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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1292

March 5, 2017 Luke 24:13-35

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript. This series is based on the Book Jesus Speaks by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola)


“The Voice of Jesus: On the Emmaus Road”


Last Sunday we began a new series of sermons on hearing the voice of Jesus. The series is based on the resurrection stories when Jesus encountered people like Mary at the tomb or, for today, the 2 people walking on the road to Emmaus. The series is based also on the book Jesus Speaks, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. When we hear the phrase “voice of Jesus” our minds might immediately think of an audible sound, but that is not what we are referring to. I hope that today’s message will help clarify this significant aspect of hearing the voice of Jesus.

The road to Emmaus story is one of the fascinating post-resurrection encounters. The two on the road do not recognize that it is Jesus with whom they are talking until the end of the story. The text says “their eyes were kept from recognizing him”. We wonder if that was a spiritual thing or they physically just could not see that it was Jesus. Either way, they did not know. I want to say a word about who these two people are. Tradition has sort of assumed that they were two disciples, not necessarily of the twelve, but two followers of Jesus who were close to Jesus and to the twelve. But tradition has assumed they were two males. One we know is Cleopas because he is named in the story. But the other is not. We are left to consider other factors in the story. One consideration is from the moment when they ask Jesus to stay with them since the day was nearly over. This may suggest that the two were not two males, but a male and female, even husband and wife. It was typical of ancient Middle Eastern hospitality to invite a guest to stay over in this type of situation. Sweet and Viola, the authors of Jesus Speaks, believe that Cleopas was married to an aunt of Jesus also named Mary. We have no way to be absolutely sure on this, but I like the conclusion.



  • The Voice of Jesus: In the Questions


Jesus approaches Cleopas and Mary as they were walking along the road. They are talking about the events of the last few days and I’m sure particularly about the morning rumors of the empty tomb. Now Jesus comes along side them and they do not know that it is Jesus, and Jesus asks them a question. This is typical behavior of a rabbi. They like to pose questions and to tell stories. When we look back over the encounters Jesus has with people before his crucifixion, we see many times that he posed questions or told a story in order to reveal truth. The story of the Good Samaritan is a classic example. Jesus is asked a question and he responds with two questions. Jesus is asked another question, then he tells the story, and at the end he asks a question. “which of these three proved to be a neighbor?”

When Jesus comes up and hears part of the conversation on the Emmaus road, he asks, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” They respond with a question of Jesus, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus responds with a question, “What things?” Now you and I know that Jesus is obviously aware of what things. But what is so striking about this encounter is Jesus does not assume he knows what they do or do not know. So he asks, “What things?” Too often we assume we know what others are thinking or what they are talking about. Instead, we might do well to consider asking questions. Conrad Gempf believes that if Jesus were to meet us on the street he would probably first ask us a question rather than tell you something. Jesus asked people questions all the time. In this story he asks three questions. One about their conversation, one about the things that had happened, and one about the necessity of Christ’s suffering. I went back through Luke’s gospel to see all the questions Jesus asked. Here are a few: Why do you question in your hearts? Can you make the wedding guest fast while the bridegroom is with them? I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to destroy it? If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? Can a blind man lead a blind man? Why do you call me “Lord, Lord” and not do what I tell you? Where is your faith? Who do you say that I am? I could go on, but you get the point. The voice of Jesus speaks in his questions.

His questions on the Emmaus road led to his interpreting for them everything in the Old Testament, beginning with Moses and the Prophets, all that spoke of Jesus.


  • The Voice of Jesus: In the Word


Luke 24:27 “And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” When anyone asks me how Jesus speaks to us today, this is always my first response, the voice of Jesus speaks through the Scriptures. It seems so obvious, and it should. The Bible is the revelation of God, the witness to Christ, the testimony of the Holy Spirit. What I find so amazing about this way Jesus speaks to us, is that Jesus is using the word itself to tell Cleopas and Mary about himself. Even Jesus uses the Bible to reveal himself! In Moses, in the prophets, in the Psalms, all through the Old Testament, Jesus is saying, “Listen and see me.” These are God’s words that point us to the Messiah. This is Jesus speaking to us about Jesus. Jesus took the time to go through all the scriptures to help them hear the good news of his resurrection and in the hearing their hearts began to burn. Jesus is still speaking through the scriptures, Old and New. Let all with ears to hear, listen.


  • The Voice of Jesus: At the Table


They come to the village and the time is late so they are hungry for more, more from Jesus and also for food. So they insist that this “stranger” stays with them. Now, normally Cleopas would be the one breaking bread. As the head of the home he is the host, but in an unusual twist to the story, Jesus becomes the host. It is something of a scandal for this to happen in a typical Middle Eastern home. Then the words are spoken in verse 30 that echoed the words spoken at the Last Supper, When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” These are the repeated words of communion, he took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it. Took, blessed (gave thanks), broke, gave. The verbs of the Supper. We use those same words at the table. Every time we use those words Jesus is speaking to us for the voice of Jesus speaks at the table. I like to think that two things were in play when Cleopas and Mary recognized Jesus at the breaking of the bread. The authors of Jesus Speaks note that one thing we cannot see in the scriptures is when Jesus lifted the bread to give thanks, they most likely would have seen Jesus’ nailed printed hands. The two things in play here are what they hear and what they see, words of the Supper and the wounds of the host. Jesus is revealed in body and blood, bread and wine. He speaks at the table, the place of food and hunger.

We often joke about church dinners and how all churches are eager to eat together or if we have a meeting and we want people to show up we have to feed them. But what if we thought theologically about the voice of Jesus at the table, both the Lord’s table and the tables around which we gather in Page Hall or in our homes or in restaurants. There is a significant connection between our hunger for food and our hunger for God and His word. There is a significant connection between our hunger for food and our hunger for Christian fellowship. Jesus speaks to all our hungers, physical and spiritual. The voice of Jesus speaks at the table.


  • The Voice of Jesus: In His Wounds


It is at the table where Cleopas and Mary probably see His wounds. As he lifts the bread, the wounds are revealed. They recognized Jesus in table talk and in painful wounding. We know the wounds – pierced hands and feet, bleeding head and back, pierced side, all wounds that remind them and us what Peter writes, “By His stripes we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24). I titled this section of the outline, the voice of Jesus: In His Wounds, but I would also extend that to Jesus speaking to us in our wounds because, as a wounded Savior, Jesus is with us through all our wounds. Jesus is with us through our pain and suffering and brokenness. Think about the times we have been wounded and how powerfully our faith brought us through. Think about the times we have been broken and we were most attentive to hear Jesus speak words of comfort and peace. It is in our broken times that we are most likely to listen more intently. Jesus bears our wounds and speaks truth and grace through his and our wounds. Isaiah says it well, Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (53:4). Yes, that is particularly about our sins, but all our wounds are, at their core, about sin. Were we not a fallen people, we wound have no pain or tears or sorrow. And some day all that will be wiped away. But for now, Jesus is with us speaking to us through His wounds and through ours.


  • Hearing Aids


* In the Spirit


As I have stated, we do not hear an audible voice from Jesus. We hear in other ways. One of the hearing aids for us in hearing in the Spirit. Jesus said he would send another to be with us as Jesus was physically with us, the Holy Spirit is with us in a spiritual way. It is in the Spirit that we “hear” Jesus. we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).


Our hearing is a spiritual hearing. Look with me at this passage from 1 Corinthians 2:9-16,


9 But, as it is written,

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

We have the mind of Christ, that is, we have the Spirit of Christ who interprets spiritual truths to us, who reveals the things of God, who teaches us. This is how Jesus speaks to us today, this “hearing aid”, the Holy Spirit.


** In the Scriptures


The second hearing aid is the Bible. The Bible is God speaking to us. The Bible is Jesus’ voice of revelation and salvation. The Bible is the Spirit inspired, breathed word, reliable, authoritative, Truth, everything we need to hear the Lord’s voice. I can testify without question that the more we know the Bible, the more we can recognize the voice of Jesus in our lives. The sheep know the voice because they know how the shepherd talks, his cadence, his tone, his words, his leading. When we believe that Jesus has spoken a word to us, we always have the charge to compare what we think we know with what His word has already revealed to us. God will never tell us something that contradicts his written word. I think this is the primary voice we are to hear, first and foremost. All the other hearing aids I give in this series should be measured against the Bible. Whatever we think we hear in the Spirit, whatever we hear through our instinct, it all needs to compliment what we hear in the scripture.


*** Instinct, Simplicity, Silence


The final fearing aid for this week are what the book Jesus Speaks calls spiritual instincts. This is that inner voice, an impulse or perhaps an impression within us that is telling us something. We might consider this our thoughts, our gut feeling, or something that rings true in our inner being. It is hard to nail it down with words, but we know it; we just know it inside, in the heart. It may be what the scriptures mean when it speaks of the word written on our hearts. Hebrews 8:10-11 quotes Jeremiah about this, 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” When the law of God is written on our hearts we will know Him. No need for teaching us to know the Lord, because we will, by His Spirit, in His word, by what is written on our hearts, instinctive, simple, true. Sometimes we have a sense for whatever reason that something is right or something else is wrong but we are not sure why in either direction. Well, I believe that is the spiritual instinct that comes from that which is written on our hearts.

Sometimes this hearing is only done in silence. We block out all the distractions of this world in order to hear our hearts, to hear our gut. But we must be careful here not to fall into a new age spiritual self awareness fantasy, but to listening for the voice of Jesus. This is why I chose to read from 1 Kings in our first lesson. Elijah heard nothing in the loudness of wind or earthquake, but in what we traditionally know as the “still small voice”. The ESV has it as a low whisper. The NRSV renders it “sheer silence”. Whatever we call it, it is quiet, gentle, closer to silence than to words.

I think we know it when we experience it. Barbara and I had an experience once after we have left some friends and we both sensed that something was not quite right. Later we found out that was true, but the sense of that was more of a feeling, an instinctual gut knowing that we could only perceive as the Lord’s voice. I’ve had times when I felt compelled to pick up a hitchhiker or help someone in some way simply out of some spiritual instinct to do so.


The voice of Jesus is heard in many ways. Mary heard in the empty tomb and the gardener’s voice, and Cleopas and his wife Mary heard in the questions, and the Bible, at the table, and in His wounds. We too hear this same way, not in an audible voice, but through the Spirit, through the scriptures, and through that which is written on our hearts – a spiritual instinct. Keep on listening, for there are many many ways to hear the voice of Jesus. Amen.