as the women had said.”

Hope For Ordinary People

Our story begins with two people; Cleopas, whose name is a derivative from Cleopatra (who ruled over Egypt), and another person.  Some commentators suggest that it was perhaps a woman, since “Mary the wife of Clopas” (different spelling) is mentioned as one of the women at the foot of the cross in John’s gospel.  So maybe this was a man and his wife, or maybe it was just two men.  The point is this: these weren’t front-line disciples.  We’re not reading about Peter, James, or John.  Why did Jesus appear to these two people?

Isn’t it interesting to note who Jesus made His post-resurrection appearances to?  If I was Christ, after I arose, the first person I would have appeared to would’ve been Caesar.  He thought of himself as a god.  And I would’ve said, “Hey Caesar, you think you’re a god?  Check this out.  Years from now, all they’ll remember you for is a salad.”  (A good one, but a salad nonetheless.)  Or He could’ve appeared to Pilate: “Hey Pilate, remember me?  Ever heard the saying ‘you can’t keep a good man down?’  Listen, you can’t keep the God-man down.”

But no, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene – not even Peter, James or John.  Maybe it’s because she was the last at the cross and the first at the empty tomb, and now here He is appearing to these two folks, one of which isn’t even important enough to have their name mentioned.  Cleopas, the one who is mentioned, is only mentioned in this one place in the entire Bible.

Quick poll.  How many of you were the top student in your class?  Raise your hands.  Always got the best grades, honor roll, etc.?  (Wow, we’ve got a lot of losers out there.)  How many of you got mediocre or bad grades?  Raise your hands.  (Yeah, houses full of losers.)  Guess what?  I’m with you.  When you were in school, did you ever get picked last.  At the office, do others slip out to lunch without inviting you?

Jesus went out of His way to reach out to ordinary people, to obscure people; to people that were often forgotten by others.

Hope Not Recognized

And it’s interesting to note that as they’re walking along, these two people don’t recognize Jesus.  Mark’s gospel includes this interesting little detail, the Bible says, “Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country” (Mark 16:12).  I don’t know what that means exactly but it’s clear that they didn’t know it was Jesus walking along with them.  And you know what, sometimes we miss that Jesus is walking along with us too.

He’s with us all the time.  He’s with us on the sunny days and He’s with us on the cloudy days.  He’s with us on the mountain tops and He’s with us in the valleys.  He’s with us in our fiery furnaces as He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  He’s with us in the lion’s den as He was with Daniel.

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

Are you in the rivers of difficulty right now?  Are you in a fire of oppression?  Listen, Jesus is here with you.  If you’re a Christian, He’ll never leave you alone.  Deuteronomy 31:6 says that “He’ll never leave us or forsake us.”  But the problem with these two chaps is that they’re headed in the wrong direction.

They should have stayed in Jerusalem or returned to Galilee with the others, as Jesus had instructed, but instead, these two people wanted to put as much distance between themselves and the cross of Jesus as they could.  When you’re down-hearted.  When you’re discouraged.  When you’ve sinned.  The last thing you want to do is run from God; you should run to God.

I urge you . . . go to God with your troubles – go to God with your questions – go to God with your pain – go to God with your complaints – the main thing is to go to God.

Hope When You’re Lost

But the Devil, he’s a clever one, isn’t he?  He’ll come and whisper in our ear, “Hey you, happy Christian, come here a second.  Hi.  I’m the Devil.  I hate your guts.  I want to kill and destroy you.  Anyway, I’m just kind of thinking . . . you’re living this Christian life and you’re doing so well but I figured you might want to have a little fun.  You know, you deserve a little break today.  You work so hard.  Why don’t you just do whatever pleases you today, and I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.”

So, we foolishly take the bait and as soon as we’ve fallen victim to sin the Devil comes back to us and says, “Hey you, miserable hypocrite, who do you think you are?  You think you’re a Christian?  Don’t even think about showing your ugly face in church again.  Don’t even consider opening the Bible and you should never pray.  You’re not worthy.”  And we listen to this.

Yet, that’s when we should be running to God.  Listen, you can go to God and find forgiveness.  These guys were running away from the cross when they should’ve been running to the cross.

Satan’s objective is to always get you further from the cross, while the Holy Spirit’s objective is to bring you to it.

I heard a story about a little boy in northern England who got lost.  The policeman found him crying in the shadows and he asked the little fellow where he lived.  But the little guy said he didn’t know where he lived.  “You don’t know you’re address son?”  “No, I don’t.”  So the constable started listing restaurants and stores and hotels but the boy didn’t recognize any of them.  Then the officer looked toward town and in the distance, there was a church that had a large steeple with a cross that was lit up.  And he said, “Son, do you live anywhere near that?”  And the little boy’s face lit up and he said, “Yes, lead me to the cross.  I can find my way home from there.”

Folks, listen to me today.  Because of the events of that first Easter, we have the hope of everlasting life and an eternal dwelling and relationship with God, but we have to come to the Cross of Calvary.

The Apostle Paul, writing about the Hope of Easter, says this, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Him we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).  And if you’re an inquisitive person you’re thinking, “Yeah, but what’s the glory of God?  Paul said we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God?  What’s the glory of God that we hope in?”

If you continue reading Chapter 5 of Romans you’ll discover that the glory of God is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  That’s the glory of God for Paul, and that’s where our hope lies today – in the resurrection of that first Easter Sunday.

Hope Found In The Scripture

But although these guys were going the wrong direction on that first Easter, notice that Jesus doesn’t give up on them.  Verse 17, Jesus says, “What are you guys talking about?  Why the long faces?”  (Jesus is trying to draw them out, open them up a little.)  And Cleopas responds and says, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem that hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened in the last few days.”  And to add insult to injury notice what verse 21 says, “We had hoped (past tense) He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.  This all happened three days ago.”

I wonder if Jesus was thinking, “Oui Vay!  Three days!  Hello, don’t you guys remember how many times I said ‘three days?’”  And of course, we tend to criticize these characters because we know that this is Jesus and we know the rest of the story, but seriously, how many times do we forget what Jesus says to us?  How often do we forget the promises and the assurances and the comfort that He gives to us through His Word?  We worry when we should pray.  We panic when we should trust.  We turn away when we should cling.

But what did Jesus do to restore HOPE?  He took them to the Scripture.  He opened God’s Word and explained it to them.  Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

So, what did Jesus share with them?  Look at verses 25-27; “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

We have some pretty cool and interesting times of Bible study here at Mountain Hill.  Some unique opportunities for worship, praying and sharing . . .  But can you imagine hearing Jesus teach you the Scriptures?  And how did they respond?  Verse 32 says, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

That’s what we all need – a good case of heartburn.  Have you ever experienced that when reading God’s Word?  (Not indigestion, but a burning heart?)  You heard a sermon or read a devotion or ran across a passage in the Bible and it just resonated in your heart?  “Yeah, that’s what I needed to hear!”  That’s what happened to these two people as they walked with Jesus – He gave them a personal tour of the Bible and their hope began to return.

The Scriptures remind us of the HOPE of Easter.  As Paul writes in his letter to Titus, “[w]e wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us . . .” (Titus 2:13-14b).  Or as Peter writes in the opening pages of his epistles, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” (1 Peter 1:3).

Author Willard Aldrich, in his book, When God Was Taken Captive, writes, “I am not a connoisseur of great art, but from time to time a painting or picture will really speak a clear, strong message to me.  Some time ago I saw a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack.  All that remained was the chimney . . . the charred debris of what had been that family’s sole possession.  In front of this destroyed home stood an old grandfather-looking man dressed only in his underclothes with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls.  It was evident that the child was crying.  Beneath the picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy.  They were simple words, yet they presented a profound theology and philosophy of life.  Those words were, ‘Hush child, God ain’t dead!’” 

Folks, let me remind us all – on this gloriously odd Easter Sunday – God ain’t dead.  He’s Alive!  And because of that we have HOPE this Easter.