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Jan 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 22, 2012

While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. Luke 24:15-17 (read vv. 13-35)

INTRO: In the autobiographies of many Christian leaders in the last two generations, when talking about their conversion, one statement is frequently repeated

“Since that day, I have never doubted Christ”
“Since that day, I have never doubted that I was saved”
“Since that day, I have never doubted that I was a child of God” — and so on

Sometimes I envy their assurance, but I do not share it
– most of the men and women we meet in the Bible did not share it
– Job could not say, “I never doubted God’s justice or love”
– the psalmists could not say, “I never doubted the value of living righteously”

Surely God is good to Israel,
To those who are pure in heart!
But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
My steps had almost slipped.
(Ps. 73:1-2)

The faith of many of our biblical heroes was formed and strengthened as they struggled through their doubts
– and some of those who appear the most assured had mistakingly placed their confidence in themselves (e.g., Lk. 22:31-34)

A fundamental fact of Christianity is that God gives our life meaning
– but sometimes that meaning is challenged by tragedy
– then it may seem as if there is no order to the world and events occur randomly
– we may not fall, but we do stumble – sometimes causing injuries that leave us with a permanent limp

Helmut Thielicke wisely observed that “faith is always to be characterized not merely by what it is ‘in’ but also by what it is ‘against.’ . . . It is against appearance, against experience, against the trend of natural knowledge . . .”

What if the tragedy you experience is so severe, you can no longer believe in Jesus?
– that is what the crucifixion of Jesus did to the two disciples in our story
– what does it mean that they were walking away from Jerusalem?
– they had given up on Jesus – the dream was over
– they were returning to life without Jesus

It is this loss of hope, of faith, that makes this story so important
– it is one of the “classics,” like “The Good Samaritan” or “The Prodigal Son”
– and we need to learn it

Verses 13-18, The long walk to nowhere

What do we do when come to word “Behold”? We look
– the camera angle moves, focusing our attention on something
– they were going over the events of the previous week and especially the last three days

“Jesus Himself” joined them

Why didn’t they recognize Jesus? – “their eyes were prevented . . .”
– on Youtube you can find an experiment that illustrates “selective attention”
– observers concentrating on basketballs being passed round among two groups of people did not see a gorilla walk through room
– the two disciples were fixated on their concept of Jesus, which had died with him
– so Jesus is “traveling with them,” but they’re unaware of his presence
– this is a good lesson for us: Even when we don’t see him–blinded as we are by our narrow thinking–, Jesus is here

Do you think it was a coincidence that Jesus was on the same road at that hour?
– it is obvious that he appeared to them for a definite purpose
– he went after them! – the shepherd going for the lost sheep (Lk. 15:4-7)

Notice what happens when he asks them what it was they were discussing
– they paused, “looking sad” – a fresh wave of grief rolled over them
– even their faces revealed the complete collapse of their hope

“Are You the only one . . .” – “Have You been living in a cave?”
– here is good bit of irony – this disciple who cannot recognize Jesus asks him if he is “unaware”

Verses 19-24, Their report of Jesus and what happened to him

There are four statements they made I want to highlight:

  • a prophet mighty in deed and word
    – Jesus’ life was about “deed and word” (Acts 1:1)
    – but notice, they granted him only the status of a “prophet”
    – according to their view of scripture, when he died, no longer a candidate for Messiah
  • we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel
    – past tense – they had given up that hope
  • it is the third day since these things happened
    – why did they make a point of this?
    – in Hebrew thinking, the “third day” was a complete period of time
    – did they have a dim recollection of Jesus saying something regarding the third day? (Lk. 9:22) Did they recall that it was significant, yet could not remember why?
  • some women and Some of those with us went to the tomb
    – and this is where there story ends – in empty tomb with no vision
    – they could not imagine another chapter being written

So they gave up on Jesus and walked away

Verses 25-27, Their faith needed an education

Jesus began his response with an insult (perhaps to get their attention)
– “foolish” – unthinking, uncomprehending
– “slow of heart” – the mind perceives but the heart believes

. . . if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes . . . (Ro. 10:9-10)

When it came to believing Jesus, they dragged their feet
– the biggest challenge for a teacher is to attempt to instruct people contrary to their prejudice
– so Jesus takes his time in walking them through this

The question Jesus asked them went straight to the issue of the Messiah!
– he emphasizes that it was “necessary” for the “Christ” (Messiah) to suffer
– in their mind, Jesus was only a prophet because because he suffered and died
– the Lord, however, explains that suffering, death, and resurrection are exactly what the scriptural depiction of the Messiah

At this point, Jesus gave them the Bible study every Christian wishes to hear
– some Christians seem to think we need to have this message that ran from Moses to all the prophets
– they feel it is a great loss to believers that it was not recorded
– but the point is that the truth is there, in Moses and the prophets (and Psalms, v. 44)
– we can find it now for ourselves because we’ve been given the proper lens through which to read it and the Spirit to enlighten us

There’s a difference between finding Jesus in the Old Testament and forcing him into it
– we want to always bring integrity to our study of scripture

Verses 28-31, Their eyes needed to be opened

For a moment there was a risk that Jesus would go on his way without them recognizing him

Notice how the two lines in verse 30 go together:

“He took . . . and blessed”
“breaking . . . began giving”

– he took to give, and between the taking and giving, he blessed and broke

They saw something familiar in those gestures
– Luke has reported many meals in the story of Jesus
– one in particular includes same four words (9:16)
– perhaps they were at first startled, next their faith expanded, and then their eyes were opened

Verses 32-35, They were now changed men

As their walk away from Jerusalem was meaningful, so is their journey back
– Jesus changed the direction of their lives
– “that very hour” indicates their eagerness to get back to the community of followers

Talking about what just happened, both of them realized they had the same experience
“Were not our hearts burning within us . . .?”
– “explaining” is same word for eyes “opened”
– burn with excitement, understanding, desire
– you’ve probably felt this – either because you finally “get it” or because what you have learned is so profound!
What does Jesus do with a slow heart? Set it on fire

34 – A private encounter with no details given
– yet we know this conversation with Peter was important — another straying sheep

35 – What we can expect to experience in communion, “He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread”

CONC: A friend of mine had cataract surgery a few years ago

When he described the difference, he spoke with a sense of wonder, “I had forgotten what details and what color I was missing”

God is greater than life or death – justice or injustice, the ups and downs of our circumstances
– that’s why we never need to give up hope
– regardless of how severe our tragedies may be — and they will come — we never need to give up on Jesus

But when it seems impossible to continue in faith, having Jesus for a traveling companion will not do us any good if we are unaware of him
– the motive we need to get the spiritual surgery that opens our eyes is knowing that we can become conscious of his presence
– and going to the Scriptures with the light of Jesus shining on them will also help to open our eyes

The solution to those times when it seems impossible to go on believing and hoping is to take a long walk with Jesus

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