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Easter [1997]: Hope For Troubled Hearts (Luke 24:13-35)

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March 30, 1997

Easter Sunday Message

If you have lived for very long at all, you have been disappointed by God. I am not implying in any way that God was somehow at fault. He is perfect in all His dealings with us. But because of our limited understanding and perspective, we felt as if God let us down. It may have been through the untimely death of a parent, a child, a mate, or another loved one. Maybe it was through a painful divorce that took place in spite of your fervent prayers against it. Perhaps you lost your job and were gradually worn down as every door slammed shut in your face. Maybe it’s a personal matter that you have prayed about for years, but God has not answered. Whether major or minor, we all have had times when we were disappointed by God.

That is exactly where two weary travelers were at as they trudged along the dirt road from Jerusalem to Emmaus on that first Resurrection Sunday. Jesus tragically had been crucified and His disciples were confused and shocked. It seemed like a colossal triumph for the Jewish religious leaders and a sad defeat for this great man in whom they had put their hopes. As these two travelers walked along talking about these things, a stranger caught up with them. He was really not a stranger--He was the risen Lord Jesus--but the text states that “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him” (24:16). The passive voice of the verb suggests that God had closed their eyes from recognizing Jesus. There were some lessons about trusting in the written Word of God which these men needed to learn before their eyes were opened to recognize the living Word who was present with them.

Jesus asks the two men (or, it could have been a man, Cleopas, and his wife) some questions to draw them out. Remember, whenever the Lord asks questions of someone, it’s not because He is lacking knowledge! He wants the men to reveal their need so that they are ready for what He wants to teach them. They reveal their deep disappointment both by their sad demeanor (24:17) and their plaintive words, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (24:21). Even the fact of the empty tomb, which should have given them great hope, just added to their disappointment. “We were hoping ....” These men had been disappointed by God!

The Lord does two things with these men before He opens their eyes to see who He is: He rebukes their lack of faith in the Scriptures, which spoke of Him; and, behind their faith was a lack of knowledge, which He supplies by explaining to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. You cannot properly believe in that of which you’re ignorant. But, knowledge alone is inadequate; it must be coupled with faith in Jesus Christ. These two elements, then, are the key to replacing disappointment in God with hope:

If you have been disappointed by God, you will find hope by knowing and believing in the risen Savior.

1. If you have been disappointed by God, you will find hope by knowing the risen Savior.

These two men from Emmaus knew more about Jesus than most of us do, because they had personally heard Him teach, had seen many of His miracles, and probably had witnessed the crucifixion. But even so, their knowledge of Jesus was lacking in some crucial areas, which the Lord graciously began to supply.

The men knew that Jesus was “a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people” (24:19). That assessment of Jesus was correct in so far as it went; it just did not go far enough. Jesus was not just a prophet; He was the Prophet, the one predicted by Moses (Deut. 18:15) who was the fulfillment of all that Moses and the other prophets wrote about. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament spoke for God, so did Jesus, only more so. They were mere men who could only speak the word of the Lord as He chose to reveal it to them. But Jesus was God in human flesh, one with the eternal Father. The apostle John referred to Jesus as the eternal Word. Just as our words reveal our unseen thoughts, so Jesus, by His words, His works, and His Person, revealed the unseen God (John 1:18).

Of Himself Jesus proclaimed, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the one who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (John 7:16-18). Not even the greatest of the Old Testament prophets could make such bold claims! Yes, Jesus was “a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people,” but He was more than a prophet; He was the very Word of God, one with the Father, who said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

The men from Emmaus also had partial knowledge when they stated, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (24:21). Luke is using irony, since through the cross Jesus had in fact redeemed, not only Israel, but people from every nation. But these men were thinking of the Jewish hope that God would send His Messiah who would deliver Israel from all her enemies and usher in an age of prosperity and blessing.

Jesus had said of Himself that He came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Greek noun translated “ransom” is related to the verb, “redeem,” and means the release of something or someone held captive by the payment of a price, or by a substitutionary offering (see Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross [Eerdmans], chap. 1). Paul uses the verb with reference to Christ when he says that He “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Peter uses the same word when he says, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

This concept of Jesus Christ offering Himself as the redemption price for our sins has several implications. First, it shows us that God demands that the just penalty for sins be paid. In His absolute righteousness, God cannot just dismiss the charges against us. The wages of sin is death, eternal separation from God. The penalty must be paid or God is not just.

Second, it shows us that we are in great need. Without a Redeemer, we are in bondage to sin, unable to free ourselves. If left unto ourselves, we would face God’s just judgment and eternal condemnation for our many offenses against His holiness. You may be oblivious to your need, but that does not diminish the fact or the urgency of your condition before God. The very words the Bible uses--Savior, lost, redeemed--are extreme words.

The imagery that would have come to the mind of a person living in biblical times when the word “redeem” was mentioned would have been that of slavery. The slave was in a horrible situation. He was a piece of property to be used for the purposes of his master. He could not do what he wanted with his life. He was totally at his master’s mercy, even if the master decided to work him to death or to kill him in anger. As such, the slave was desperately needy and helpless. His only hope was that a wealthy benefactor would pay the price of redemption and then grant him his freedom. Even so, if you are outside of Jesus Christ, you are enslaved to sin, hopelessly lost, and unable to do anything about your desperate situation.

Third, the idea of Jesus as the Redeemer shows that He offered His own blood as the necessary sacrifice for the sins of all who will trust in Him. When Jesus, beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, explained to these men the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures, He no doubt began with God in the garden shedding the blood of the animals so that Adam and Eve could be properly clothed in His holy presence. He told them that Jesus was the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). He explained how the ram caught in the thicket which God provided so that Abraham could spare Isaac pictured His sacrifice for sinners. He took them through the sacrificial system of Israel, and showed them how it all pointed forward to Him. No doubt, among many other Scriptures, He took them to Isaiah 53:6-12:

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

No doubt Jesus explained how the Christ had first to suffer death as the guilt offering for His people, and then enter into His glory through the resurrection. It must have been the most marvelous conversation in all history, to hear Jesus explain the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures!

Jesus would have explained how He was not only the crucified Redeemer, but, also, He was the risen Redeemer! The Scriptures had predicted both His death and resurrection. But also He had predicted His own rising from the dead after three days before it all came to pass. These two men seemed to remember something of the significance of “the third day” (24:21), but they didn’t get it quite yet. The empty tomb should have tipped them off, especially when accompanied by the testimony of angels who reminded the women, “Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (24:6-7). But these men were not expecting the crucifixion, much less a resurrection, and they were hesitant to believe the testimony of a bunch of impressionable women!

The point is, these men who were disappointed by God needed a fuller knowledge of who Jesus Christ is as revealed in the Scriptures. Did you notice the repetition of the word “all” in our text? These men were “slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken” (24:25). Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets ... explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (24:27). They had believed in the part of the Scriptures that foretold Messiah’s glory, but they had overlooked the parts that tell of His suffering.

We’re so much like them. We love the parts of the Bible that promise blessings, but we somehow don’t notice all the parts that talk about suffering. A few years ago, I was going through a time when I was being slandered and unfairly criticized. As I was reading through the Psalms during that time, I noticed for the first time the many references that David made to his being slandered. Those references had been there all the dozens of times I had read the Psalms before, but I didn’t notice them until I was in that situation. And, I realized, many of those references about David were really speaking about the Son of David, Jesus Christ, who was maligned more than any man. So in my time of trial, I came to know more of Christ through reading the Word.

So if you find yourself disappointed by God, get into your Bible and ask God to reveal more about the Lord Jesus to you as you read. “Since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). If you have been disappointed by God, you will find hope in knowing the risen Savior more deeply.

2. If you have been disappointed by God, you will find hope by believing in the risen Savior.

Faith is built on proper knowledge. Biblical faith is not a blind leap in the dark. You would be foolish to believe in something you know nothing about. If you do not know what the Scriptures say about the Lord Jesus Christ, read your Bible and ask God to open your eyes to the truth. As Jesus said (John 7:17), if you are willing to do His will, you will know of the teaching whether it is of God or whether Jesus was just speaking on His own authority. But then, once you know, you must commit yourself in faith to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

We often excuse unbelief as a common weakness, but the Lord views it as a terrible sin for which we are responsible. Jesus here rebukes these men quite strongly: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe ...!” He often confronted the disciples with the words, “O you of little faith” (Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). When we doubt God and His word of promise to us, we are calling into question His love, His faithfulness, and His power.

The apostle John argues, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son” (1 John 5:9). He is pointing out the common fact, that we believe in sinful, fallen men every day of our lives. When you ate your breakfast this morning, you did not run a chemical analysis to make sure that it had not been poisoned at the food processing plant. When you drive your car, you trust that the mechanic has not sabotaged your brakes. When you deposit a check in the bank, you trust that the teller is not going to put your money in her account, or that the bank isn’t depositing it in a secret Swiss bank account. We trust men every day; shouldn’t we trust God?

The sin of unbelief is also seen in that we are much more prone to trust in ourselves than to trust in the living God. If you ask people, “Why should God let you into heaven?” the vast majority will reply that He should let them into heaven because they are basically good, sincere people and that they believe in Him. The bottom line is, they are trusting in their own goodness, sincerity, and even in their own belief, but they are not trusting in Jesus Christ alone for right standing before God. But the Bible makes it clear that even the best of us have nothing in ourselves to qualify us for heaven. We must renounce all faith in ourselves and trust in Jesus Christ alone to be saved from hell. And yet we sinfully persist in faith in ourselves rather than faith in Christ.

The British preacher, Spurgeon, pointed out that the sin of unbelief is seen in that we are more prone to believe Satan than we are to believe in God. Satan comes and whispers in your ear that the Bible is not true, or that God is not loving and merciful, that He doesn’t care about you and your problems, and you are quick to believe those lies rather than to trust in God’s provision in Jesus Christ (Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia [Baker], 15:69).

The testimony of these dejected men from Emmaus is only one of many witnesses to the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has given us solid evidence on which to rest our faith. It is not only foolish, but it’s a sin for which we are liable, if we reject the witness of God and instead believe in ourselves or in the lies of skeptics. If you have been disappointed by God, you will find hope by putting your trust in the risen Savior.

Conclusion

I want to conclude with four observations and applications:

(1) The Lord is near to you in your disappointment even though you do not know it--Be encouraged! These men on that dusty road thought that Jesus was dead and gone, when in fact, He was the one walking with them as they talked, though they did not recognize Him at first. When you’re disappointed or discouraged, you may think that the Lord is a million miles away, but if you are one of His flock, even though you are being faithless and do not see Him, He is there with you. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

(2) The Lord is ready to listen to your troubles--Tell Him! Jesus drew near to these men and asked questions in order to get them to talk about their disappointment. Even though God knows all our needs, He invites us to pour out our hearts before Him: “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).

(3) The Lord may have to rebuke before He heals--Be receptive! These men could easily have taken offense at Jesus’ strong rebuke and said, “Who does this man think he is, to call us foolish and slow of heart to believe?” But instead they were receptive, and as a result they were greatly blessed. Spurgeon says that when the Lord rebukes us, we should see it as His love, scarcely disguised, and reply, “Master, say on.” He says that if Jesus calls us foolish, we should wonder that He doesn’t say something worse about us (ibid., p. 60)!

(4) The Lord is waiting to be entreated by you--Ask Him to come in! As these men and Jesus approached their village, we read that Jesus acted as though He would keep going farther (24:28), but these men urged Him to stay with them, and He did. It was only then that their eyes were opened to see that it was the risen Lord at their table. Even though you may not see clearly, and the Lord must open your eyes to the truth--you cannot do it yourself--perhaps your heart, like the hearts of these men, has been burning in you even as I’ve been speaking. It is the Lord, though you did not recognize Him at first. He wants you to entreat Him to come into your life, to stay with you. When you entreat Jesus to come into your heart as Lord and Savior, He will open your eyes to see who He really is.

If you have been disappointed by God, it is not because God has failed. The solution is to know and believe in the risen Savior. Pour out your troubles to Him. Get into your Bible and learn more of Him. Entreat Him to abide with you. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is unbelief such a serious sin? How can we avoid it?
  2. What would you say to a person who said, “I just can’t believe all those myths in the Bible”?
  3. Why is biblical faith not a leap in the dark? How much knowledge must a person have in order to believe?

Copyright 1997, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Easter, Resurrection, Soteriology (Salvation)