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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1251

April 3, 2016 Luke 24.13-35

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

"On the Way With Jesus"

 

  • On The Way

 

One of the appealing features of this story is walking to Emmaus, and by that I mean to emphasize they are on the way somewhere. The story physically has a movement. It is the slower movement of walking. We don't walk like they did in biblical times. Usually our walking is for exercise rather than our primary mode of transportation. Walking allows more time for things that matter. When we walk somewhere we might see more of the scenery or have more time to talk with someone. Walking is often a metaphor for the spiritual way we live, walking by the Spirit or walking in God’s way.

The early church was first called the Way. In Acts 9:1-2 we read, But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Saul probably thought of Christians as a sect to be eliminated, but the author of Acts, Luke, understood followers of Christ to be a life altering movement that could never be eliminated.

 

I like the term Way for the church because our faith is not a static belief system, but it is a living movement. It is a living and active way of life. It is a particular view of life that differs from all others. It certainly uses a “system” of belief revealed in the Bible, but those teachings we also consider living and active (Hebrews 4:12). The Word is not just something we know but a knowledge that leads to the way we live. Because we see the world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we act differently and live differently than the world and its ways. Our lives are solely focused on the One we call the Way. I'm not suggesting that the early church was called the Way because of Jesus' statement to be the way, and the truth, and the life, (John 14:6), but I am suggesting that it is because we follow Jesus and therefore seek to walk as he walked, to live as he lived.

 

This is the way Paul speaks of living, 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:16-25)

We see the works of the flesh all around us in our nation and world. Paul adds that little phrase at the end of his list of fleshly works, “and things like these”. So many things like these are prevalent in our society – in entertainment, politics, economics, and all areas of worldly existence. “Things like these” is a way of life for the world.

But the opposite way of life is to live by the Spirit, to keep in step with the Spirit. This is our way and it is the way that is still opposed by oppressive people and systems. Some Christians still face murderous threats from ISIS or countries like North Korea. We do not face that, but we have seen the elimination of religious liberties that were once a part of the fabric of our nation, even the foundation of our nation. Our way of life is slowly (maybe not all that slowly) becoming an affront to society rather than a measure of society. When the disciples were on the way with Jesus, whether that was in life before his death or after his resurrection, the society in which they lived saw Jesus and his message as an affront. The world has always treated the gospel in this manner. Our way is Jesus' way and the way we find our way is the same way they did on the road to Emmaus, through the scriptures.

 

 

  • Open to the Scriptures

 

As we hear this story of the Emmaus walk, there is one point where Jesus opened the scripture to them. The ESV says he interpreted the scripture, which is what it means to have the scriptures opened to us. This is what Jesus does for us in order for us to understand his word. In Acts 16:14 Luke describes a similar action with Lydia who was listening to the apostle Paul, The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” This would be a great prayer for us to use anytime we are reading or listening to the scriptures or teaching or preaching, “Lord, open my heart to hear your word.” Jesus opened for these disciples what was taught about Him from Moses and all the prophets. That would be all of Moses and the prophets! Now, I don't think Jesus went verse by verse, but he probably revealed how Moses and the prophets were pointing Israel to the Messiah, and that means to Jesus Christ. What that also says is that the entire word of God is useful for us in seeing Jesus and as a guide for our way.

 

This is one of the reasons why Psalm 1 begins as it does with emphasis on God's word as a way of life.

 

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night…

 

Why would the law of God, the word of God be a delight? Well, because it is the way of life desired by God. It is the way of life that brings life. It is the way of life created by the author of life.

Then the Psalm concludes, for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Again we see the contrast between the way of God and the way of the world. The way of the Spirit, and Paul would phrase it, and the way of the flesh. If the church compromises its message to the world and aligns itself with the ways of the world, we lose life and start down the way of death. If we accept what the scriptures call sin and try to make it a justified way of life, we also will perish. This is one of the reasons Jesus came to live among us. It is why it was necessary for him to live, die, and be raised to life.

 

 

 

 

  • The necessity of Christ

 

Let's look again at Luke 24:25-27, 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

 

Was it not necessary? Yes, it was! Jesus came to fulfill the scriptures. Jesus came to be with us and to continue to be with us through the Holy Spirit. He suffered these things and entered into his glory as the One who conquered death and the grave. He took our sins upon himself and reconciled us to God, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). Jesus fulfilled every purpose of God in his obedience and faithfulness to God's purpose.

 

  • Sharing the Good News

 

Now we are the people on the way with Jesus. Jesus is with us to open the scriptures to us, to open our eyes to see His way. He is the living risen Lord! And he walks with us! This is our way of life, to walk with Jesus as He walks with us. It is the road we travel just as these two disciples traveled. It involves all our life - past, present, and future. The past, in this story, is in opening the scripture to them. They look back in order to understand what has happened. We do the same thing. The present is their time with Jesus on the way. Our present reality is Jesus with us. The future is their renewed vision and hope having seen the risen Lord. This is what they share with the other disciples. This is what we are called to share with other people. Their journey is a road of doubt and trust, of deafness followed by hearing, and of not seeing and then seeing. These two disciples, walking down the road discussing the crucifixion and witness of the women to the resurrection are torn between believing the unbelievable and discounting what the women have proclaimed. Yet, by the end of their journey they are filled with trust, almost wondering why they did not see him sooner, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

 

I want my heart to burn this way. Not like the heartburn of spicy food, but a burn that compels a joyous desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Also a burn that embraces this way of life with Jesus. This story reminds us that we do not walk alone. We may not be able to see sometimes, there may be confusion and questions, and life may seem lonely and empty, but our hearts may be burning in his presence. We may not be able to see all the time, but we can stop and break bread together and come to realize that he has been there all along. Sometimes our road may turn out with fewer answers, other times we walk in the faith that trusts in God’s presence with us and the road turns out just right.

 

We tell our stories of Jesus’ presence with us, through hard times and good times and like the two disciples, we look back and see how our hearts have burned within us. Let us keep walking in faith, opening ourselves to Jesus’ presence along the road. He has risen! Amen.