A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on April 6, 2008 by Pastor Dale Raether Visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net Jesus Gives His Followers Easter Joy Luke 24:13-35 Children, do you remember when you were born? Probably not. No body remembers being born. But that doesn’t change anything. You are born, because you’re alive. And when you were born you became a part of your family. And your parents always love you. They always take care of you and protect you. And even when you’re naughty, they forgive you and you do what’s right. How many of you remember your baptism? Maybe a few of you do. If you do or don’t, it doesn’t matter. When you were baptized, you became a part of God’s family. That means He always loves you. He always takes care of you. He always forgives you and helps you to do what’s right. But now has our baptism really made that much of a difference in our life? For example, the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, and peace among many others. So, let me ask you. Is there anyone you’re struggling to love? In Ephesians we read, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Is our love for others on the same level as God’s love for us? If not, why hasn’t the Spirit given us more love? Or, what about our joy? The prophet Habakkuk writes, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior – Habbakkuk 3:17-18.” Can we say a loud “amen” to that? And if not, why hasn’t the Spirit given us more joy? Could it be that we’re that we’re not totally at peace with God? And so, maybe we decide it’s time to get more serious abut our church attendance and Bible reading, because we’re always being told that God blesses us through His Word. Yet even when we are being more faithful to the Word, it can seem to us that nothing is really changing. In fact some things get even worse. Has God abandoned us?Maybe you’ve never gone through what I just described, but the two disciples from Emmaus did. This morning let’s see how Jesus Gives His Followers Easter Joy. 1. He keeps on loving them even when their faith is weak. 2. He deepens their understanding through His Word. We read, “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast.” Nothing made sense to these two disciples. They had been with Jesus for some time. They had seen His miracles and heard His Word. They were convinced He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Also, as they witnessed Jesus being whipped and later crucified, they remembered Him saying these things would happen. Yet this didn’t make it any easier for them to watch or understand it. We’re the same way. The Bible warns us that we must through many trials and troubles enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet we fear those days, and when they come we get discouraged. Anyway, getting back to our text – seeing Jesus’ suffering wasn’t even the worst of it for these two. They also remembered Jesus’ promise that He would rise again on the third day. Well, it was now the third day and no Jesus. And while the women had said they had seen the Lord, the disciples wondered why Jesus hadn’t also appeared to them? Could it be the women had imagined it? And so these two waited in Jerusalem most of the day, but when Jesus never showed up, they finally gave up and left town because there were just too many painful memories there. And now here’s what got to these two more than anything else. They said, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” In their minds, since Jesus had not risen as He said He, He could not be the Savior. He was only a dead fake, and so everything else He said was a lie and neither had He paid for their sins. As far as they were concerned, they had nothing to look forward to except aimlessness, hopelessness and death.We read on in our text, “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"” The disciples had lost their faith in Jesus’ promise to rise again. However, this didn’t stop Jesus from loving them. In fact, even by delaying in coming to them He was showing His love for them, for He knew this is what their faith needed. Jesus does the same for us. For example, He promised to give us the Holy Spirit through our baptism. The Holy Spirit in turn puts love, joy and peace into our hearts. However, when it feels like these are missing in us, it isn’t because His promises aren’t true. It isn’t because He’s abandoned us. It’s because He loves us in spite of how weak our faith is at times. Also, in His great love for us, He knows just how much of the fruits of the Spirit we can handle each day a day at a time, so that He can bless us more and more. And now here’s one of the ways He blesses us. He increases our understanding through His Word. We read, “He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” These two disciples should have known better. They had grown up with the Old Testament. They had watched as Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. Yet they still didn’t get it. And so, Jesus walked them through the whole Old Testament and showed how everything that had happened was prophesied and now fulfilled. However, why did Jesus hide His identity while He was doing this? We read on in our text, “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” Jesus kept His identity hidden and acted as though he was going to keep walking, because He doesn’t force Himself on people. Rather, Jesus gently, humbly reveals Himself through His Word and never forces it down anyone’s throat. And so, what if the two disciples had not begged Jesus to stay with them? Jesus would have kept walking, and then they would have missed out on recognizing Jesus that night. Maybe later they would have been ready – who knows?Jesus works the same way in our life. He may not give us instantly the things we pray for, even when we ask for spiritual blessings. Rather, He makes us wrestle with Him in prayer and acts as though He’s not going to come through for us. Now, if we give up, He’ll still love us. But we might have to wait even longer for the blessings He wants to give us. However, Jesus isn’t doing that to be mean to us. Rather He wants us to learn to depend more on His Word, so that we may live by faith in His Word says and not by what we can see with our physical eyes.Therefore, I urge you. Don’t judge how much God loves you or has forgiven your sins by your human reason or by your human emotions. Rather know that God loves you and forgives you, because His Son died for you and rose again, and because of how Jesus has always walked along with you in your daily life, and through pastors and other Christian friends Jesus is helping you to understand things better. And so, again, do not judge the truthfulness of the Word or the faithfulness of His promises by how much love, joy and peace you feel in your heart. We will never have those as much as we would like until we see Jesus face to face. In the meanwhile, Jesus wants us to keep on searching the Scriptures and believing them and living by faith. As we do this, we will understand better and better how totally dependant we are on God for our forgiveness and our faith and strength to live our faith. But we’ll be okay with being totally dependant on God, because we’ll also understand better and better that God is total love. We read, “They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."” Emmaus is a three hour hike from Jerusalem. Perhaps they had left around 3 and reached Emmaus by about 6, dead tired and the weight of the world on their shoulders. But how that changed when Jesus revealed Himself to them! I’m sure it didn’t take them 3 hours to get back to Jerusalem. They just had to tell the rest of the disciples, and not just for the joy of it, but they knew how much the others needed to hear what had happened. That’s what Easter does to people. It lifts our focus from ourselves and puts it on Jesus. It also gets us thinking about the needs of others, so that we may do whatever it takes to meet those needs without thinking about ourselves. As the start I asked if our baptism has really made a difference in our life. To answer that I would like to point to the fact that Jesus suffered and died in our place, and Jesus walked out of the tomb in our place. Baptism has joined to Jesus, so that His victory is our victory. Let’s begin enjoying our victory by remembering that we are in the love of the Father. We are in joy and forgiveness of the Son. We are in the peace and strength of the Spirit.

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