Tuesday, April 5, 2016

From Despair to Hope

Part 2 of Unexpected

Text: Luke 24:13-35

“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21). 

Life Without the Resurrection

In Luke 24, we are introduced to two followers of Jesus. The name of one of the men is Cleopas, and the other is unnamed. They are walking home from Jerusalem, the city where Jesus had been crucified on Friday. It’s now Sunday.

Before they their departure from Jerusalem, they had heard the reports about the tomb of Jesus being empty. But the two men don’t believe a resurrection has happened. That’s impossible!

They once had great hopes for what Jesus could do. Now he’s dead, and they are left feeling disillusioned and disappointed.

The Death and Resurrection of Jesus

The two men on the road to Emmaus didn’t understand the death of Jesus and didn’t believe in his resurrection. [1] The crucifixion of Jesus had crushed their dreams. They said, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21). [2] They knew the tomb of Jesus was found empty (v. 24). And they had heard the women say that they had “seen a vision of angels, who said [Jesus] was alive” (v. 23). But the women’s story sounded like “an idle tale [i.e., nonsense]” (v. 11). [3]

We who are Christians understand the significance of the death of Jesus, and we believe in his resurrection. But as we go about our daily lives, it’s possible for us to forget about the cross and the empty tomb. The death and resurrection of Jesus tell us truths we need to hear each day.

What We Need to Hear

The apostle Paul writes that the gospel is “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). The most important truth we need to understand is the gospel. The basic facts of the gospel are (1) “that Christ died for our sins,” (2) “that he was buried,” and (3) “that he was raised on the third day.” The gospel is the good news about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What do the death and resurrection of Jesus say to us?

1. The death of Jesus tells us that we are valued by our Creator. 

The psalmist asks, “What is man that you [God] are mindful of him” (Ps. 8:4). Not only did God create us, but he also died to save us. Tim Keller writes, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves that we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” [4] J. D. Greear states, “There is nothing we could ever do that would make God love us more, and nothing we have done that makes Him love us less.” [5]

2. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that there is hope for a better tomorrow. 

C. S. Lewis writes that “creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exist. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” [6] We long for something more because we were made for something more.

One popular view of death is that it’s simply a natural part of life that we must all embrace. But no matter how often we tell this to ourselves, death never becomes easy for us to accept. Death is an unhappy ending to life, and we naturally crave happy endings.

When we are a fan of a baseball team, we long for a happy ending to the season. When we read a novel or watch a movie, we want the story’s main characters to live “happily ever after.” Years ago, instead of “happily ever after,” stories ended with the words “happily until they died,” which doesn’t sound quite as happy. But it’s true that every life ends in death. And death is sad. It’s not a happy ending.

Thankfully, God did not accept death but sent Christ into the world to defeat it. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection began the countdown to when God would rid his creation of the curse. When “[God] will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4). 

Recapturing the Excitement

In my opinion, the story of Jesus appearing to the two men on the road to Emmaus is one of the most exciting stories of the Bible. They were walking and talking with the very one whose death they were grieving. When they realized Jesus really had risen from the grave, they went from despair to hope! [7] “They rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem” (v. 33). “What they had seen [three days earlier] is not the end of hope, but its beginning.” [8]

We need to recapture the excitement that comes from understanding and believing the gospel. The resurrection of Jesus is not merely a great event from the past, but it is something that can changes our futures!

[1] In the Gospel accounts, the first skeptics of the resurrection are Jesus’ followers. If the story of the resurrection was a lie invented by the followers of Jesus, it would have been told in a way more flattering to the inventors of the lie.
[2] They were looking for someone to lead them to victory against the Romans. They saw the cross as a defeat.
[3] Observation: It was the women who went to the tomb to finish the work of Jesus’ burial. Even today, it’s the women who are often willing to do undesirable jobs.
[4] Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 48.
[5] J. D. Greear, Gospel, 57.
[6] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, “Hope.”
[7] The two men recognized Jesus when he broke the bread (v. 30). This is reminiscent of when Jesus broke the bread during the Last Supper (Luke 22:19). As the two men didn’t “see” Jesus even though he was with them, during the Lord’s Supper Jesus is with us even though we can’t see him.
[8] Darrell Bock, Luke, 614.

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