The Third Sunday of Easter April 22, 2012
Acts 2:14a, 36-47
1 Peter 1:17-21
188, 194, 197, 51
Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
Once I was young I remember a knock at our door early one Sunday morning. We children peeked out the window and saw a man downstairs waiting for someone to come and answer his call. We didn’t recognize him. He had a rather strange tilt to his head and wasn’t talking very clearly. Imagine our surprise when my mother opened the door and let him inside the house! Imagine our further surprise when she offered to let him sit down at the table and share our Sunday morning breakfast of eggs and bacon! “Stay with us and eat,” she said. We didn’t know what to think. What moved her to invite this stranger into the house? What led her to offer that kind of an invitation?
As it turned out the man was neither drunk nor dangerous. He was actually a regular visitor to our church, but since we had recently moved to the area we children did not really know him yet.
Stay with us. We don’t usually utter those words to strangers. We don’t routinely invite unknown callers into our living quarters. Yet this is the invitation that two men walking the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus once extended. We look in on the scene and we see them inviting into their house someone whom they had just met recently. It appears to the outsider that they are inviting a stranger inside and still they say to Him: “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” [v.29]
It makes us wonder to ourselves: “What was it that brought on this invitation to stay? Did they really know Him well enough to let Him in?” What is more they even urged him strongly not to go any further, doing more than just casually suggesting that He join them. They did not want Him to go off into the night never to be seen again.
Did they ask Jesus to stay with them because they knew He was a very important person who was known throughout Jerusalem? No, it was not that, because when they invited Him they did not yet know it was the Lord. Did they ask Jesus to stay out of mere politeness? Was it simply the hospitable thing to do? No, it was more than that. The disciples revealed the reason later after they had recognized Christ. They said to each other “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened Scriptures to us?” [v.32]
They wanted Jesus to stay with them because the things they heard from Jesus as they walked on the road had an effect on them. His words had changed their attitudes, strengthened their faith, and brought them hope and comfort.
When they first met the Lord on the road, they were downcast, discussing the things that had happened so recently in Jerusalem: Christ’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion. They were confused, thinking that Jesus was going to the be the One who would help Israel; but then seeing Him overcome by His enemies they wondered, “What is going on?” Even the facts of the resurrection morning had been lost on them. They knew the grave had been found empty, but they did not see what it meant. We can picture them walking home from Jerusalem, disappointed by it all.
But then they met Jesus and His words caused their hearts to burn within them. Their hearts burned with hope and comfort, with renewed faith and zeal.
What were these words which made such an impact? They were words that were filled with the Gospel—the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection to cleanse people of their guilt and open Heaven to them. They were words that spoke of troubles turning to joys, of restless hearts having a place of peace and rest. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” [v.27 NIV]
Jesus talked of the creation of the world and how it’s perfection was ruined by man’s disobedience, how sinful mankind would face troubles and hardship, and how he would need someone to rescue him from God’s judgment on his evil. Jesus talked of God’s promise to send a descendant of Abraham to redeem the world and how that descendant eventually appeared in Bethlehem. Jesus talked of the prophets who announced what the Messiah would do, that He would be a sin-offering to God and would be crushed for our iniquities. Jesus talked of the resurrection of the Christ from the dead as foretold—God’s own exclamation point declaring that it was all true.
These words, like the words of God do, burrowed themselves into the two men’s hearts. Their eyes were opened to the truth and they understood and believed. During that walk to Emmaus they came to know Jesus like they had not known Him before. Through the Scriptures He revealed Himself to them. Through His words they came to know and to trust the Lord as the One who truly had redeemed Israel, not by delivering the nation from Roman rule, but by delivering it from sin and death.
These words changed them. No longer were they downcast. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), the Apostle Paul later wrote to the Romans, and here was that principle in action.
The two disciples invited Jesus into their home because God had worked through the words the Lord had spoken to them. God had worked through those words to lift their spirits, to give them comfort and joy; and now they wanted to hear more. They wanted this preacher whom they had met to give them more of this water of life. “Stay with us,” they urged Him!
This is perhaps one of the most unique of Jesus’ resurrection appearances because the “appearance” was not the important thing. The disciples did not invite the Lord to stay with them because they knew who He was, but because His Word had moved their hearts.
From this we learn that Jesus has risen to share His Word with us. We can also walk in the footsteps of the men on the way to Emmaus, can’t we? Surely there are days when we plod along downcast as they once did, weak in our faith, frustrated that our Savior does not seem to rise up and help us in the ways we think He should. Our disappointment shows like theirs did when we think to ourselves, “I had hoped Jesus would help me. I had hoped He was the One who would bring me peace and comfort.”
This is our sin too that we look downcast, failing to glory in the joys He has set before us, failing to trust with all our hearts in His salvation, His forgiveness, His love for us that will guide us and guard us to the end.
Jesus appears to us in His Word too. He repeats to us through the Scriptures, through our pastors and teachers, through our Christian friends and relatives, the same things that He shared with the Emmaus disciples. He tells us of the forgiveness of our sins, the reality of His resurrection, the truth that He will take us to Himself, and that all of our troubles shall pass for He has redeemed us.
He reveals Himself to us in His Word so that we get to know Him better and so that He is no longer a stranger to us. His word burns in our hearts just as it did in the hearts of the men on the road. It strengthens our faith, increases our hope, and gives us joy and peace of heart. It makes us ready and willing to receive Him.
His gracious words move us to offer the same invitation that was offered to Him that evening: “Stay with us.” We say it too with the same urgency, the same excitement, the same anticipation with which it was uttered so many years ago.
“Stay with us too, Lord! We have heard your word. Now come into our homes and remain there!”
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the Tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me!
[TLH 552: 6]
We need Him to stay with us. We need Him to remain with us through trials and temptations, through both the sorrows and the joys of life. He is the vine and we are the branches (cf. John 15:1ff). Without Him we can do nothing. Without Him we have no hope. With Him we have everything.
What a happy truth then that He does stay, that He is risen from the dead and abides with us. “Stay with me too, Lord!” Make this your daily prayer.
“Lord, stay with me when I am faint. Stay with me when I am weak. Stay with me when I am strong. Stay with me so I can thank and praise You. Stay with me for Your Word burns within my heart with a holy fire. Stay with me so I can learn from You and trust You more.”
And stay with us He does. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV). Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.