Sermon from March 27th, 2016

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“Easter - Are you sure you really know who Jesus is?”

1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 24:13-35


By Pastor John Bent



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Sermon Text
Good morning!  He is risen!  There are places in the world today where speaking those words in a public place could get thrown in jail or even killed.  But those who have met the resurrected Jesus refuse to be silenced or intimidated.

Why is that?  What comes to your mind when you hear the name Jesus?  I have a friend who had a MBA from the University of Chicago.  He was a brilliant young business man. He thought Jesus was a good idea – for women and children, but not aggressive young movers and shakers like himself who were rapidly scaling the corporate ladder.  Richard’s idea of Jesus was far too small and twisted. Then he met the real and living resurrected Jesus and his life was transformed forever.

Gary, my roommate in Bible School was a state champion athlete in Minnesota.  He and his dad took great pride in coming to church on Christmas and Easter whether they needed it or not.  They would compete with each other to see who could sing the loudest and the most off-key. Then they would laugh and scoff their way through the worship service making fun of the other people who were there. Gary’s idea of Jesus was a caricature of reality.

Then Gary met the living and risen Jesus and his life was transformed forever. In Gary’s words, “He moved me from death to life.”

Some years ago a woman named Patti came into my office in her words, “to interview me”.  She had recently adopted two children and she wanted a place to bring them where they could learn about right and wrong.  Her question to me was, “You’re not one of those churches that’s always talking about Jesus are you?”  I said, “Come and see.”  She did and a few months later, she met the resurrected Jesus and her life was changed forever. A couple years ago Patti went to be with her beloved Jesus, not who she had thought he was, but who he really is.

I grew up knowing about Jesus, but somewhere along the way, I left him behind chasing after things I thought were more important. Career, the approval of my peers, stuff I thought would satisfy my hunger for purpose and fulfill my desires.  And the farther I drifted from Jesus the emptier my life became.  I thought I knew all about Jesus, I was wrong. My understanding of who Jesus was immature, underdeveloped, inadequate, wrong.

In our Gospel today, we find two men described as disciples of Jesus. They weren’t members of the 12 apostles, that is the A squad. They were the B squad. But they knew Jesus, they had listened to him, seen his miracles.  But like the apostles, the A squad, their understanding of who he was inadequate, too small, twisted.

It was Easter afternoon, they are walking to the little village of Emmaus, 7 miles NW of Jerusalem.  Why?  Who knows - maybe just to get out of Jerusalem. It’d been a rough few days. Jesus illegally arrested, brutalized, crucified, killed, buried. The images were burned into their memories.  The shouts of the mob still echo in their ears.  Why did this happen?

As they walked the road out of the city, a stranger overtook them. “What are you talking about as you walk along?”  Exasperated, they stopped. They stood still, looking down at their feet obviously overwhelmed by grief and disappointment.  Suddenly one of them turned on the stranger, “You mean you don’t know the things that happened there the last few days?”

“What things?” the stranger asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth! He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him!” 

You have to understand how hideous, how hateful crucifixion was. It was created by the Romans as a sign of their power. It was reserved for the worst of the worst.  It was intended to intimidate and terrify. How could God allow anyone he loved to be treated like this? Especially a good man like Jesus.  It was beyond their comprehension.

The disciples continue, “We had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”  In other words, we had hoped this Jesus was the promised Messiah who would push out the Romans and restore Israel to the glory it had under David and Solomon. Maybe he was the one who would solve the problem of hunger or eradicate leprosy, blindness, mental illness, demon possession. Maybe he would be the one.

Underneath their words,  “But I guess Jesus wasn’t who we thought he was.”  They were right; Jesus wasn’t who they thought he was. He was far more. Their understanding of who Jesus was too small. It was inadequate, twisted.

They continued their story, “What’s more it’s the third day since all this took place. This morning some of our women went to his tomb but they didn’t find his body. They came back and told us that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our men went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not find Jesus.”

Then the stranger said, “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 Scripture concerning himself.” Luke 24:25-27

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to hear those words from Jesus himself?  You still can, it happens here every week in worship, in our Bible studies as people just like you gather together around the Bible and read and study the story of God’s plan to save sinners like you and me from our sin.  The whole OT points forward to the coming of Jesus who would exchange his righteousness for our sinfulness and go to the cross in our place.

You have never met a man like this man. Power, strength, courage, grace, mercy, Jesus is the toughest, smartest, most gifted, gracious, merciful human being who ever walked this earth. He drove out demons, calmed storms, healed impossible diseases and loved the unlovable.   He loved you enough to die in your place so that you could live with him forever.

Whether you know him or not, he knows you. Jesus wants you to be with him forever in heaven. He has reserved a place in heaven for you. It has your name on it.   But he won’t force you to join him there. He gives you the right of first refusal.  But you will have to make a choice.  Will you hang on to your own ideas of who he is, or will you take the risk to let him tell you who he really is?

As the disciples and their Bible teacher approached Emmaus, the stranger acted as if he was going on, but the disciples urged him to stay with them. They decided they wanted to know more and this guy seemed as to have the ability to make sense out of the craziness they found themselves in. His words had a ring of truth about them. Sometimes we have to hit bottom before we are ready to listen to the truth that has always been there.

That evening as supper was being served, “He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” Suddenly their eyes were opened and they recognized it was Jesus, and he vanished from their sight. I can’t help but wonder if they noticed the nail prints in his hands.

Who is Jesus?  Do you want to know? Or would you rather hold on to your own preconceptions and prejudices of who he is? Would you rather keep him in a nice box tucked away for the day when you think you might need him?

For some folks Jesus is limited to a picture in a Bible story book from their childhood.  Or somebody grandma prayed to. Or a myth blown apart by a professor at college. How do you see him?  Do you really know him?  Are you willing to get to know him?
 
Or are you afraid that if you let Jesus get to close, he’s going to mess up your life, send you to Africa, steal your fun, blow apart the illusions you use to try and hold your life together?  How’s it going for you?  Not the image you project, but deep down inside. How’s it going?

I was 23 years old when the resurrected Jesus walked up alongside of me.  He didn’t condemn me for the foolish way I was living and the destructive choices I was making. He simply said, “Time is short, there is much work to be done, and you’ve been wasting your time.”

He was right. So I went home dusted off my childhood Bible and began reading about Jesus.  He met me there.  When I got to Matt 11, spoke these words to me, “Come to me, all you who are weak and burdened. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt 11:28-30

I’ve been following him and studying his Word for over 40 years and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface in understanding who Jesus really, how much he loves me, and the eternal purpose he has for me.  What the Bible says is true. He has a plan for each of us. He has a plan for you. It’s a plan for good and not for evil, a plan to give you a future and a hope.

Following their experience in Emmaus these two disciples raced back to Jerusalem only to discover the Lord had met Peter and Mary and then suddenly there he was, in the room with them. They touched his wounds, they hugged him.  They began to discover, there is far more to this Jesus than we ever imagined.  He is risen … and nothing will ever be the same for any of us ever again.
 
Will you pray with me: “Lord Jesus, forgive me for attempting to put you in a box, push you aside, arrogantly think I already know everything I need to know about who you are. Give me the courage to seek you as you really are. Not just for myself, but for the sake of the job you created me to do.

If you have never opened your heart to Jesus, if you have never surrendered the sovereignty of your own selfish ego to him.  I encourage you to do so right now.  “Lord Jesus, I’ve been going my way, doing my thing, and it’s not working. I’m willing to do it your way.  I want to know more about who you really are and what your will is for my life.  Come in to my mind and heart and take over.  Help me follow you and become who you created me to be.  In Jesus name.

AMEN

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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