Their Eyes Were Opened
Easter Sunday message by Pastor Jeff Sharp. Text: Luke 24:13-35. Theme of the month: Living and Sharing the Good News.
Scripture PassageLuke 24:13-3513 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 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?" 19 "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." 25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. THEIREYESWEREOPENED 1THEIR EYES WERE OPENEDLuke 24:13-35Rev. Dr. Jeffrey SharpLead Pastor, English CongregationVancouver Chinese Baptist Church, Vancouver, British ColumbiaSunday Sermon for 4 April 2010Theme of the MonthEvangelismLiving & Sharing the Good News28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?" 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.THEIREYESWEREOPENED 2In the movie Click, Michael Newman (played by Adam Sandler) is given a true "universal" remote control that has the power to influence real life. He can mute peoples' voices, fast-forward through annoying conversations, and even rewind through past experiences.In one of the scenes, Michael is talking to Morty (played by Christopher Walken)an employee of Bed, Bath, and Beyond who originally gave him the remote. Michael is unsatisfied at work, too busy at home, and unable to regain control over his overstuffed world. He wants Morty's advice on a plan to skip the next two months of his life in order to avoid waiting for a promotion.Morty asks, "Have you considered the consequences of what you're about to do?""Yeah," Michael answers. "Why, you think I shouldn't do it?""It's your life. What you do with the remote is your life.""Exactly," Michael breaks in. "So, what am I going to missthirty arguments and a haircut?"Morty thinks for a moment. In an ominous voice, he says, "Remember the leprechaunthe one from the cereal ads." (Referring to the Lucky Charms cereal commercial)Michael is confused for a moment. "'They're magically delicious!' That guy?" he asks.Morty nods. "He's always chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But when he gets there, at the end of the dayit's just cornflakes." Michael nods in mock understanding for a moment, then says, "Heh?"The point of this clip is to remind us that sometimes we are chasing after the wrong things and that it is only after we reach what we think is our goal, that we discover that it isnt what we had expected, that it doesnt satisfy. And we are disillusioned and confused.In some ways the two disciples in our story are wondering about that. They had pinned their hopes on Jesus, but something had happened and as a result they were dispirited and disillusioned, confused and left wondering.Now they were hearing some rumors about Jesus. But were they true? What they are saying about Jesus, is it a fact? In todays gospel lesson, that is the question tearing at the minds and hearts of two of Jesus disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus. A large part of Jerusalem was in an uproar over rumors that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead. If that was true, for Jesus enemies, that was bad news. For his friends, the news seemed too good to be true, especially after what they knew the powers of the State and the religious leaders had done to Jesus.So they were returning to their home in Emmaus since there wasnt any reason to stay in Jerusalem anymore, now that Jesus was gone and the kingdom movement seemed to be in disarray. They werent sure what they were going to do, but they couldnt stay in Jerusalem, not with all those memories of what had happened and what might have been.THEIREYESWEREOPENED 3As they walked along, the two travelers encountered a stranger. And as they talked, there was something about him and so when it looked like he was going to leave them, they invited him to supper. Then something transforming takes place. When he was at table with them, Luke tells us, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him (Luke 24:30-31). They recognized that it was Jesus! And then he is off again, he disappears. And then the two disciples got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. And when they arrived, they were greeted by the rest of Jesus disciples who told them, Yes, it is true, the Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon. Then the two friends told their story about the stranger who met them on the road, the stranger whom they recognized in the breaking of bread. They shared their life-changing testimony and how that encounter with Jesus began to change everything.Report confirmed report and a community of faith began to grow.Today also, report confirms report. In almost every corner of this planet, in city and town, in freedom and in persecutionthe church proclaims: He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!Its no secret that the people in first century didnt have the mass media of radio, TV and the press to inform them instantlyor to deceive them, as is sometimes the case, as we do. In those days, news was passed on from person-to-person. With our modern faith in technology, where almost everyone is wired, we almost doubt something really happened until the media label it as news. And it is easy to think of news as a product that is manufactured. A few years back the large American magazine Newsweek ran an ad urging people to subscribe. They said: Dont miss out on the exciting events of the election year. The continuing war in Indochina, the debate over foreign aid and the nations response to a hungry world, and a thousand other developments that will make this a big year for people who want to stay on top of their world. The ad almost makes history sound like a line of products peddled by manufacturers who are fully prepared to make exciting things happen, even if they dont happen to happen by themselves. And of course, there is that type of journalism.But for better or for worse, the early church didnt have the mixed blessings of the news industry. Word of the resurrection was spread by a handful of men and women who had been to the empty tomb and found it empty and one of them, Mary, had seen and spoken to the risen Jesus. Her word of testimony was then confirmed by two exhausted and excited friends, still trying to catch their breath after a fast run from Emmaus. And to that report comes the testimony of Simon Peter and then one by one other people add their voices. He is risen!If you read the various accounts of the post-resurrection reports, it is clear that the first reports of Jesus sightings werent believed. What had happened to him was so terrible and so final that his followers didnt expect Jesus to rise. And you can be sure that many hours and days were spent in going over every detail of every report. But in the end they were convincedand, as history shows, they gave their lives for that conviction! Christ was not dead. Christ had risen. He had risen indeed.In his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, the apostle Paul writes:THEIREYESWEREOPENED 4In the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself. That [Jesus] was raised to life on the third day. . . That he appeared first to Peter and secondly to the twelve; next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have died; then he appeared to James and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).The point is that Easter has burst into our worldthe world of space, time, and matter, real history and real people and real life. And because this is an Easter transformed world things are never going to be the same again.Ancient tombstones often bore symbols that spoke of the convictions of the deceased. Faith was symbolized by a cross, hope by an anchor, love by a heart. Doves or olive branches symbolized peace, palm branches and trumpets, victory. At Easter time we experience renewed faith, stronger hope, richer love, and deeper peace. But all of them rest on the foundation stone of victory. Without the victory of the resurrection, faith is futile, hope is vain, love is baseless, and peace a fleeting hope. With the Easter victory each one becomes real and vital.In todays church, as in the early church, report confirms report. Oh, it is true that the 21st century church has access to a great deal of technology to get its message out. We can use TV and radio and film and internet to get out the news of the gospel to the world. We twitter, email, Facebook our messages. But the crucial, convincing lifeline of the churchs communications system, its way of telling the Good News that God saves and redeems and transforms life and brings life out of death is still the gathering of brothers and sisters who recognize their Lord in the Breaking of bread/worship/communion and as active in their midst. When we gather together on Sunday and when we especially gather around the Lords table, like we will next Sunday, we examine the testimony of the Apostles in the holy scriptures. Here, and in day-to-day living, we shareor should be sharingthe presence of the Risen Lord in our own lives.Sometimes a Christian has something spectacular to report. Maybe how they were healed or how their life was turned around in a dramatic way. We can also think of all the prophets and mystics, past and present, who have reported remarkably lucid visions of the Lord or their encounters with God. But, most frequently, the reports we share of the Risen Lord are reports of an unspectacular sort: reports of ordinary lives transformed step by step; reports of people moved to act in love toward others, even enemies; reports of quiet recognitions of God working in their world and their life, often too deep and mysterious for words. Some of you have reported these experiences to me as you read and prayed your way through the 40 day spiritual journey and worked through your journal. We have each, I hope, experienced our road to Emmaus. We have each, I hope, have recognized the Risen Lord along the way, but especially in the breaking of bread, those times when we stopped to spend time with Christ in prayer or silence or in the study and meditation on his word, and in works of peace, justice and compassion.In those times, like those followers of Jesus on their way to Emmaus, our eyes are opened and we see things in a different light. For those whose eyes have been opened it allows us to rise above the THEIREYESWEREOPENED 5heartaches and problems and disappointments of life. This is the powerful message of EasterChrist was resurrected, and so were his followers. In particular, having eyes that are opened allows us to rise above despair.Those weary disciples on the road to Emmaus knew the life-draining power of despair. Like so many after Jesus death, these disciples were filled with despair and depression; their life was overshadowed by gloom and sadness. Their friend was dead. Their hopes and dreams were dead. Their future was dead.I think we can all relate to that, cant we. We have all walked through the valley of grief. It may be the death of a relationship, a family member, a friend. It might be the death of a dream or a plan. Like a heavy blanket, despair can cover us and smother the very life out of us. Like a dark and somber tomb, despair can enslave and imprison us and choke off our vitality. That is how these disciples felt despair.But thats not the end of the story. They met Jesus and in that encounter their eyes were opened. In his words and his presence they found the power to reframe their lives, to see things differently, to rise above their despair. No more trudging; no more heavy sighs; no more weeping.A Christian schools kindergarten teacher wanted to determine her new students level of Bible knowledge. She found a little five-year-old boy who knew absolutely nothing about the story of Jesus. The teacher began by telling the boy about the death of Jesus on the cross. When he asked her what a cross was, she made a makeshift cross with some sticks and told him that Jesus was nailed to a cross, and then he died. The little boy looked down and quietly said, Oh, thats too bad. Quickly though, the teacher told the boy that Jesus rose again and came back to life. Hearing that, the little boys eyes grew big, and he exclaimed, Totally awesome!That is the reaction of the two disciples. Jesus was alive and because he was, they could rise above their despair. And by the miracle of Gods grace their eyes were opened to the power and wonder of Gods life-restoring hope.Having eyes that are opened to the power of the resurrection also allows us to rise above disillusionment.Disillusionment is the condition, the problem that occurs when people try something that doesnt quite live up to their expectations. They feel let down and have a real sense of disappointment, a real sense of betrayal, even a real sense of bitterness. They accepted the promises, they believed the words, they invested their lives and their emotions, they gave their hearts and they feel that it didnt come through for them.This is how these two disciples felt. Disappointed, disillusioned, heartbroken, hopeless, they have just given up: We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel (24:21). We thought he was going to save us. We should have known that this wasnt going to work. It was all too good to be true, too idealistic for this cruel world, and now its all over. Like so many others, he was crushed by the powers of this world. Disillusionment is written all over this picture.THEIREYESWEREOPENED 6But that is not the end of the story. The Risen Lord comes to them and walks with them and resurrects them too. Their eyes are opened and they are bought out of the tomb of disillusionment. And their hopelessness is replaced by hope.We all know what disillusionment feels like. The problems of life and the world weigh us down; people have abandoned us or they have lied to us or they have disappointed us. The world gets us down when we read the newspapers or hear the news and sometimes feel that evil is winning. And then Easter comes along to remind us that there is no grave deep enough, no seal imposing enough, no stone heavy enough, no evil strong enough to keep Christ in the grave. And then our eyes are opened and we see. This is the Good News of the Gospelwe can rise above disillusionment.Having eyes that are opened to the power of the resurrection also allows us to rise above defeat.Those disciples felt defeat. The Kingdom cause had been defeated. Jesus was dead. All that talk about a Kingdom of Goda kingdom of love and mercy, grace and peacehad been defeated by the combined efforts of the Jewish religious leaders and the might of the Roman Empire. It was over.And then there was Easter, there was the risen Christ and their eyes were open. What looked like defeat was victory; what looked like failure was only the beginning; what looked like a hopeless cause, would in a few decades begin to change the direction of humanity. Their eyes were opened and they able to rise above their defeat.And we need that message. Many of us have sometimes felt like we have failed. It might have been in a task or a relationship and we write failure and defeat across our lives. Or it may be that in our walk with Christ that we have failed. We have failed to be faithful, as committed as we know we should to pray and read the Bible and to care about others and to love in the way that Jesus calls us to love. And in our defeat, we are tempted to give up. But dont. Open your eyes to the Risen Christ and to the grace of God. The grace that says you fell, but you can get up. You can rise above it. Dont quit. Jesus says, Ill be with you. I will help you.And because our eyes are opened to the grace of God and the risen Christ in our world and life, we can really live. Not just exist. Not just limp along. Not just survive, but really live.Theres a beautiful story about Ignace Paderewski, the great Polish pianist. He once scheduled a concert in a small, out-of-the-way village in hopes of cultivating the arts in rural Poland. A young mother, wishing to encourage her sons progress at the piano, bought tickets for the Paderewski performance. When the night of the performance arrived, the woman and her young son found their seats near the front of the concert hail and eyed the majestic Steinway piano waiting onstage. Without thinking, the mother found a friend and began visiting and talking with her, and in the excitement of the evening, the little boy slipped out of sight!When eight oclock arrived, the house lights came down, the spot lights came up, the audience quieted, and only then did anyone notice the little ten-year-old boy seated at the concert piano, innocently picking out Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. The boys mother gasped, and the THEIREYESWEREOPENED 7stagehands started out to grab the boy. But sudden1y Paderewski appeared onstage and waved them away.Paderewski quickly moved to the piano, and standing behind the little boy whispered into his ear, Dont quit. Keep playing! Dont stop! Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side of the boy, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized with great music in a magical moment.In the same way, when our eyes are opened to the presence and the grace of the Risen Christ, we see God weaving into our work and live his life that enables us to really live.My friends, God has given us a mission. You and I have a message and an experience to share. Our Mission as followers of Jesus is to spread the news that the kingdom of God has broken into our world and into our lives in Jesus. Death cant defeat that Kingdom. The cross is swallowed up in the resurrection. If you are a follower of Jesus, your mission and my mission is to tell those who are around us, those who are still making alliances with the forces of greed, hatred, war, bigotry, fierce competition and exploitation, that their allies already are defeated; that judgment has been rendered; that Christ is Lord. Our Christian mission is to let them in on the Good News: It is true. Jesus is Risen. Our assignment, each and every day is to bring that kind of joy and good news and hope to the world.Being Canadian, Im not sure if you know who Thomas Jefferson is? He was the 3rd US president and his face is on the US nickel. Anyway, Jefferson once edited his own version of the Bible. He wanted to create a more rational approach to Christianity, so Jefferson snipped out of his Bible all references to the supernatural. He deleted all the miracles and purged every mystery. Naturally, there was no room for the resurrection. Jeffersons Bible concludes with Jesus being laid in the tomb by his heart-broken followers. Thats the end of the story.Jeffersons brand of Christianity had ethics, morals, parables, wise teachings, but it never caught on because it was joyless and hopeless. Remove the Resurrection and you also remove the joy and hope from Christianity. Take away the joy from our faith, and you dont have any reason to be here today, you dont have anything to sing about, and you dont have Jesus either. Joy and hope are the surest signs of the presence of Christ, and of the life Jesus calls us to live.Do you have that joy and hope? It is only possible by continuing to focus on Christ.In his book, The Silver Chair (chapter 2) part of the Narnia Chronicles, C.S. Lewis has a scene where Aslan, a Christ-figure, is speaking to the children about what they have experienced in his presence and what he has said to them. Aslan says:Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to THEIREYESWEREOPENED 8know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.It is not a matter of once-and-for-all professing our faith; it is allowing it to make a difference in our life, and living it out day by day. Its a matter of continuing encounter and response, of continuing to nourish and cultivate and grow in that relationship with Christ so that our eyes continue to be open to what God wants to do in and through my life.And this is possible because we are Easter people. That is the point of the telling and the living. It's all done because Easter is about Jesus: the Jesus who announced God's saving, sovereign kingdom; the Jesus who died to exhaust the power of this world's rulers; the Jesus who rose again to be crowned as king over all things in heaven and on earth. My prayer is that God will give us grace, this day and from now on, to live as Easter people, celebrating Jesus' love and joy at his table and making his kingdom and justice known in his world.And the Sharing Continues.We cant persuade the unpersuaded simply by shouting at them. In fact, recent studies have shown that the mass media usually reinforces opinion more than it changes them. People who hate certain public figures hate them more each time they see them on TV. And people who love those same celebrities love them more after each viewing. No, those who dont know the truth about Jesus those who are still fighting lost battleswill not know it even if every TV and radio station and every newspaper in the country blasted the news at them twenty four hours a day. The most important news development in the history of the world can only be learned on the road to EmmausJesus is alive and he opens blinded eyes.Think of all the people who are out there on a lonely road today. If that road is to become their road to Emmaus, they need a companion. They need someone to come along (just as that stranger did on the road to Emmaus) and open to them the Scriptures, to explain to them how defeat is turned into victory, how bad news becomes Good News. The Risen Lord who has met you, now lives in you if you have invited him into your life and declared your intention to follow him. And it is through you that he would arrange meetings with others to whom he is still a stranger. A world is waitingright here and in distant countriesto meet the stranger whom we call Lord.Are they meeting him through you and me?Reflection Questions1. What questions, thoughts, reactions do you have to todays scripture passage?2. Have you ever felt disillusioned, defeated or in despair? How does the good news of Jesus resurrection help us to rise above these conditions? Do you agree with what was said in the sermon? What questions do you have about what was said?THEIREYESWEREOPENED 93. Have you ever had the experience of having your eyes opened by God to see the world around you in a new way?4. Who is it that told you about Jesus? Have you passed that report on to others?5. Reflecting on the story of the pianist Paderewski, have you ever experienced God working in your life?6. What questions, thoughts, reactions do you have to todays sermon?THEIREYESWEREOPENED 10