Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter

Text: Luke 24:13-35
Jesus said to them, “What are you talking about to each other, as you walk along?”  They stood still, with sad faces (v 17).

Walking the Emmaus road

Tasha was only 10 when her father whom she admired so much suddenly left the family.  Soon after, both her grandparents, whom she loved dearly, died.  Her sister in whom she confided and told everything was married, went interstate and has heard very little from her since and most recently her mother has been diagnosed with cancer.  Tasha was struggling and fearful of the future.  It’s little wonder she has been referred to a counsellor to help her deal with the sadness and uncertainty in her life.

Are there times in your life when it seems that everything seems to become too much?  If you can say “no” I’m glad for you, but it may not always be that way.  For many of us there are those times when there are
too many stresses;
too many things that crave our attention;
too many worries;
too many things going wrong at the same time;
too much going on that we just want to call “time out”, “give me a break” and hide away for a while hoping that it will all go away;
too much whirling around in our heads that we can’t sleep and that makes our ability to cope even less likely.

When we are like this we lose confidence in ourselves;
our self-esteem goes down the gurgler;
and we become sad, angry and frustrated. We tend to be less patient, more blunt in our speech and forget about other people’s feelings because our feelings of hurt are so dominant. 

Sometimes we keep busy so that we don’t have to face the sadness or the worries but these things will confront us eventually.

When we are asked, “How are you going?” we reply, “Fine thanks!” knowing full well that no-one would thank us for tipping on them a whole bucket full of misery.

Of course, I have generalised here quite a bit and maybe exaggerated for some people because not everyone experiences sadness and stress in the same way.  But it’s a fact that
sadness and sorrow are normal parts of life even though we may want to hide it from others.
Grief is normal.
Tears are normal.
Stress in our troubled world is normal.
Worry about the future is normal.
The frustration that comes with stress and worry is normal.
Anger at the way the events in our life have turned out is normal.
None of these are desirable but they are part of living in this broken world. None of these things are what God had planned for us in the beginning but they are part of us because of the affect that sin has had on us and the world.

Today we hear of two men who are sad, gloomy, sombre, and even somewhat angry when they answer the stranger’s question with, Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn't know what’s been going on these last few days?

It’s interesting to note that throughout Jesus’ ministry he never avoids confronting hardship and connecting with the people who are in the middle of sadness and grief and trouble of this life. He weeps with those who are weeping.  He embraces the sick, the depressed, the lonely, the disengaged, the grieving, the dying, and the crying.  He doesn’t turn away from the angry or the frustrated or lose patience with those who speak unkindly or act without thinking (like Peter did so often).  

As a human in this world he endured sadness, sorrow, grief, tears, stress, frustration and anger and how they affected his mind and body.  He knows what these things do to us.  He knows what we are going through when we become a bucket load of misery.

And so we see a stranger (whom we know to be Jesus) walking with two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the evening of Easter Day.  Jesus listens as they unload and tell him everything that happened over the weekend.  John gives us just a summary but I’m sure they would have gone into great detail about the events of Thursday night when Jesus had his last meal with his disciples, his arrest, and then the events of Good Friday and then the account of the women who had visited the tomb of reported they had seen angels.  They didn’t see Jesus that morning but they were told that he had risen from the dead.   The stranger walked with them, and though he knew all this, listened as they talked and grieved.

When they were done the stranger explained lots of things about the Messiah from the Old Testament and how this was a fulfilment of what the prophets had promised but the disciples still didn’t get it. They couldn’t see past the gloom and sadness and grief and dying that had happened the past days and recognise that it could possibly be true that Jesus was actually right there beside them. 

It was only when they were at dinner that night, and the stranger took some bread, blessed it and broke it that finally the penny dropped.  They had heard that voice speak those words before.  They had seen those hands break bread before; many times before, but especially that special night before he died, that night that was now burnt into their memory forever.  And maybe as they watched him break the bread they noticed the scars on his hands and at that instant Jesus disappeared.

Their gloom and sadness was instantly turned into amazing joy. They couldn’t get back to Jerusalem quick enough to tell the others what they had just experienced.

In this post Easter period I like the way Jesus comes to his disciples and his other friends – some are shrouded in grief, others are filled with fear, some are doubters and not knowing what to think anymore, some are confused about the past and the direction of the future, and he chats with them, or sits down and has a meal with them, and today he walks with them.

For me this week, the image of Jesus walking with his disciples in the sadness and gloom has been especially meaningful.  Even when they didn’t realise it was Jesus walking with them, he continued to walk beside them, listening to their story, no doubt listening their gripes, their pain, their disappointment and their grief and maybe he even put an arm around a shoulder when the tears began to flow.  Even a stranger can give comfort to someone in grief. 

They felt the love of this man walking with them which they later described as “burning like fire” when he talked to them words of hope and reassurance through the words of Scriptures.

This story is about the meaning of Easter for us and the everyday stuff that we find ourselves involved in that somehow we wish would all go away – but it won’t.  Somehow we need to find the strength and courage to endure it and to keep on going and Easter provides us with the answer. 

I have asked those who have been carers of elderly spouses or disabled children or a severely ill family member, “Where do you get the energy and will power to keep going day and night?”  Inevitably the answer comes back in words to this effect, “Only with God’s help”. 

It is at this moment that I can imagine the resurrected Jesus walking with nailed pierced hands around the shoulders of the weary carer assuring that person that his love, and strength and courage will enable that person to fulfil their loving but tiring task.

When we are feeling gloomy and sad about what has happened,
when tears fill our eyes,
when we are anxious and worried,
we have a loving Saviour who is walking the road of stress and trouble with us.  He knows what that road is like.  He’s walked it before.  He’s felt the sadness, the grief, the stress, and the pain.  He knows what despair is when he felt forsaken on the cross.  He overcame death and he’s come through all that victorious. 

He knew how those disciples were feeling and he knows what is in our hearts.  He is walking that road with you now.  You might not even realise it, like the disciples on the Emmaus road, but he’s there.  We can confidently say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). He has given us the Easter victory that we too can overcome all that scares us and shatters our lives because we are the Lord’s and we belong to him through his death and resurrection.

When we were baptised Jesus made a covenant with us to walk with us in our journey through life – to care for us, to comfort us, to show his great love for us in our daily life.  Even though our feelings of stress and grief may tell us at times that Jesus doesn’t care or that no-one understands, nevertheless we trust in that promise of Jesus made at our baptism.  Even if it were true that the love of all our friends would turn cold toward us, be assured Jesus love still burns strong – that’s his baptismal promise to each one of us. 

It’s good to feel those nail-pierced hands holding ours when we need him near.  It’s good to know his love and be comforted by the knowledge that everything is in his hands even though from our perspective everything’s gone pear-shaped.  We can appreciate what it’s like when we see others struggle with the stresses of life. It is just then that we are called on to be “Jesus” to that person and walk with that person down their “Emmaus road”. 

That is why he has placed us in the church – to be a caring community who look after the needs of one another and anyone who has a need; to serve one another.  That is why Paul says, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Cor 1:4).  He is saying that if we have experienced comfort and strength from God then it’s a joy to be able to help others who are going through similar situations because we know what relief God’s comfort and help has brought to us. 

Be Christ to others – be there for others when they are sad, or sick or depressed.  Don’t leave it to someone else. Don’t be worried that you won’t know what to say.  Just being there is all that is required, or write a note, or send a ‘thinking of you’ card. 

This story about Jesus walking with those sad disciples to Emmaus could be our story today as Jesus walks with us in whatever it is that troubles us.  If you are walking the Emmaus road right now or when you walk it in the future let’s remember we are not walking alone. 


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
4th May 2014

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