Missing The Point, Too
Please read Luke 24:13-35.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020
One Sunday after church the preacher had just one person left to greet as the congregation exited the sanctuary. Pastor held out his hand to Bill, as they shook hands, they exchanged the usual pleasantries. Then Bill surprised the pastor with this question, “Pastor, if you were stuck on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you?”
Without hesitation the pastor went with the obvious answer: “I’d like to have my Bible,” he said. He went on; “That’s an interesting question, Bill. What book would you like to have with you?”
Bill grinned and said, “Pastor, if I’m stuck on a deserted island, the book I want is “Ship Building for Dummies!” Bill was joking with the pastor who had missed the point. He didn’t have to stay on the island, so why not have a book to help him escape?
It’s typical for us to stare intently at what we expect to see that we miss new things entirely. Last Sunday we saw ten of eleven of Jesus’ disciples miss the point of His resurrection. Today we’ll get to know a pair who did get the point.
TIME - Late afternoon, Resurrection Day.
PERSONS - In v. 18, Luke named one of the travelers, a man named Cleopas. The GK allows for the other person to be Cleopas’ wife. In John 19:25, Mary is said to be the wife of a “Clopas.” It’s a safe guess that the two travelers on the road are Mary and Cleopas. Their child is Simeon who will be head of the church in Jerusalem.
PLACE - Emmaus was a village seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. It’s likely Cleopas and Mary had a home in Emmaus.
PURPOSE - The reason for their journey is not stated, but we can assume they were simply going home before darkness set in.
Doubt is resolved when we learn together from God’s word
1. You must win your struggle against doubt. (13-25)
Know God is with you in your struggle. Sometimes when we struggle with doubt or are in any kind of trial, God can FEEL distant. Of course He is not distant, but we can feel that way nonetheless. This situation is a perfect illustration of that feeling. Verses fifteen to sixteen tell us: JESUS WALKED WITH THEM BUT THEY WERE KEPT FROM RECOGNIZING HIM. God the Son was with them but they didn’t recognize Him. The man they were mourning walked beside them! So it is with us; we mourn and feel lonely and we simply don’t recognize Him.
The question is, HOW were they kept from recognizing Him? Their own grief might have kept them from it. Strong emotions can distract us, causing an inward focus to such a degree that they simply didn’t notice their companion was Jesus. That would only account for a few minutes of conversation and is not the reason given in Scripture.
Luke says God’s power somehow disguised Jesus. Verse 31 says THEIR EYES WERE OPENED AND THEY RECOGNIZED HIM. My speculation is that the most important thing was that Jesus would have a chance to teach them the truth only if they didn’t recognize Him. Once they were seated at table, the teaching was done and the disguise was no longer necessary. Only people who are biased against the supernatural find it hard to believe that Jesus adopted some kind of spiritual disguise.
The pair walking to Emmaus had doubts; the text makes that plain. In verse seventeen, THEY STOOD STILL, THEIR FACES DOWNCAST. This body language is visual evidence they had given up. While they walked they had been discussing the events of the past few days, part of which was the testimony of the women who came back from Jesus’ empty tomb (verse 22). The pair doubted the testimony of the women.
In verse nineteen they said Jesus was a “PROPHET, POWERFUL IN WORD AND DEED.” Note their use of past tense: “WAS.” They were thinking of Jesus as dead and buried. To call Him a prophet was a compliment, but…
- Prophets often met a violent death: they may’ve been making that association in their minds.
- The title “prophet” doesn’t really go far enough. Jesus was more than that; He was God in the flesh.
In verse 21 they told Jesus, “WE HAD HOPED HE WAS GOING TO REDEEM ISRAEL.” Again, this is expressed in the past tense. This statement reads like grave disappointment and shattered hopes.
Verse 22 quotes Cleopas as saying, “SOME OF OUR WOMEN AMAZED US.” This is not a casual rejection of the testimony of the tomb-visitors. The Greek word translated as AMAZED means to be surprised to the point of being stunned, speechless. The women’s account was a puzzle to them. Rather than believe, they doubted and sought a more typical explanation.
The words of Jesus in verse 25 are the most convincing evidence of doubt in the minds of Cleopas and Mary. He called them FOOLISH and SLOW OF HEART to believe He had risen from the dead. FOOLISH is a word used to describe people without understanding, those who fail to perceive the truth.
He said they were SLOW OF HEART because they were unwilling to give up their worldly, naturalistic notions to see the truth literally right before them! Faith sometimes requires us to UNLEARN worldly opinions to see the supernatural.
2. You can win your struggle against doubt by knowing God’s word. (25-27)
Jesus used the Old Testament to confront their foolishness and slowness. He showed them how he fulfilled Old Testament predictions about the Messiah.
In verse 26 Jesus said, “DID NOT THE CHRIST HAVE TO SUFFER THESE THINGS AND THEN ENTER HIS GLORY?” The title CHRIST is the Greek version of the Hebrew title “messiah.” It means “Anointed One” and refers to the person God had promised to send to His people Israel to save them. The part that probably took them by surprise is that the CHRIST had to SUFFER before entering His glory.
As it states in verse 27, BEGINNING WITH MOSES AND ALL THE PROPHETS, HE EXPLAINED TO THEM WHAT WAS SAID IN ALL THE SCRIPTURES CONCERNING HIMSELF. MOSES AND THE PROPHETS is another way of referring to the entire Old Testament. Jesus is the “interpretive key” to understanding the Old Testament. What was veiled in the Old Testament is unveiled in the New Testament.
The Old and New Testaments have one message for they have but one Author. Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus as the AUTHOR AND PERFECTER of our faith. He is the AUTHOR of the Bible. Though human minds found the words and human hands penned the words, it was Jesus, by means of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Bible authors to write. He is the PERFECTER of our faith in the sense that He set an example of perfect obedience. Because God is the ultimate Author of the Bible, it is a trustworthy basis for daily living.
Doubts about God persist in situations of ignorance and isolation. Doubts arise when we don’t know or don’t care what God said. You may have noticed that people can come up with a lot of nutty ideas on their own. When we don’t have or use our trusted faith family to test out our ideas, doubts & self-deception take root.
3. You can win your struggle against doubt by knowing God’s people. (28-35)
Jesus chose to reveal Himself in response to their hospitality. He could have revealed Himself at any point, but he waited until He broke the bread. Why?
I believe it teaches this truth: we know Christ best when we know Him in fellowship with other believers. This is one of the reasons God created the Church for us; He wants us to learn and apply His word together. “Breaking bread” is an expression we use for fellowship. By doing this the way He did, Jesus imparted an essential, supernatural priority to fellowship.
Those who want to remove the supernatural even from Scripture rob some of the significance of this moment. Cleopas and Mary did have doubts, but divine power was the reason for their inability to recognize Jesus.
The timing is exact (verse 30: WHEN HE WAS AT THE TABLE WITH THEM, HE TOOK BREAD, GAVE THANKS, BROKE IT AND BEGAN TO GIVE IT TO THEM.) This was a moment of fellowship. Jesus sat at table with them and shared the bread with them. It was also a moment of worship as Jesus GAVE THANKS for their meal. God was invited to the table.
At that moment, three things happened.
- First, THEIR EYES WERE OPENED. This reminds me of Acts 9:18 where it says SOMETHING LIKE SCALES fell from the eyes of Saul of Tarsus and he could see again. In both cases, this is something done FOR the people involved. God had caused Saul’s blindness and restored it. In a similar way, God caused Cleopas and Mary to not recognize Jesus and then He granted that they should see Him.
- Second, THEY RECOGNIZED HIM. Whatever it was that disguised Jesus ceased at that moment and they were rewarded with the realization that they had been with Jesus the entire time (verse 32).
- Third, HE DISAPPEARED FROM THEIR SIGHT. I’ve seen a video portrayal of this scene where Jesus just got up from the table, walked out the door, and disappeared into the night. That was lazy story-telling or the product of worldly thinking.
The Greek word for DISAPPEARED means “invisible.” This implies Jesus miraculously disappeared from their view. This miracle encouraged and energized these two discouraged disciples. Only something clearly supernatural explains the sudden transformation of Cleopas and Mary from being doubtful and defeated to exuberant witnesses.
Cleopas and Mary demonstrated a faithful response to Jesus’ resolution of their doubts. In verse 32 with the benefit of this new insight, they understood why their hearts burned within them as Jesus had earlier spoken to them about the Scripture. This was a good kind of “heartburn;” a recognition of how wonderful it felt to have Jesus teaching them.
Verses 33-35 show the fearless reaction of these followers. In spite of the lateness of the hour and the darkness outdoors, they retraced their steps back to Jerusalem. They were that eager to share what they’d experienced with Jesus’ disciples. Once they’d arrived, Cleopas and Mary heard that joyous news that the Lord had also appeared to Simon.
It is important for us to note that it was in fellowship with Jesus that His true identity had been revealed to them and then later, they sought out fellowship with other believers to share the joyous news with them. Fellowship is a powerful tool to overcome doubt.
Doubt is resolved when we learn together from God’s word
Scientists tell us when we miss the point it’s actually a sign of our brain working against our will. For instance, you’re looking right at your car keys but you don’t see them. There is an explanation for this familiar and annoying occurrence.
In order to eliminate distractions, our brains create what researchers call “brain bias.” Your brain refuses to recognize things that your eyes can see because your brain has a bias against it.
I could go on, but the point is that we miss the point because we have a bias against it. This is an illustration of how we must choose to look at ourselves and our world with different eyes - the eyes of faith - in order to see the truth.
Just as He helped Cleopas and Mary to see the truth, Jesus will open our eyes to see the truth too. Let us not be numbered among those who have missed the point about Jesus.