Worship Theme: He Lives, Giving Hope
Sermon Theme: Jesus Gives Us Heart - Burn
As Cleopas and his companion walked along the Emmaus road, they were not only hopeless about their current circumstances but hopeless and uncertain about the future. We read in Luke 24:13-35 how Jesus made their hearts burn with confidence. Jesus opens our eyes as “Jesus Gives Us Heart – Burn.” April 23, 2023.
“Nice to meet you, Luke! You found me! I am indeed Cleopas, the one you’ve been looking for. Thanks for asking me to fill you in on what happened that afternoon. It’s been twenty some years, but I recall it like yesterday. My friend and I were trudging down the path that leads from Jerusalem to our homes in the village of Emmaus. We were deep in conversation, so much so that we didn’t notice the birds chirping, bugs buzzing, and wind rustling branches and leaves. Everything got pushed to the corners of our consciousness. We couldn’t get our minds off of what had happened. We went to Jerusalem for Passover. We weren’t part of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve because he did not call us to be fulltime followers, but we picked up on the stories, and every time he came to the city for festivals, we made it a point to be there, listen, and watch. Oh, how we hoped that he would be the Messiah! But our hopes swirled down the drain as we heard of his rough and rude arrest, a wee-hours kangaroo court, accusations, and sentencing. We hustled to the edge of the crowd and heard them hollering “Crucify him!” louder than fans at the seventh match of gladiator championship finals. We were stunned to hear the Roman governor’s switch his verdict of “Not guilty” to an execution order. We saw the blood trail in the dust on the way to “Skull Hill,” heard the cat-calls, watched from a safe distance as he hung on torture beams, heard his hellish holler, witnessed his head drop in death, followed Joseph, Nicodemus, and some women to the burial site. Then there were wild and crazy rumors about his body gone from the tomb. It was all too much! We were so into our conversation that we didn’t notice the stranger who came alongside. When he saw our furrowed brows, our frowns, our slumped shoulders, he asked, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” We told him what I am telling you, and in that moment, if I’m honest with you, Luke, since you’re a doctor, you could have run down a depression-symptom list – hopelessness, persistent sadness, feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, loss of energy, disrupted sleep patterns, changes in appetite, even thoughts of giving up – and we would have checked most of the boxes, especially the first, no hope. But then “the stranger” chided us for not making what should have been obvious links with what happened and Scripture predictions. He opened our eyes and made our hearts burn.” “Jesus Gives Us Heart – Burn.”
Burning with joy
Some years ago after a funeral here at church, one of the guests remarked, “It’s obvious that the relatives are sad, but it seems as though they still have joy in their hearts.” The response to that comment was, “You are right! They do have an abiding joy, and it’s not because Grandpa is now reunited with Grandma. It’s not because he can now go fishing without going back to work. It’s because they know that Grandpa is with Jesus. It’s because they know what Jesus did for Grandpa and for them. It’s because they know that Jesus lives and promises life to all who trust in him. His promises are burning in their hearts, burning with joy, not a giddy, giggling joy, but a deep inner joy because sins have been forgiven and heaven’s doors are open.”
If the Emmaus disciples had been listening carefully to God’s words, they would have hopped over hopelessness like kids over a garden snake. They would have known that Jesus had to die. But that is the problem we all have to deal with. Good, pious, upstanding, church-going people just like those disciples, sometimes don’t really listen to God’s words. We sit through worship service after worship service Sunday after Sunday, and the words sometimes run like water off a duck’s back, in one ear and out the other. All the while little frustrations build up around us, hassles with the boss, arguments at home, kids misbehaving, anxiety over finances, lack of self-esteem. Finally, the pressures pile up, and we too easily fall into the path of the poison snake of hopelessness. Then what? Where do we turn? Sometimes we get so hopeless we are ready to give up.
Such hopelessness for Cleopas and his companion! But notice that “the stranger” did not say, “Well, you have a lot of happy memories. Just hold on to those, and your hopelessness will go away.” Nor did he say, “You two men liked being followers of Jesus. You did everything you could to show him your respect. Just be glad you didn’t get caught and killed.” No! Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke does not give us the details of this conversation, but we can just imagine how Jesus connected the predictions of the Scriptures with what he went through and did. Within earshot of Adam and Eve, who had no hope of getting out of the devil’s clutches into which they had leaped, God told Satan that one descendant of the woman would crush his head although in the process he would cause the Savior to suffer. Isn’t that what happened? God laid out requirements for the nation of Israel, which included an elaborate system of animal sacrifices, teaching the Israelites, “You are sinners, and your sins have to be paid for with bloodshed, with death.” Isn’t that what Jesus did? In the fifth book of Scripture God caused Moss to write that the Savior would be a great prophet. Isn’t that what Jesus was? King David and prophets like Isaiah predicted specific details: the village of his birth, that he would be born of a virgin, live a lowly life, be betrayed by a friend, be taunted by enemies, have his side pierced, his clothes gambled for, even the exact words he would cry out, “My God, my God” (Psalm 22:1). In the psalms King David had sung, “You will not let your Holy One see decay” (Psalm 16:10, NIV 84). Didn’t it all come true?
With each passage Jesus was snuffing out the hopelessness of the Emmaus disciples and kindling a flame of joy in their hearts. By the time they reached home, Cleopas and his pal implored the stranger, “Stay with us.” Can you see them at the supper table? They look up in surprise as this special guest took on the role of host. He took bread, gave thanks, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Their eyes were opened so that they could catch a glimpse of him. Better yet, their eyes were opened to the truths of Scripture. Jesus had died to forgive all their sins. Now he was alive to prove it all true. Jesus made their hearts burn with joy.
Why wait until hopelessness nudges its way up the depression symptom list? Why not apply God’s truths each and every day? Let God’s words poke at your weak spots. Be willing to admit, “The problems at work, at home are my fault. My poor judgment, my big mouth, my selfishness, my sin brought this on. I need the slate of my sin erased, or I’ll be hopeless forever!” Then listen again to the declaration of erasure, “Their bloodguilt I will pardon” (Joel 3:21). That’s what gives us heart-burn, not the one word “heartburn” which is really not the heart but acid reflux in the esophagus, but the hyphenated kind, “heart-burn.” Jesus melts away hopelessness as our hearts burn with joy.
Burning with confidence
How many times have you heard, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28)? You know that passage well. But yet, when we get into trouble or some tragedy strikes, we are tempted to ask, “Why did this happen to me, Lord?” Doubts creep up. We become uncertain about the future.
As Cleopas and his companion walked along the Emmaus road, they were not only hopeless about the current circumstances but hopeless and uncertain about the future. They had heard Jesus teach about establishing a kingdom and about rising from death in three days. But now it was the third day. The Romans were still in control of Palestine. There was no new earthly kingdom of Israel, and the reports they had heard were confusing. Some women claimed to have seen angels. Peter and John checked it out and saw no angels, and him they did not see. What should they do? Might as well go home and pursue a different career. Following Jesus didn’t pan out.
Such hopelessness! But notice that Jesus did not say, “Well, hang in there. Things are bound to get better.” No! He pointed them to the words of Scripture. He talked about God’s promises and God’s promises kept and made it clear, “If God can keep all those promises to send a Savior, surely he knows how to handle your future.”
With each passage Jesus was snuffing out the hopelessness of the Emmaus disciples and kindling a flame of confidence in their hearts. By the time he let them recognize who he was, they just had to go back to Jerusalem to tell the others no matter if it was dark, no worries about thieves, no concern for obstacles in the path or wild animals. Jesus made their hearts burn with confidence.
What do the risen Lord’s words and promises do for you? Don’t you sense your heart rate jump up a beat, your lungs fill with air, and your inner self swell with confidence? His promise of peace with God and protection in the sphere of his love in this life and the next stands firm. Jesus melts away hopelessness as our hearts burn with joy.
The opening paragraph of today’s worship folder: Sometimes it seems impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When he met them on the road to Emmaus, the living Jesus gave two down-and-out disciples what he always gives, hope. What a thrill to go for a walk with those two disciples today! Better yet, as you walk out those doors today, you and I can lift eyes heavenward, and say, “Thank you, Jesus, for giving me heart-burn!”
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