Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell
First Sunday after Easter
Based on Luke 24:13-35
The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland
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"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 1.7)
Dear friends in Christ,
This Gospel lesson presents us with an example of the power and fruit of Christ’s resurrection. He proves by word and deed that He was not dead, as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had come to believe. Even before the two knew who Jesus was, His Word was already at work in opening their eyes and giving them faith to believe. They confessed to each other: "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" (vs. 32). Such is the power of the Word and preaching of Christ. May our risen Lord’s words work deeply in us, opening our eyes and strengthening our faith in Jesus.
The very same Jesus, who walked with the disciples on the way to a village called Emmaus, He is here with us through His Word! "Lo, I am with you always," (Matt. 18:20) said our Lord. He is with us just as real and as personally as He was with the disciples. As "He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (vs. 45), my dear friends, this very same Lord is with us to do the same!
Through Word and Sacrament, Jesus continues to come to us and govern the whole Christian Church. He carries on His work through His Word. "His purpose is to show and teach us that the power of His resurrection and dominion will be exercised here on earth, and it will manifest itself in this life only through the Word, and through faith which holds fast to Christ, though it does not see Him." (Luther).
Looking at our text, the two disciples were very sad and dejected. Like many others, they thought that Jesus was the promised messiah, the One that would redeem Israel. Now all their hopes were dashed into pieces, everything seemed lost.
So, as they headed toward Emmaus, the Lord appeared to them. However, they could not recognize Him. He was unknown to them at first. We are told in the Gospel lesson that "Their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him." Nevertheless, Jesus came to them and walked with them. Before their very eyes was the selfsame Christ whom they had so often seen and heard and known full well. Though they could not recognize Him, He was present with them nonetheless! Luther wrote that "It was not [Jesus] who had been changed, nor was it His will to remain unknown to them, but their hearts and thoughts had become estranged and far removed from [Him]."
So, the two men were talking together, talking about all those things which had taken place concerning Jesus' death. And while they were talking and questioning each other, Jesus came along and joined them and began walking beside them. He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Here we learn in our gospel lesson for today how we can count on our Lord to come to our aid when all seems lost in life and we are left feeling sad and downcast. Jesus cares about us. He knows our hearts and He sees through all our thoughts and anxieties. Jesus is always prepared to help us, to comfort and uplift us, just as He did with the two disciples.
Now, Cleopas, one of the two disciples, answered and said to Jesus, "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" (vss. 18-24).
Indeed, the disciples were sad because their beloved Master had been ripped out of their lives. It seemed that their hope for redemption had also almost completely vanished. After all, what could one expect from "Christ crucified", a dead Jesus? Not even the reports of women, who reported that they had seen an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead, not even their report would help Cleopas and his dejected friend.
If I may be very honest with you, and you with me, I wonder if we can see a little of ourselves in these two disciples. We believe in Jesus. Time after time, with the words of the Apostles' Creed, we confess that we believe in God the Father almighty; in Jesus His only Son; and in the Holy Spirit. We believe what we read and hear preached from God’s Word. But there are difficult times in life that we go through. We sometimes feel like the two disciples. Our faith is tested and our hearts waver with anxiety. We ever despair of hope and not even the encouragement of others is of any help. The truth of the matter is that, "sometimes we feel and experience nothing of what we believe and confess. It is as though Jesus were dead, as though what others say of Jesus is pure delusion, as though we had lost Christ and His redemption from our heart. The heart is filled with terrors about sin, death, and hell. O, sure, others have told us, Scripture tells us that Jesus lives, but our hearts feel nothing of it." (Stoeckhardt).
So, how did the Lord help these two men headed for Emmaus? He began by saying unto 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." Before the Lord starts to console the dejected disciples, He carefully rebukes them for their unbelief. These two men, like many others, believed some of the things that had been written by the prophets, such as that the Messiah would come and establish his kingdom; but they did not believe all that had been written. They overlooked the very things that were so essential to this Messiah and his kingdom, namely that this Messiah would suffer and even die for sins of the world. He would face death and God's full wrath in the place of all people, bearing their sins and iniquities. His death would overcome the devil and it would be the death of death. His resurrection is proof of God’s acceptance of his substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection is proof of our own coming resurrections! What the disciples and all people needed was a real Messiah, one that would save them from sin and where His kingdom would reign over the hearts of all men. Many were looking for a Jew Rambo or Arnold Schwarzenegger. They obviously didn’t read ALL of what the prophets had written.
Another lesson we learn from these two disciples is the importance of Scripture. Moses and the prophets certainly wrote concerning Christ, but we learn that it is necessary not only to read the Scriptures, but also to understand what they say. The Bible is a book that must not only be read and preached, but it requires a true interpreter, that is, as Luther writes, the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus abides with us through His Spirit, opening our minds and revealing how He is at the heart of all Scripture. Just as He lovingly and caringly taught these slow of mind disciples, our Lord opens our minds to His Word so that we might understand and know His saving power and grace, and that we would firmly believe in Him.
We, too, dear friends, are slow to understanding Scripture. We possess a sluggish mind because of our Old Adam. Like the disciples, we have our own expectations of Jesus and what we would like for Him to do in our lives. Have we read from Moses and the prophets what we wanted to hear? Do we sometimes find ourselves to be sad and downcast, plagued with problems and difficulties in life that seem overwhelming and more than we can bear? Our Gospel lesson teaches us something about the nature of faith. Faith does not demand a miraculous sign from God; nor does it expect that God would treat us differently than He does those to whom He also gives His Word and Sacraments to. The same Jesus that walked with the two men to Emmaus, He is with us through His Word and Sacraments. The Gospel lesson teaches us that Jesus strengthened the disciples faith even though at first, they didn’t recognize Him. Neither did Jesus use His resurrection as sensational gimmick to “ooh and ahh” them as a means of entertainment. Jesus didn’t take away their problems, neither does He instantly take away all of ours. But one thing is certain, He expounded from Word and in doing so, He opened their minds. In verses 29 to 32 we see how they asked Jesus to remain with them. Later, when they reclined at the table, Jesus "took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight." Our risen Lord meets us in His Word and in His holy supper. In these He takes hold of us, He speaks to us, He strengthens our faith which we need the most. He assures us that He is involved in our lives and orders all things to the glory of His name.
Lastly, we note that the disciples returned to Jerusalem and told others of the risen Lord. Their gloom and sadness, their doubt and thoughts of unbelief were driven away. So it is in the life of every Christian, it goes from sorrow to happiness, from weakness to strength, from doubt to faith, and then from faith to faith, from strength to strength, from joy to joy, from light to light, from certainty to certainty. And whoever has personally experienced in his heart the power of Christ’s resurrection and comfort of redemption, he cannot help but testify to others about it (Steockhardt).
Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Amen.
Pr. Edward Brockwell
The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland
 Philippians 4:7.