Emmaus

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Following Jesus: Fear and Forgiveness

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”

— John 20:19-23 (CEB)

Easter night. By now, the Disciples have heard the stories of the women who had gone early that morning to the tomb a hundred times. The men who had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus have returned to Jerusalem, and have told the others their stories.

“Jesus is risen,” was the resounding message.

Yet, fear was still the motivating factor for the disciples. They were locked in a room. Waiting for the Romans to come for them. Surely, they would be next.

There has to be a million questions running through the minds of the disciples at this point. Surely, this Jesus was more than just a man, but he was Messiah. And, Messiah meant the restoration of Israel. But, Rome is still in charge.

Jesus, they are not yet realizing, didn’t come to overthrow a political entity. It wasn’t about a land or even a particular type of people. Rather, Jesus had come to institute a new Kingdom. A Kingdom that wasn’t dependent on land or borders.

“Peace,” he proclaims to his followers. And, that is what he proclaims to us.

Peace. Not an absence of conflict, but rather a process where crooked is made straight, missing is found, and broken is repaired.

Fear had caused these followers to lock themselves into a room. Yet, Jesus comes in, proclaims peace, and then sends them out. Sends them out even though they were still afraid.

Fear is not sin. Fear is a natural human reaction when life is in danger. The problem arises when we decide to order our lives from the place of fear–when we decide that the right response is to lock ourselves in our rooms. However, Jesus doesn’t call us to lock ourselves in our rooms.

Or behind huge walls.

Or behind a giant military complex.

Or behind the doors of beautiful sanctuaries.

wpid-Photo-1-Şub-2013-0233.jpgNo, Jesus sends us out into the very world from which we try to insulate ourselves. He breathes on us the power of the Holy Spirit. A power that is to be used to forgive those who need forgiveness. To forgive even the Roman soldiers who hammered the nails. To forgive even the religious leaders who lodged false accusations.

The christian faith is not intended to be lived out on Sunday mornings in padded pews. Christian faith is lived out in the highways and the byways. It is lived out in the homeless shelters and the corporate offices. It is lived out in the “safety” of the west and the “risk” of the east.

To follow Jesus is to leave the locked room of safety behind. To follow Jesus is to go into every man’s world. It is to proclaim, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that our fear has been turned into forgiveness.

Resurrection Diaries: Cleopas

Cleopas and his friend from Emmaus came running in yesterday afternoon.  Excited would be an understatement.  It took nearly an hour for us to get the story out of them.

“…walking…”

“…home…”

“…Jesus!”

“…broke bread…”

IT’s HIM!  He’s really alive!

Finally, as we heard the whole story, our hearts burned within us as theirs had within them.  They said that as soon as the Mystery Man picked up the bread they knew it was Him.  “Just like last Thursday,” they said.

He took it, blessed it, and broke it.

“And, we knew.”

———

Two men.  Followers of Jesus.  They’d been in Jerusalem.  They had seen Him die.  “It’s over,” they thought.

I wonder if they wouldn’t have rather made the walk back home to Emmaus on Saturday.  After all, with Jesus dead, why should they hang out in Jerusalem and mourn?  They could do that at home.

Besides, if the Romans were worried about insurrection, then the eleven remaining Disciples would be the next one’s arrested.  Being close by that isn’t what you want to do.

Yet, they wait until Sunday to head back to Emmaus.  Even though they’d heard the rumors that the tomb was empty, they turn for home.

Isn’t that like us?  Our dream dies and is buried.  We’ve given up completely on it.  Then, we begin to hear that maybe it’s not totally dead.  As an old movie line goes, “it’s only nearly-dead.”  Yet, instead of waiting around to see if there is any life in the dream, we tuck our tails and head for home.

The beauty of the Emmaus Road story is that even in our heading for home, Jesus can still show up.  He doesn’t need for us to be sitting around the room with a bunch of other folks whose dream has died.  He can—and does—meet us where we are.  Wherever, we are.  No matter where “where we are” happens to be.

So, our friends—us—take the road back to the house.  And, Jesus shows up.  And, often, like our friends, we don’t know that it’s Him.  Yet, patiently, Jesus reminds us of the larger story.  He reminds us of who He is and what He does.

And, then, we eat.  We take the bread and the wine.  We take the Body and the Blood.  Resurrected.  Restored.  Renewed.

We know little else about Cleopas after this.  The tradition of the church tells that he is the brother of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, and that it is his son, Simeon, that assumes leadership of the church at Jerusalem after James is martyred.

Cleopas is one of the first eye-witnesses of the resurrection.  One of the first to see His Savior face-to-face.  And, oh, the joy it brings him!  He, and his companion, run the seven miles back to Jerusalem.  Hopping.  Skipping.  Laughing.

“Can you believe…”

“Ha! It was really Him!”

And, they tell their story to the other Disciples.  They recount their journey back to Emmaus, and into the house.  They talk about all that Jesus had shared with them.  And, then, they live their life.

Differently.

Because, an encounter with Jesus will forever change you.  It will resurrect the dreams.  It will restore the hope.  It will bring joy into the very midst of death.  And, it will turn your life into one that can be well-lived.

The story of the Emmaus Road can be found in Luke 24:13-35

The road to Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park, Arkansas

The road to Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park, Arkansas

#Lent14: Dinner With Jesus — Mark Foster

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

In this week’s #Lent14 posts, we are departing from the Lectionary and are turning instead to events during the life of Jesus that involved Dinner Parties.  As we travel in Central Asia, one of the things that we are continually struck by is the amount of life that happens around the dinner table.  In fact, in one Central Asian nation, we were told, “If I invite you for tea, we’re friends.  Yet, when I invite you for food, we become family.”  This week we are joined by four dear friends and pastors to our ministry who have agreed to offer a meditation for us.

Today, we are excited to once again have a special guest post from Rev. Mark Foster. Pastor Mark is the Founding Pastor of Acts 2 United Methodist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He married his wife Chantelle in August 1991. They have two sons, John Mark and Noah. Pastor Mark is led by the Spirit and is passionate about seeing people come to know Jesus. We met Pastor Mark in October of last year when we began to attend Acts 2 UMC. We are blessed to have him as both a Pastor and a friend, and are honored that he has written today’s guest post.

Rev. Mark Foster

Rev. Mark Foster

UNTIL JESUS

Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death…

Luke 22:1-2 (NRSV)

Passover is the quintessential story of Judaism. Israel’s identity is tied to the covenant of land as promised by God. To get to this promised-land, Moses would need to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt to the land which was promised. However, the ruler of Egypt would not let them go until plague after plague decimated everything the Egyptians loved and held dear.

The final plague was a spirit of death that killed the first born of the Egyptians but “Passed Over” the homes of faithful Israelites who had followed the Lord’s instruction to paint their doorposts red with the blood of a spotless lamb. Each year, the families would gather and remember God’s faithfulness. In America, our Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey would be similar remembering God’s provision to the pilgrims. Passover was the same story every year on the same month in the spring for the same people for roughly 1300 years. It was and is the story of how God saved the Jews over and against the Egyptians, ultimately drowning both the Egyptian charioteers and their horses in the Red Sea. And that was Passover, until Jesus… Those two words, “until Jesus” are perhaps the most powerful words in anyone’s life.

I was lost… I had no hope… Despair had overtaken me… Life was meaningless… My addiction had me by the neck… Anger ruled my home… My appetites left me eternally hungry, cold, and lonely… Unforgiveness was killing me… Death had won… until Jesus.

These words were and are so powerful in fact, that it threatened and threatens anyone who made or makes the rules, enforced or enforces proper behavior, was or is responsible for fairness and the Roman way or American way. Until Jesus, might made right. Until Jesus, tax collectors, prostitutes, and children were clearly outsiders. What do you do with someone who blesses, sets free, and welcomes those you have just cursed, imprisoned, and sent away? You kill him.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

Luke 22:3-6 (NRSV)

So what do you do when someone is out to kill you? You prepare Thanksgiving Dinner with your family and closest friends. You invite the betrayer to dinner, bless those around you, thank God for the meal and God’s faithfulness, and do the dirty work of washing feet.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John…

…they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Luke 22:7-8, 13 19 (NRSV)

For more than one thousand years, the wording describing the Passover meal was about bitter herbs, salt water, and unleavened bread… until Jesus. Now Jesus was speaking about “my body.” Jesus was breaking from the traditional language used at the meal each year since the time of Moses.

 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:20 (NRSV)

The disciples were confused at this point. The covenant was not new, but dated back to the 19th Dynasty about 1350-1200 B.C. And, the blood was of a lamb, not human! The blood Passover covenant was understood as between God and God’s chosen people the Jews… until Jesus. What had been an animal sacrifice to save one people, Jesus changed to His sacrifice for ALL people. All people. Even betrayers?

But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.

Luke 22:21 (NRSV)

Rev. Adam Hamilton points out that for Judas to dip his hand in the bowl with Jesus at the table (as the scriptures indicate) would have seated Judas both in a place of honor at the table and closest to our Lord reclining intimately next to him. This is how Jesus treats those who would do him harm. He blesses. The world had not seen anything like this…until Jesus.

Later, Judas leaves and betrays, Peter protests and denies, the rest run and hide.

The women weep and mourn. Blood and water flow, breath stops, the tomb is sealed. The world shakes, goes dark, and waits. And waits. And waits. Until Jesus… on the road to Emmaus…

… was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Luke 24:30-35 (NRSV)

It was just another day and another stranger on the road, another meal, another loaf of bread… until Jesus.

#WinterTour2013 Update

Greetings from Colorado Springs, Colorado!! We arrived here last night after 9 days in Northern Colorado. We hadn't told Emily that we would be staying with her teacher from YWAM CDTS. So, needless to say, she was extremely surprised–speechless even–when we arrived here.

A look at our time in the mountains

A look at our time in the mountains

We spent New Year's weekend up in the mountains above Estes Park with about 45 other people. These are people who we get to hang with a couple of times each year, and absolutely love to be around. We spent two days with Mary Jean teaching us Walk Thru The Bible–Old Testament. Wow! What a rich time!! We followed the chronology of the Old Testament and gleaned many pearls of wisdom along the way.

Last week, we were privileged to spend time with my Aunt, Uncle and Step-Mom. It was a short visit, but it was a wonderful time!! My aunt arranged for us to visit the Museum of Discovery in Fort Collins, Colorado. We had a wonderful time! So many things about which to learn.

Museum of Discovery, Fort Collins, Colorado

Museum of Discovery, Fort Collins, Colorado

This past Sunday, we were with the River Community Church in Lyons, Colorado. Stephanie played keyboard while I talked about the Emmaus Road and weaved stories from Central Asia throughout. If you are ever in Northern Colorado, and need a church to attend, I highly recommend you visit River Community. Wonderful people!

Yesterday, we were in meetings most of the afternoon talking through our upcoming trip to Central Asia. We were also able to see several friends.

Today, we head further south to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then later this week we head on to El Paso, Texas where we will be with Rev. Neal Locke and his family. On Sunday, we will be honored of worship with them at First Presbyterian Church, El Paso.

One last thing, we have booked our tickets to Central Asia. If you would like to help us cover this expense (or our other expenses), then jump over to the Partner-With-Us page.

 

Tea With A Stranger

One of the most beautiful phrases in all of Scripture (at least in my reading) is “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” (Luke 24:28)

The story preceding this phrase is a wonderful scene. Two men. Walking down a road. Downtrodden. Confused. Hurt. Insulted. Struggling to cope with what has become their reality.

Their Messiah, or at least the One they thought was their Messiah, is dead. Hope crushed. Dreams dashed.

It’s the ending that no one ever dreamt would come. This Man was supposed to be the Rescuer. He was supposed to be the one who would make all things right again. Who would, as John said, bring light into darkness [John 1].

But, tragedy strikes. And these two men are left to deal with it. And all they can think to do is walk home.

On their journey, they are face-to-face with a stranger. Together they walk and talk, and when they reach their destination, they–in true “warm culture” fashion–invite the stranger to stay.

“Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”

Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.”

Glasses of Çay in Central Asia

Glasses of Çay in Central Asia

Or, as they would say in modern-day Central Asia, “Come in for çay (tea).”

Not a question. A statement.

Not a suggestion. A presumption.

The risk with this invitation is it’s ability to be life-altering. Intently, these men have listened as this Stranger has talked to them about the goings-on in Jerusalem. Intently, they have listened as He explained centuries worth of prophecies and Rabbinical thought. And, now, they ask Him to stay for dinner. Perhaps it is so that He can tell more stories. Share more thoughts.

But….

What these men didn’t know was they were inviting Jesus–the Messiah–to stay with them.

And, then, it happens. Reality itself changes. Their Messiah is alive and in the same room with them. Hope restored. Dreams renewed. Life revealed.

What a story. A simple walk and an unexpected dinner guest, changes everything about their present reality.

And, here we are today, some in dark reality, some in hopelessness, some in confusion, some in just moments of tiredness. And, there He is, the Stranger walking next to you. Wanting to talk with you about that reality.

Will you invite Him in for a cup of çay?

 

A Walk, A Lesson, A Meal, A Messiah – Lesson 7

(This series was originally posted in October 2011 on my personal blogsite.  We thought we would share it with you all this resurrection week.)

This week we are taking a walk with two disciples and Jesus.  During this walk, we will explore seven lessons from the story of the Road to Emmaus.  Our text for the week is from The Message translation of Luke 24:13-32.

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

— Luke 24:13-32 (The Message)

————————-

They sit down to dinner.

Lesson 7: Communion is about dinner with friends

I love having dinner with friends.  It is such a wonderful time to find things in common.  It’s a great time to relax.  It takes our minds off of ourselves and we focus on relationship.

Dinner with friends can change the outlook.

The two men viewed this as a simple meal between friends.  Yet, during dinner, Jesus takes bread.  He breaks it.  They understand and realize who their new-Friend is.

Jesus takes bread.

He blesses it.

He breaks it.

How many dinners had these two men been at with Jesus?  How many times had they seen Him take bread, bless it, break it, and pass it out?  Yet, it wasn’t until this one time that they realized who Jesus really was.

These two men could have been in the room when Jesus did this same action a few days earlier – on that fateful, nay, miraculous night.  We don’t know.  It would be safe to bet that they would have at least known that story.

Jesus takes bread.  He blesses it.  He breaks it.  He gives it to them.

And they saw.

Never pass up a meal with a friend – it could be life-changing.

Jesus disappears.

The men then take off running back to Jerusalem to tell the rest of the disciples what has happened.

See, when Jesus becomes real – the Messiah – to us, we will get active.  The revelation of who we were contrasted with who we now are spurs us to run and tell.

These men ran seven miles back to Jerusalem.  They find the eleven and some others.  They tell their story.  These men now had a testimony.  And testimonies cannot be kept quiet.

When you have dinner with Jesus, His Spirit will change you.

A Walk, A Lesson, A Meal, A Messiah – Lesson 6

(This series was originally posted in October 2011 on my personal blogsite.  We thought we would share it with you all this resurrection week.)

This week we are taking a walk with two disciples and Jesus.  During this walk, we will explore seven lessons from the story of the Road to Emmaus.  Our text for the week is from The Message translation of Luke 24:13-32.

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

— Luke 24:13-32 (The Message)

————————-

As they near the house, Jesus continues to walk.  These men beg Jesus to have dinner with them.  In a beautifully poetic line: It’s nearly evening; the day is done.”

Lesson 6: Jesus won’t stay until He’s invited

Jesus was going to continue on the journey.  He was heading past the village.

The men “press” Him to stay with them.

When Jesus is invited to stay, He will stay.  Be forewarned – when Jesus stays things change.

Jesus agrees to stay with the men.

Jesus agrees to have dinner with them.

If the men hadn’t invited the Stranger to stay, then they would not have caught the revelation that was about to be given to them.  They would have missed Jesus.  They would have continued to think, “He’s dead.”  They would not have run seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell their story.

They invite the Stranger to stay.  When I was hungry, you gave Me food.  When I was homeless, you gave Me shelter.

The revelation of Who Jesus really is will not come until you invite Him to stay.

When Jesus stays, things change.  When things change, we take action.

Jesus won’t stay where He isn’t welcomed.

A Walk, A Lesson, A Meal, A Messiah – Lesson 5

(This series was originally posted in October 2011 on my personal blogsite.  We thought we would share it with you all this resurrection week.)

This week we are taking a walk with two disciples and Jesus.  During this walk, we will explore seven lessons from the story of the Road to Emmaus.  Our text for the week is from The Message translation of Luke 24:13-32.

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

— Luke 24:13-32 (The Message)

————————-

Jesus listens to their story, and then responds.  But notice that in His response He ignores the comments about the women’s story.  Instead, He goes straight to a lesson from 2,000 years of Jewish prophecy about Messiah.

Lesson 5: Sometimes we need Jesus to remind us of the past for us to understand the plan

Jesus takes the next several miles in their physical journey and gives them a theology lesson.  He gives them a lesson in prophecy.

Remember these men still thought that Jesus was going to be the One who would rise up an army and storm the ramparts of the Roman occupation.  This had to be something with which many of the disciples likely were struggling.  Jesus was the conquering hero, He can’t be dead.  Yet, they had watched Him die.

He takes them back to Moses and walks them forward through a couple thousand years of Messianic prophecy.

Basically, He’s telling them, “Look.  It’s all right here.  This was all by design.”

It was all by design.

God has a plan – for Messiah, for sin, for us.

Jesus reminds the two men of the past.  Here’s what the prophets told us the plan was.  All these things were part of the plan.  They were part of God’s plan for Messiah.  They were part of God’s plan for salvation.  They were part of God’s plan for taking us from less than nothing and making us into joint-heirs with Jesus the Christ.

God has a plan for us.

In Jeremiah 29:11, YHWH tells the people of Israel that He knows the plans.  He tells them that they are plans of goodness and prosperity.  This prophecy is in the midst of Babylonian exile.

He has a plan that we sometimes can’t see because of the circumstances surrounding us.  He has a plan.

Psalm 37 gives us several steps of the plan: “Do not fret”, “Trust in YHWH”, “Delight in YHWH”, “Commit your way to YHWH”, and “Wait for YHWH.”

Psalm 139 tells us that YHWH knew us before we were formed in the womb and He had a plan for us even then.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in YHWH with all our being.  Lean not on our understanding.  Follow Him, and He will show us the path.

Jesus tells Peter, James, and John: “Follow me, and I’ll make you Fishers of Men”.

There is a plan for your life.

You have to surrender to it.  You have to forsake your own highway, and step over onto the Road to Jerusalem.  You know, that road that looks like it might be a dead-end.

Sometimes we have to be reminded of our past to see our future.  Jesus takes some time and reminds them of the past.

Before we came to recognize grace moving on us showing us Jesus’ work on the cross, we were in bad shape.  Without grace we are pretty repugnant.  While God loves us, He can’t have relationship with us in that state.  We needed Jesus to die in order for the veil of the Temple to be torn.  We needed Jesus to die in order for the Holy of Holies to be open ground.  In short, we needed Messiah.

To assume that we’re “ok” on our own is to negate grace.  To negate grace is to cheapen the  gift of the cross.

Like these disciples from Emmaus, from time-to-time, we need to be reminded of our sorry state without grace in order to be spurred on to take the message of grace to the world.

Unless our situation is dire and hopeless, then grace is just a buzzword.  Grace doesn’t say, “You’re ok as you are”.  Instead, grace says, “You’re a new creation.”  It says that the old things are passed away and all things are new.

Recognize grace and its impact, and you will see the Messiah plan.  See the Messiah plan, and you see Jesus.  See Jesus, and you will serve.

A Walk, A Lesson, A Meal, A Messiah – Lesson 4

(This series was originally posted in October 2011 on my personal blogsite.  We thought we would share it with you all this resurrection week.)

This week we are taking a walk with two disciples and Jesus.  During this walk, we will explore seven lessons from the story of the Road to Emmaus.  Our text for the week is from The Message translation of Luke 24:13-32.

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

— Luke 24:13-32 (The Message)

————————-

Jesus then asks the men what has happened in Jerusalem.  Dumbfounded, they take a minute and explain.

We thought….

We believed….

We saw him die.

Now, some of the women say He’s not dead.

We saw him die.

Lesson 4: We have to let experiences strengthen our faith

The two men believed that this man, Jesus, had to be the Messiah.  He had to.  That was the only explanation for the miracles.  That was the only explanation for the prophecies that had been fulfilled.  Prophecies that they had watched be fulfilled.

But, we saw Him die.

Oftentimes, we allow our faith to be overruled by our one bad experience, instead of strengthened by our many good experiences.

These men had the experience of seeing Jesus day-in and day-out.  After all, they looked like they had lost their best-friend.  They had likely traveled many miles with Jesus.

Maybe they were there when He healed blind Bartimaeus.

Maybe they were there when He fed the 5,000, the 4,000 or both.

Maybe they were there when He healed Jarius’ daughter.

Maybe they were there when He turned the water into wine.

Maybe they were there when the woman merely touches the hem of Jesus’ robe and is healed.

Maybe they were there when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

…Raised…from…dead…

Experiences.

All of those experiences – even raising the dead – were overridden by one other experience.

They had watched Him die.

He was dead.

Sometimes in our lives, we see God do miraculous things.  Yet, we write them off to “good fortune”, “luck”, “clean-living”, “chance”, “coincidence”, or “fate”.  When we write them off to something other than a miracle of God, then they cannot be used to strengthen our faith.

Think of all the times in the Gospels where we see Jesus do the miraculous only to find the followers (of which these men were two) in disbelief.  Look at the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000.  Jesus does it.  Big miracle.  Shortly thereafter Jesus tells them to beware of the “leaven” of the Pharisees.  And the disciples think He’s getting on to them for forgetting bread.

We have to let experiences build our faith.

These two men were ignoring all the experiences they had with Jesus except one.  They had watched Him die.

Maybe if they were focusing on Lazarus’ miraculous walk out of the tomb, then this conversation would have been different.  Maybe then they would have recognized Jesus.

Perhaps if we began to recognize the “mundane” as a miracle, then our outlook would be different, and we would recognize Jesus when He is in our midst?

Maybe it wasn’t just good fortune that the tax-rebate check showed up in the mail on the very day the house payment was due.

Maybe it wasn’t luck that you didn’t get sick when your kids were.

Maybe it wasn’t just clean-living that kept the person in the car behind you from hitting you when they slammed on the brakes in the rain.

Maybe it wasn’t just chance that the car stopped running within rolling distance of the gas pump.

Maybe it wasn’t just coincidence that the person parked in the closest spot was getting into their car just as you pulled up.

Maybe it wasn’t just fate that the pine tree fell onto the yard instead of the roof above your daughter’s room.

Maybe it’s time we started thanking God for the “mundane”.  Maybe it’s time we started treating the “mundane” like it was a miracle.

Perhaps that would make it a tad easier to recognize Jesus.

A Walk, A Lesson, A Meal, A Messiah – Lesson 3

(This series was originally posted in October 2011 on my personal blogsite.  We thought we would share it with you all this resurrection week.)

This week we are taking a walk with two disciples and Jesus.  During this walk, we will explore seven lessons from the story of the Road to Emmaus.  Our text for the week is from The Message translation of Luke 24:13-32.

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

— Luke 24:13-32 (The Message)

————————-

So, Jesus joins them in their walk.  He joins their conversation.  He joins it with a question that had to have made them think, “where in the world have you been?”

I love the translation in The Message: “They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend.

Lesson 3: Jesus sometimes shows up unexpectedly

Wow!  What a mental image.  They stood there looking like they had lost their best friend.

While we don’t know a lot about whom these two are from that statement we can deduce that they had spent some time with Jesus.  It’s likely they had spent time in one-on-one conversation with Him.  Yet, they didn’t recognize Him.

How could you not recognize your best friend?

They didn’t expect to see Jesus standing there.  As far as they know, He’s dead.

They had watched Him die.

Perhaps, they had even watched the stone be rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb.

He’s dead.

Dead men don’t start conversations on the Road to Emmaus.

Jesus had shown up unexpectedly.

This reminds me of a time that Jesus talked about showing up unexpectedly.

Remember Matthew 25:31-46?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

— Matthew 25:34-39 (NIV)

When Jesus unexpectedly shows up, we might not recognize Him.  Consequently, we might even ignore Him.

Jesus rarely looks like the conquering hero that we – and our friends on the Emmaus Road – expect.  Our image of Jesus the Christ has become convoluted.  We no longer see Jesus as the Messiah.  Instead, we see Him as a “historical figure”.  We see Him as a “good person”.  We see Him as “the thing that makes us better than the good we already are”.

We fail to see Jesus as the Servant.  We fail to see Jesus as the Healer.  We fail to see Jesus as the Dead-Raiser.  We fail to see Jesus as the Friend of Sinners.  We fail to see Jesus as the Homeless Carpenter.  We fail to see Jesus as the One bruised for our transgressions.

Worse, we fail to see Jesus as the orphan.  We fail to see Jesus as the widow.  We fail to see Jesus as the homeless.  We fail to see Jesus as the downcast, or the outcast.

We expect Jesus the conquering hero, and we get Jesus the homeless orphan.

If Jesus showed up, would we recognize Him?