April 23, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Today we’re going to take a look at Jesus walking among his people after the resurrection. First, I want to tell you a story to set this up from the Bible. Last year at the Silver City Galleria Mall in Taunton, Massachusetts a deranged man entered the mall with a knife and went on a stabbing rampage. There were some people eating dinner at a restaurant in that mall and did not know that a couple in that restaurant too were heroes eating in their midst. Here’s what happened. On May 10 of last year a man with the knife entered the Silver City Galleria Mall in Taunton, Massachusetts. He walked through the restaurant where a couple by the name of James and Laura Creed were having a meal celebrating James’s birthday. As soon as this man entered the restaurant, he drew his knife and stabbed one of the waitresses. At the table close to the entrance was another couple. He stabbed the man as he made his way through the restaurant. James Creed, an off-duty deputy sheriff, pulled his gun and ordered the man to stop. The man started to charge at James. James Creed shot and killed the man in that restaurant.
There is no question that Creed saved lives that day, Creed’s wife, Laura, is a nurse. She got up from her table and immediately started treating the waitress who had been stabbed. Laura saved the waitress’s life. Then Laura Creed started to give the man who was stabbed at the table life support to keep them alive until the paramedics arrived. The man ultimately died from the wounds that he received in that restaurant. Before he passed away, his wife was able to tell her husband one last time that she loved him. The husband was able to squeeze her hand to show her that he loved her too. This couple was recognized last week by the American Red Cross in this town of Taunton, Massachusetts. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when the American Red Cross said, “There really are heroes in our midst. Heroes like James and Laura Creed.” They saved this waitress’s life and her unborn baby. The woman survived and her baby is healthy because of the Creeds. There were heroes in that restaurant that day and no one really knew it.
I want you to notice a little word that’s on every line of this outline today. It’s the word “is”. This verb has incredible implications today. We did this on purpose. It is not on accident that we used present tense verbs to describe something that happened 2000 years ago in the book of Luke because it’s still making an impact today what Jesus did 2000 years ago.
I. Jesus is near
If you were to step back, Luke chapter 24 looks like a summary of the entire book of Luke. It’s a sermon series inside a sermon series. It’s describing who Jesus is and validates everything that Luke said in those first 23 chapters. Here’s how the story picks up immediately after the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then 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.”
Let me explain to you what’s happening as these two followers of Jesus are walking along the road. This journey is described as happening on Easter Sunday morning. It’s the very day that Jesus has risen. If you were here last week, I told you that the empty tomb had a bunch of women that show up there. Women in Jesus’s day couldn’t testify in a court of law. There’s no way to verify the facts of the empty tomb in a court of law. So the very next story that Luke tells us says that two men experienced the resurrected Jesus. They were two of his followers and they didn’t really understand what was happening until well into this discussion. The kind of language that the Bible uses today is that they were literally having a back-and-forth discussion about what they just heard. They’re trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together but it’s not making sense to them. In other words, they understand the facts but they’re struggling with it going from the head to the heart. They’re talking about what they’ve just heard about the empty tomb, the women that were there, and the angels that showed up.
The Bible is emphatic about how this goes down. Jesus himself starts to walk along the road but God prevents them from knowing it right up front. In fact, he wants them to have a discussion and he wants them to start to grapple with the implications of the resurrection for just a few moments. The Bible uses a very interesting verb. It says that Jesus drew near to them. Imagine they felt millions of miles away, literally nothing can separate people more than death. They’re hearing the stories of the resurrection but they’re not sure that they believe it. Jesus still feels a million miles away from them when he shows up on the road and starts to walk with these two brothers.
There’s an intimacy that you read in the Bible that still happens today. If you’re struggling with things at work, having problems with your marriage, having difficulties at college or in the classroom, or you are struggling with handling the things that you’re going through daily, Jesus is just as near to his people today in fact more near to his people today than he was walking down that road to Emmaus. In fact, Jesus says this in John 16:7, “It’s better for you that I go away because if I go away I’m going to send my Holy Spirit. When my Holy Spirit comes he’s going to teach you everything that you need to know about me.” The New Testament says he’s going to take up residence inside the heart of the believer. That’s the intimacy that Jesus has with his people today. He’s so near that he is with you inside you when you’re struggling. This means there’s no problem but you’re going through right now that Jesus doesn’t know about and isn’t big enough to handle. There is no struggle, difficulty, want, or need that Jesus isn’t near enough to be aware of. If you let him, he will handle it with you or handle it for you. If you will be near to him, the way that he is near to you.
There was a disconnect for these two guys between what they were hearing and what they believed. Jesus allowed this discussion to go on for a few minutes before he started to put the pieces together for them and then the lights came on.
II. Jesus is more
The next thing that the Bible tells us is that Jesus is a lot more than the disciples ever realized that he was. The next part of this discussion is how these disciples are still grappling with who Jesus is. By the way, after this event in the New Testament we don’t talk about the death of Jesus like it’s a tragedy anymore. In fact, today we refer to Good Friday as a good thing because of what happened to us when Jesus bought us back from our sins on the cross. Jesus is more than these guys ever anticipated and they tell him that.
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. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We 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. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Jesus is walking along with them but they don’t recognize that this is Jesus. He’s near to them but they don’t know he’s near to them. They’re still struggling with the very idea that Jesus could be the Rescuer of Israel and could also be crucified to a cross. How are these two things possible at the same time? I want you to notice the way that they describe him. They say, “We saw the miracles that this man did. He did powerful miracles, the kind of stuff that nobody else could do. He taught like nobody else teaches. We believed he was another Moses. He was a guy who came to rescue Israel from bondage. That’s who we thought this man was. Our dreams were shattered when our religious leaders nailed him to a cross because there’s no way God would let something like that happen to his anointed. So, he must not have been who we thought he was. Until Easter Sunday morning because three days later our ladies went to the tomb and saw the body was gone. Then the angels show up said that Jesus is alive today.” He is more than they ever anticipated him being. He is alive and in their midst today. The body being gone was a report that blew these guy’s minds. They’re still struggling to put the pieces together and understand the implications of what they’re hearing.
If you’re new to church or if you’re new to Christianity, I want you to hear something very clearly from me today. Jesus is more than a religious leader. He is much more than a moral teacher. He’s more than Confucius. He’s much more than Buddha, who just gives you some way of figuring out how to get to Enlightenment. He’s more than Mohammed. This man is God made into flesh who said, “Though they kill me yet in three days I will rise again and I will take my life up again.” The resurrection shouts this man is much more than they anticipated. They are still struggling with the idea of how it is possible that a religious leader can be nailed to a cross if he’s teaching the truth. Why would God let that happen? Jesus shows them that was God’s plan all along and they just didn’t know it.
They didn’t realize how near Jesus was and they still certainly didn’t realize how much more he was. This means Jesus is more than your problems. He’s infinitely greater than the struggles, your needs, or your wants. He’s able to do in you, through you, and for you more than you can ever imagine, if you let him. Here’s what happens next as Jesus opens their eyes, reveals himself to them, and they realize they are in the presence of the Hero of the Bible, the champion of God’s story.
III. Jesus is the Hero of the Bible
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
When Jesus calls these two guys foolish it’s not an insult. He’s not mad at them. The word means you are ignorant to the facts. You don’t understand what the Bible teaches so let’s do a Bible study together. I want you to open your Bible to Genesis chapter 3 and let me show you from the very beginning of the Bible how all of this stuff had to happen. This wasn’t an accident. This was part of God’s plan from the very beginning. In other words, that cross and empty tomb were steps that led up the stairway to the glory that God had planned for Jesus from the very beginning. As Jesus was walking along he started to connect the dots for them. They knew the facts. These guys probably grew up reading their Bible but for whatever reason it was just information in their head and it really wasn’t making an impact in their heart. So, Jesus helped them to understand at the heart level what was happening in the Bible. When he opened their eyes they were changed at the heart level. The language that the Bible uses is that suddenly they went from spiritually blind to being able to see. That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit still does today 2000 years later in the Chattahoochee Valley.
They have this sense of urgency that isn’t just Palestinian hospitality. They say, “Don’t leave us. Why don’t you spend the night with us? We want to hear more about what you’re teaching.” Jesus agrees to sit down, to have a meal with these two guys, and to continue to explain the Bible. Then he starts to break some bread and share it with them. When he does that the Bible says their eyes became open and they realized Jesus was in their presence and he’d been walking with them all along. At that instant, the word is fascinating here, he doesn’t leave them but he vanishes from their presence. This is exactly what God still does today. He is in this room and in our midst in the form of Jesus’s Spirit. He is as close to us today as he was to those two guys when he was having a meal with them at their home in Jerusalem. Jesus is still meeting with people and he is still helping people understand the significance.
Jesus is the champion of Scripture. He is the hero of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible speaks of this man as the centerpiece of God’s story. The more that you read the Bible the more that you start to understand who Jesus is and more importantly the more you start to become like him. Every Sunday around here before church starts I pray, “God, I don’t want people to just hear about Jesus. Would you help your people to become more like him?” In fact, we teach every Sunday that God didn’t write the Bible for you to learn some facts. He wrote the Bible to make your life different so that you become more like the Jesus that your reading. I have a challenge for you today church and that challenge is for you to get into your Bible. I’m not saying you have to read it for an hour a day. Most of you after five minutes have learned enough about Jesus that you have some stuff to work on all day long. What I’m challenging you to do is to set some time apart. Maybe its first thing in the morning, the last thing before you go to bed at night, or maybe it’s some time at lunch where it is just you and Jesus while you open the Bible up. Would you get into your Bible enough that your Bible starts to get into you and you start to become like Jesus and start to model Jesus for other people?
IV. Jesus is changing hearts
God wrote his word so that we could know him and to change our hearts and lives. Jesus is still doing today what he did thousands of years ago on Easter Sunday by changing hearts and changing lives. He’s doing it in the Chattahoochee Valley right now. Everybody in this room who knows Jesus Christ personally should say, “Yep, he did it for me.” When I was a 13-year-old boy Jesus turned me around and radically changed me. My heart is different today because I met this man and he can do the same for somebody else in the city. Here’s how the story ends from Luke chapter 24 today. Listen to how these guys refer to what happens in their chest after spending some time with Jesus.
32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”
I want you to be very careful with the language that we have here because there is a phrase in these verses that is found only here in the Bible. It’s this idea of their hearts burning in them. There’s a denomination that teaches you have to have a burning in the bosom (I wouldn’t even call them a Christian denomination) but they say if you don’t have this burning inside your chest you don’t get to the highest level of Heaven. I would totally disagree with that denomination. If they teach you have to have this special knowledge of Jesus and without it you can’t get to Heaven, I would however agree that without a changed heart I don’t believe that you’re on your way to Heaven. When Jesus meets a man or woman he changes them. Maybe for some of you it was at six years old which was a long time ago and you don’t even remember who you were before Jesus. For some of you, maybe that was six months ago and he radically and totally transformed you. I’m saying Jesus still does today what he did to those two brothers at that meal in Jerusalem a long time ago.
Their hearts were white hot for Jesus after this. In fact, they couldn’t wait to tell everybody else. You have to imagine how this conversation went when they ran to tell the other disciples, “You guys will never guess what we just saw while we were walking along the road. We just saw Jesus!” The rest of the disciples say, “Yes, we saw him too. We know where you’re going to go with this. We saw him too. Peter saw him also.” Now the word is getting around that not only is the body missing but that man who was dead is alive. It is totally turning people upside down. John, who was Jesus’s follower, said, ‘Before we saw him resurrected we didn’t really understand who that man was. We certainly didn’t understand the cross. After his resurrection we understood and it transformed us.” Jesus is still doing that today. He is still transforming people. One of the primary ways he does that is when you sit down, open your Bible, and read in the Scriptures about who Jesus is.
Each week our pastors work really hard to give you a couple of Next Steps. In the worship guide you’ll see a minus symbol and a plus symbol. The minus symbol is a possible way to change an area of your life that needs to be removed because of what you’re reading from the Bible today. The plus symbol means maybe there’s an area of your life that needs to be added that’s not there because of what you’re reading from the Bible today. The Bible was written to make us different and to make us look like Jesus. That’s why each week we challenge you not to just hear from the Bible but do something as a result of what you heard. Will you take the next steps? I’m going to offer you a chance to respond to what you heard. It has been my prayer all week long that you will make it a regular habit of getting in to your Bible. Spend a few minutes every day reading about Jesus and asking the Holy Spirit to make you more like him. You’ll get in to your Bible so much that your Bible starts to get into you. The people who know you will notice there’s something different about you because of the Scriptures and what the Scriptures are teaching you. I offer every week the opportunity for somebody who doesn’t know Jesus personally that maybe today is the day your heart is changed and you go from death to life by coming to Jesus in the form of total surrender.
• I need Jesus to bring life to my dead heart. Today, I surrender to Jesus for the first time.
– It’s been a long time since I’ve been passionate about my faith. Today, I’m asking the Holy Spirit to give me a heart that burns hot for Jesus.
+ I haven’t read the Bible much lately. Today, I’m making a commitment to spend 10 minutes a day in the Bible.
- Why was it so hard for the guys to believe that Jesus was risen? What was their expectation of the Messiah that made it so hard for them to believe?
- Can you remember a time that God “opened your eyes” to something in the Bible? If so, explain.
- How much time did you spend this week reading the Bible? When you read it, does it make sense to you? Are you more excited about your relationship with God when you finish reading the Bible?
- Some parts of the Bible are harder to understand than others. Do you avoid the harder parts of the Bible and only read the “easy” parts?
- Do you think the Bible speaks to how you live your life today?
- When was the last time your heart was really “hot” toward Jesus?
- Pray that the Holy Spirit would make Jesus feel near every time we open the Bible.