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All the Prophets have Spoken - Luke 24:13-35

St John’s, Sunday 7 April 2024

Introduction

The period in the church year, from the cross to Pentecost, is one of the most intriguing, exhilarating, moving, and inspiring parts of the biblical story.

For two reasons:

  • First, it is a crucial hinge point in the biblical narrative – that between Jesus’ earthly ministry and the mission of the church – and so it naturally invites reflection on the Bible’s big-picture story.

  • Second, it’s the story of the disciples’ radical transformation from quivering wrecks into the confident overseers of the early church. This human, personal, hope-filled story of tragedy to triumph is easy for us to identify with, so it draws us in.

The resurrection stories, especially in Luke and John, describe some intimately personal transformational encounters the disciples had with the risen Jesus, through which their perspectives were radically changed.


It’s all about perspective; perspective matters; our perspective changes how we see things. The Road to Emmaus is a story of a perspective shift. Jesus shifted Cleopas and his companion’s perspectives in at least three ways, consequently changing their lives.


The Road to Emmaus is a beautiful story. Tom Wright says,

If the story of the prodigal son is the finest story Jesus ever told, the tale of the two on the Road to Emmaus is the finest scene Luke ever sketched.

Luke tells this story in a way that helps us live it ourselves. This morning, we will try to live in this story ourselves and connect with the three perspective shifts of Cleopas and his companion.


Right from the start, perspective shift was at the heart of what Jesus was all about—his purpose was to call people to repentance and belief…


We often think of the word translated repentance as meaning “behaviour change.” It does, but also much more…it also means a change of mindset and heart…Jesus’ purpose was to shift perspective, leading to a radical new way of seeing everything…


Perspective Shift 1: Who Jesus is and What He Achieved

Jesus’ followers entered Jerusalem with false expectations…Cleopas and his companion said…

…we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel (21)

The word “Redemption” is a reference to the Exodus – they expected that Jesus would lead a new Exodus – a redemption from slavery and suffering at the hands of their pagan Roman oppressors.


The crucifixion, therefore, was devastating…Jesus, the bearer of their hopes, was now dead and gone; Jesus should have been defeating the pagans, not dying at their hands. They could not make sense of it. The question is, “Can we?”


We can only imagine what they were feeling; this passage gives a hint. When Jesus met them on the road,

“They stood still, their faces downcast.”

After the cross, Jesus’ followers were filled with:

  • Grief

  • Disappointment

  • Despair

  • Anxiety

  • Despondency

  • Failure

  • Guilt

  • Shame

Add your negative emotion…they were feeling it! That’s why these resurrection stories are so powerful, because we can identify with what the disciples were going through.


But mixed into all this was this mysterious and hopeful perplexity due to the women finding the empty tomb.


In their despondency, Jesus rebukes them…

“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all…the prophets have spoken!

The word “foolish” is a bit harsh in this translation – I don’t think Jesus would ever call one of his followers a fool in how we understand that Word. When Jesus rebukes, his motivation is always compassion – he wanted to turn their despair into hope. Here’s a more literal translation:

How dull you are in perceiving what the prophets were really saying about all these events, and how slow to respond in your hearts.

Jesus continued…

Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”…

How Cleopas and his companion would answer this rhetorical question differed before and after the perception shift, they experienced.

  • Before the shift, they were saying: “They crucified him, but we had hoped he would redeem Israel.”

  • After, they were saying: “They crucified him, and that was how he redeemed Israel…”

Tom Wright says,

 Like everybody else, they had been reading the Bible through the wrong end of the telescope. They had seen it as the long story of how God would redeem Israel from suffering. But, it was actually the story of how God would redeem Israel through suffering…

The crisis of the cross was actually the triumph…


But to get them to this point, Jesus retold the whole story…

Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Jesus showed Cleopas and his companion again how the biblical narrative, starting with Genesis, points to him; the whole story of God, creation, and Israel is fulfilled in him. We can only fully understand Jesus, who he is, and what he did when we know him within the context of this story…


It is sooooo important to understand it…


When we understand God’s plans and purposes for the earth, we can find our place in it – its this big story that is part of the foundation for Christian life. Our lives are like unfolding stories, but when our stories become intertwined with God’s story, the trajectory of our lives change…God’s story gives the stories of our lives, however messy, meaning, significance, and purpose—which deep down, we all crave.


So essential to study this… two books that can help:

  • God’s Big Picture, Vaughan Roberts

  • The Drama of Scripture, Craig Bartholomew

Both are available on Amazon.


Explaining the scriptures to shift the disciples’ perspective on the crucifixion and what Jesus achieved, there was a feature of the post-resurrection encounters…three times in Luke 24 (vs. 7, 26-27, 44-47) and again in Acts 1:3, this happens… Somehow, in their weakened state, Jesus’ followers were ready for their perspectives on scripture to be changed.


So, what did Jesus say to them?


The book, The Drama of Scripture, divides the big-picture biblical story into six acts, like a Shakesperean play. This is based on a scheme developed by biblical scholar, Tom Wright. Here is a brief overview of these five acts.

Act 1 – Creation – God’s original design

  • God was there in the beginning before all else

  • God made the heavens and the earth as a dwelling place for him and with people. Humans were created in his image.

  • Humans’ most fundamental needs—significance, belonging, and purpose—are met through their relationship with God.

  • God called them to multiply and continue his creative work.

Act 2 – The Fall

  • Temptation – Adam/Eve made the choice to live independently from God, to make their own choices about right/wrong, truth/untruth in response to temptation by the snake.

  • Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden – brokenness entered the world – broken relationship with God, each other, and with the earth

  • Even in the casting out, there was a promise – the seed of the woman would suffer but crush Satan

Act 3 – Redemption Initiated – Promises were made to God’s people:

  • Abraham – through his seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed

  • Exodus – God redeemed the people from slavery in Egypt – the critical moment was the killing of the firstborns, Israelites protected by the blood of the Passover lamb – the lamb died in their place – pattern for what Jesus would do

  • Promised Land – part of their Redemption as a free people

  • King – God gave the people a king to represent God to them – promise to David that a descendent of his would be a king who would reign forever

  • Exile – due to unfaithfulness

  • The prophets spoke of an end to exile and that God would raise up from among them a messiah who would effect a final redemption—a suffering servant.

Act 4 – Redemption Accomplished

All the promises to Israel were fulfilled in Jesus, the Messiah…

  • Jesus was the new Adam - who would reverse the effects of the fall

  • Jesus was the heir of Abraham through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed

  • Jesus was King David’s descendent who would become the eternal king who would reign over the whole of creation

  • Jesus radically redefined the kingdom expectations of the Jews and the definition of the people of God around himself

  • Jesus would effect this Redemption through the cross (taking upon himself all that stood between God and us – our guilt, shame, and pain) so that our relationships with God, each other, and the earth can be restored

Act 5 – The Mission of the Church

  • Jesus would die, rise, ascend, and send the Spirit to equip and empower his followers to continue his mission and ministry.

  • Jesus would continue his earthly ministry through his redeemed people – calling and inviting others to experience Redemption through repentance and belief.

Act 6 – Redemption Completed

  • One day, Jesus will come again, heavens and earth will be brought together, the dead will rise, and God will dwell again with his people.

That’s the big story…and this sets Cleopas and his companion up for what happens next.

Perspective Shift 2: Recognising the Risen Jesus amid their despair

It’s funny how they didn’t recognise Jesus to begin with…


Cleopas and his companion were on a seven-mile walk to Emmaus. Along the journey, Jesus joined them and retold God’s story… At the end, in the intimacy of their home he had a meal with them, and something amazing happened.


Jesus broke bread, and as he did this,

their eyes were opened, and they recognised him

At that moment, in Jesus's presence, the penny dropped. All that Jesus had said on their walk changed from information to transformation. What Jesus had shared changed from head knowledge to personal revelation for Cleopas and his companion…All the negative emotions they had been experiencing started to disappear…instead, they were filled with hope.


It’s interesting how a meal was the place this happened…


The story of the world’s brokenness began at a meal—Adam and Eve eating the apple in the presence of Satan; the story of their Redemption was understood at a meal in the presence of Jesus. This is why we share Holy Communion.


It wasn’t just what Jesus said to them on the Road to Emmaus; something about the physicality of the journey and their meal in their home at the end and the relational dynamic they made possible aided their perception shift…


We Western Christians so often reduce our Christianity to filling our heads with knowledge. However, the truth is not an idea; it’s a person: Jesus. The point of the Bible is to bring us into a relationship with Jesus.


That’s why the risen Jesus didn’t just talk about scripture; he promised the Spirit. Jesus promised to be with his disciples always; the Spirit would be how he would do that. The Spirit’s presence and activity reveal the reality of the person of Jesus and all that the Bible says about him. You can’t have the Word without the Spirit or the Spirit without the Word.


The Spirit is how Jesus would continue his mission and ministry through his followers; the Christian life without the Spirit is unthinkable.


It’s said that churches that just do Word dry up


Churches that just do the Spirit blow up


Churches that do both, grow up


The question for us is, if Jesus is present with us, do we recognise his presence amid the messiness of our lives?

Perspective Shift 3: What it meant for them.

After Jesus disappeared, they said,

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The risen Jesus told his followers what would happen next; he would ascend, but before he ascended, he commissioned them as his witnesses and promised them the Spirit. And this together made their hearts burn because they began to understand their place in the big story.


Have you ever had that experience; your heart burns as you draw close to God?


I love spending time with people who talk about God, who have known the transformative work of Jesus in their own lives, and who are living it…as you talk with them, you get a sense of what God is doing in them, in you, and will continue doing—it’s this that makes your heart burn. So often, this type of conversation happens on a walk or while eating a meal.


We don’t get to eat a meal with the physical Jesus like Cleopas and his friend did. But we can encounter Jesus in each other…as we talk, build relationships, and pray for and lay hands on one another. Community and relationships are essential. We grow as Christians in the context of relationships. The most powerful way to lead is through relationships. But building relationships takes time and energy. Who might Jesus be inviting you and me to build close relationships with?


Why don’t you arrange to walk or have a meal with someone from church and ask them what God has been doing in their lives?

Response

Are you ready for a perspective shift?


Maybe for you, it's about making an effort to understand the Bible better—the story that runs through it—maybe by reading one of the books recommended above.


Maybe you need to shift your perspective on your own challenging situation so you can recognise Jesus's presence with you and understand how he is working.


Maybe your heart has been burning with a sense of God at work and him calling and envisioning you with something…if this is the case, why don’t you tell someone about it?


Maybe you have never known Jesus. Here is a prayer you can pray to turn to him.


Lord Jesus Christ,

I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. Please forgive me, I now turn from everything which I know to be wrong.

Thank You that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free.

Thank You that You offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your Spirit. I now receive that gift.

Please come into my life by Your Spirit to be with me forever.

Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Amen


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