Two on the Road

Luke 24:13-35

When you were a child, did you ever daydream about being a superhero? I imagine it’s a pretty common daydream. I remember playing superheroes on the playground when I was little. Every day for recess we would run out under a big oak tree which was our Hall of Justice, and begin to save the world. We had Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Spiderman, and the whole gang.  

When you were little it may not have been Superman or Wonder Woman that you pretended to be. It may have been The Lone Ranger or G.I. Joe, or any number of heroes that you see on television.  The fact is that all of us at children went through a time where we spent hours pretending or daydreaming.

The reason that it is so common is because when we were young we were not in charge. We didn’t get to make the rules; we didn’t get to do what we wanted to do. We had to go to bed when we were told and take a bath when we were told and go to school. There was always someone who was older, or bigger, or meaner that decided what we were going to do. 

So we all found a natural outlet, we daydreamed. And in our daydreams we were no longer helpless. We were heroes! We punished the wrong, rewarded the good, and made our own decisions.  We pursued what we thought was right and accomplished what we wanted to do.

I’ll let you in on a little secret this morning, there are times when I look around at all of the problems that we have in society, when I look at all of the violence, when I see the way that people treat other people that I wish I could go back to being a superhero and make everything ok by the end of recess. And other times I just want to throw my hands up and lock myself in the house and rely on Poppa John’s to feed me.

I have noticed that we tend to react in a variety of ways when we look at the things that are going on around us. Some folks would rather run from the problems instead of trying to face them. There are a lot of ways to do that. Many turn to alcohol and other drugs to drown their problems, dull their senses, and blot out the world around them.

Others just can’t cope and they choose to withdraw from the world. And others join cults or dabble in eastern religions in an effort to escape from the realities of life.

Still others just get to the point that they throw up their hands and give up. As we conclude our look at the resurrection this morning, I want you to turn your attention to two folks who were faced with the resurrection and decided that their best choice was to just give up and go home. Their story is found in the 24th chapter of Luke, it involves two people who are walking along from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus, seven miles away. (Read Text)

We don’t know much about the thravlers; as a matter of fact all we do know is that they lived seven miles from Jerusalem and that one of them was named Cleopas. Whoever they are, they’re completely disheartened. That week they had been in Jerusalem. They had seen Jesus, heard Him speak and teach. It had been a glorious week, until Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, and crucified. Now all their hopes and dreams were shattered and gone. Now it was all over, and slowly, they were making their way home. It was not a happy trip at all.

They had stayed in Jerusalem, until the Passover feast was over. They had heard some rumors about an empty tomb. Some of the women said that they had been to the tomb, and that Jesus had even appeared to them as they were coming back, Peter and John went to the tomb and confirmed that it was empty, but how or when nobody seemed to know.

Confused and disheartened, they leave Jerusalem and are traveling the road back home to Emmaus. As they are walking along, talking over all the things that have happened this past week they met a stranger. One of the great parts about this story is that we as the readers know what the two travelers do not. The encounter between Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is one of the most vivid of the resurrection appearances. And I believe Luke included it in his gospel to teach us a few things about discouragement and frustration. Let’s look at three things that discouragement and frustration does in our lives.

First, Discouragement And Frustration Can Cause Us To Walk Away From The Fellowship Of Believers. (verses 14-16)

As they journeyed they were moving away from the fellowship of the other believer’s in Jerusalem. When Christians allow themselves to become preoccupied with their dashed hopes and frustrated plans they often withdraw from the strength found in other believer’s.

In the last part of verse 16 we read, "But they were kept from recognizing Him." Here were two people that were His followers, who didn’t recognize Him. It’s a pretty disturbing thought, that His own followers could not recognize who Jesus was. Now some commentators say that it was because Jesus did not want to be recognized right away. And that could be true, but I believe that there may be another reason.

Perhaps, because they were so discouraged, so frustrated, their vision was murky. If you have ever lost a loved one, you know how the next few weeks and months seems to be a fog. It’s hard to think clearly, much less see clearly. 

As we saw last week with Thomas, depression and disillusionment often cause us to do the worst thing. It causes us to withdraw from the place where we are supposed to find support and love. Paul admonishes the church in Galatians 6:2 that we are supposed to Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. In order for that to happen we have to come into the fellowship of believers. But very often we do the opposite.

So here this morning, we see two travelers who have allowed their disappointment and problems separate them from where they needed to be. When life is no longer fantastic, when our expectations crumble and dreams fade, it's easy to slide into a funk. Circumstances become our taskmaster.

People, especially those who took part in causing our pain, stand taller than God and our fellowship of believers. Our vision becomes stagnate and horizontal. Our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, and God seems far removed from our pain. The truth is that it’s a natural response we're all guilty of choosing when our carefully constructed futures collapse under their own weight.

Secondly, Discouragement and Frustration Can Cause Us To Live In the Past (verses 17-24)

Luke describes the disciples' conversation as bantering ideas back and forth with great emotion in a shared search for answers. When Jesus asked, "What are these matters you are discussing?" Luke uses a word that literally means "to throw back and forth."

The disillusioned followers desperately wanted to know why their expectations of the Messiah had come to such a tragic end, and so they were exploring a number of theories. They were tossing ideas back and forth about what they had learned, heard and understood, and what it all meant now that Jesus had died.  

While they were talking and debating these things, Jesus approached them and asked, "What are these matters you are discussing so intently as you walk along?"  To them, He was just an ordinary man, a stranger out of the shadows joining them on their journey. Cleopas’ answer shows the depth of their frustration. He says, “You have got to be the only one who travels in this whole area that does not know what has happened?”

These two disciples were living with a past tense faith. They can only talk about what Jesus was. He was a Nazarene, He was a prophet, He was mighty in deeds, He was mighty in words, He was loved by the common people, He was hated by the religious leadership, and He was crucified.

You can hear their despair in verse 21, "But we had hoped that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” Did you hear it? “we had hoped,” Their hope was that Jesus would redeem Israel. They had hoped that He would redeem them from Rome! They had hoped that He would redeem them from human misery, from poverty, from hunger, from disease. The saddest death of all has to be the death of hope. They had hoped but now the flame of hope was all but extinguished.

Finally we see that Discouragement and Frustration Can Cause Us To Question God’s Care (verses 25-33)

We might have expected Jesus to respond by saying, “I understand.” But in verse 25 He says, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”

Now this one gets a little closer to home that we would like. When Jesus says they are slow to believe “all” that the prophets have spoken, it indicates that disciples were selective. They believed part of the word of God, but not all. These disciples had been guilty of only believing the things that fit in with the neat little box that they had created for God. Their understanding of the Scripture was worked by their assumptions and preconceptions and even by their sin. And so is ours!

And that’s the root of our frustration and discouragement. We think God should do something based on our faulty knowledge of His word. He doesn’t do it. We get discouraged and think God let us down, that He has disappointed us. But the problem is not with God but with us.

Think for a moment about what kind of expectations you are holding on to? What future have you determined for yourself? What perspective will you choose if your plans come unraveled or someone shatters your dreams?

We typically view circumstances, especially those involving loss, as difficult because reality does not fulfill our expectations. That usually leads to the belief that God has abandoned us to our suffering which serves to intensify the pain of loss and the frustration of difficulties. The two followers on the road to Emmaus undoubtedly felt God-forsaken as they mourned the death of their dreams.

As the two travelers approached the end of their journey, the stranger appeared to be going on. Traveling at night was both difficult and dangerous, so they insisted that he stay with them. I like this verse. It tells me a couple of things. It tells me, first of all, that Jesus never invades our area of privacy.

When I get home in the evening and we sit down to eat the telephone will usually ring with people trying to sell me everything from light bulbs to aluminum siding. I try to be courteous, but I resent it. You probably do too. But Jesus never invades our area of privacy.

The second thing that tells us is this; it doesn’t take much to get Jesus to stay. All we have to do is invite Him. He’ll be more than happy to come and stay.

It is interesting to note that it was at the moment that Jesus broke the bread that the two travelers eyes were opened and they recognized him. This was more than a passive, casual recognition of His features. They came to recognize Jesus in all His significance as the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God, and their risen Lord!

N.T. Wright makes an interesting observation. The very first time we see people eating in the Bible happens in Genesis 3, where we see Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and giving to Adam who also ate. It was that meal that brought separation between us and God. Now in a little house in Emmaus we see another meal, and this one closes the separation between the creator and the creation. That’s the beauty of communion, it serves to remind us of what God has done to close the gap that we have created between Him and us. 

After He left, it says that 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?" I believe that one of the greatest plagues of the church today is our contentment with mediocrity. We are content to look and never see, to listen and never hear, to be motivated and never respond. So we sit like bumps on the log, walking on the road, complaining because we hurt now and then, and never responding to His touch.

How different for these two. Did you read the rest of the story? It says that "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem." It must have been 8 or 9 o’clock. It was a seven mile journey back to Jerusalem. They could have waited until morning, but that same night they started back. They couldn’t wait to get back to Jerusalem.

We’re all traveling on that road to Emmaus this morning. Sometimes our dreams are shattered. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. Jesus said, "I didn’t come to take the road away. I just came to walk with you. I’m going to walk with you until we’re home. In the meantime, open the Word so that your eyes can be opened and your heart warmed."

How long has it been since you felt that warming in your heart and in your soul? It’s so easy for us to slip into neutral, spiritually, and just allow things to come and go. To go to church because it is Sunday morning, but never experience the stirring of God’s spirit in our lives, the warmth of His love, looking but never seeing, listening but never hearing.




Questions For You To Consider

What was the spiritual mind set of the two travelers on the road to Emmaus?

Why would the empty tomb not be enough proof of Christ’s Resurrection? 

Jeremy said this morning that the two travelers probably left Jerusalem because they were discouraged and frustrated.  How does frustration and discouragement could your view of things?

What things bring about a spiritual crisis in your life?

Do you find yourself fighting the same battle again and again?

What is it that keeps you from throwing in the towel and giving up?  

Can you remember a time recently that Jesus surprised you?

What does the resurrection of Christ bring to your life? 

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