Sermon from April 8th, 2018

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“What's Up When God Lets You Down!”

Isa 55:6-13; Luke 24:13-25

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning!  He is risen!  Still?  “yes”  Are you sure? “yes” Welcome to worship this morning.  Let’s go back and review what happened for those disciples on that resurrection morning.

The women went to Jesus’ tomb very early in the morning only to find the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body missing. An angel told them, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here!  He is risen from the dead, just as he promised!”  They raced back to tell the men.

Peter and John ran back to the tomb to find it just as the women had said but they couldn’t figure out what happened. Mary Magdalene followed them and stood weeping at the tomb. She looked into the tomb again and saw two angels sitting there. Again they asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”  They’ve taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have laid him.”

At that Mary turned and saw a man standing there. He, too, asked her. “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”   Mary, thinking he was the gardener said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will go get him.”

Her words were crazy, but so innocent, so sincere, precious that they got included in John’s Gospel. Then Jesus said, “Mary!”  And nothing would ever be the same for her again. What do we learn from this? Jesus knows our name, he loves us, he wants a very deep and personal relationship with each of us.

Meanwhile, the disciples were trying to figure out how to deal with this frightening disaster. About noon, two of them, not part of the 12, decided to take a walk to Emmaus, a little town about 7 miles away. We pick up the story in Luke 24:14…

“As they walked along they were talking with each other about everything that had happened… when Jesus himself came up and walked along with them, but they were kept from recognizing him.”

Why would Jesus do that?  He must have had a reason… Let’s keep reading. “(Jesus) asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”  Lk 24:17-1

“What things”, Jesus asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth.” They replied, “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; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”

These men were grieving.  If you lived through the death of a loved one, you know what they were feeling. Grief can swallow us as surely as a grave and leave us confused, numb, helpless, hopeless, paralyzed and dead inside.

Note how they describe Jesus. My guess is that they had been with Jesus through many of his teachings and miracles. They probably saw him raise Lazarus from the dead. They must have shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday and proclaimed him as the Messiah, yet now they pull back and refer to him only as a prophet, powerful in word and deed.

What happened? I think they were not only grieving the death of their friend, they were grieving that God had let them down.  Have you ever wondered what was up when God let you down? It’s a terrible feeling.

Jesus was supposed to be ascending the throne in Jerusalem, ushering in the kingdom of God, not dying in agony and shame on a Roman cross. None of it made any sense. They were doing everything right until everything went wrong. God had let them down.

So what are we supposed to learn when that happens? David asks that question more than once in the Psalms. “Where are you God? Why have you abandoned me?” Jesus even asked that question, didn’t he?

So what are we supposed to learn from this? Once again that best place to go isn’t our own wisdom or our own feelings, but what God reveals to us in the Scripture.

Here’s what the Lord says in Isaiah 55 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…” 

“ …As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isa 55:8-11

It shouldn’t surprise us that God doesn’t measure up to our expectations of him or that sometimes it seems God has let us down, or that his ways make no sense to us. Our vision is so short-sighted, our understanding so limited, but his is perfect and eternal.

What is surprising is how patient he is with our limited faith and trust. Cleopas and his friend go on to tell the stranger, “It is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but they didn’t’ find his body. They came and told us they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” Lk 24:22-24

Jesus had told them on numerous occasions that the Son of Man must be crucified and on the third day be raised from the dead, but it didn’t make any sense. As a result, when it happened, instead of verifying what Jesus said, they thought God had botched it.

That should not surprise us. We’ve all in one way or another done the same thing. When  our world crashes in around us, we wonder why God has let us down. Why he failed us.

What is surprising is how Jesus responds to their lack of faith. He says, “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?” Lk 24:25-26

So what’s up when God seems to let you down? Where do we go? Jesus points us back to the Bible – to the promises of God written there for our encouragement and comfort.  “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke 24:28

Is God in control even in those times when what he does makes no sense to us? Yes. How about those times when it seems he’s let us down?  Yes. Are we faithful in every circumstance? No. Is God faithful in every circumstance? Yes. What guarantee do we have? The open tomb and the resurrected Jesus!

So the three of them arrived at Emmaus and Jesus, who they still did not recognize, seemed to be going further. “Stay with us”, they urged him. They were hungry for more. How about you? Are you hungry to learn more about God’s plan, or after an hour on Sunday, you’re ready to part company with Jesus until next week?

They invited Jesus to stay and he did. And that evening as they down sat together for their supper, they watched Jesus take the bread, give thanks, and break it and their eyes were opened -  it was Jesus himself, in the flesh – and he vanished from their sight - his glorified body no longer bound by the doors of this world.

They asked each other “Did not our hearts burn as he opened the Scriptures to us on the road.” Lk 24:32  Jesus is the only one who can open your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your heart to believe the Word of God. When you read the Bible, when you listen to a sermon, ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear, understand, and respond to God’s truth for you.

They got up immediately and raced back to Jerusalem only to find the other disciples gathered in the upper room saying, “It’s true! The Lord has risen and appeared to Simon Peter!” 

Then they told the others about what happened in Emmaus and suddenly Jesus  himself stood among them. He said, “Shalom!”  “Peace”

They were terrified, thinking he was a ghost. Maybe they were also filled with shame at abandoning him. He said, “Chill out guys! Why are you so troubled? Why so doubtful? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch and see! A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

Then he said, “By the way, do you have anything here to eat?”  What a sense of humor!  What can we learn from this? Heaven will be a new physical creation with real physical bodies only there will be no sin, no death, no decay, no fear. We’ll enjoy all the good gifts God supplies. We’ll worship Jesus in perfect fellowship and joy forever and the nachos will be heavenly!

Then Jesus told them the same thing all over again. “Guys, everything you need to know has already been written for you in the Scriptures. I’m sending you to be witnesses of these things to others.”

What’s the point? I think the disciples realized, “We better go back and read our Bibles again so that when tough times come and we’re tempted to doubt God knows what he’s doing, when we feel God has let us down, we won’t rely on the shifting sands of our own emotion and understanding. Instead we’ll stand on the bedrock of his truth revealed and recorded for us in the Bible!”

Yes?  Yes! He is Risen, He is risen indeed!

Next Sunday we’ll continue our look at another post-resurrection appearance of Jesus and it means for us today! I hope you’ll join us!


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

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