The Journey to Joy
April 9, 2023 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Resurrection Day Sermon
Topic: Holy Week Passage: Luke 24:13–35
THE JOURNEY TO JOY
An Exposition of Luke 24:13-35
By Pastor Brian Wilbur
Date: April 9, 2023
Series: Resurrection Sunday
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
THE SCRIPTURAL TEXT
Holy Scripture says:
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some 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.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35)
TWO DISHEARTENED DISCIPLES MEET A STRANGER ON THE ROAD (v. 13-24)
In Luke 24:13-24, two disheartened disciples meet a stranger on the road. It was the day that Jesus rose from the dead. But before the disciples had come to realize that He had risen from the dead, there were two disciples traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus and talking with one another about the events of the last few days. While they were having this discussion along the road, a stranger showed up and accompanied them on the way. We know that the stranger was none other than the risen Lord Jesus, but they didn’t know this: “Jesus himself drew near” (v. 15); “But their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (v. 16). They weren’t expecting to see Him, and even though He was right there in front of them, they didn’t recognize Him. Their failure to see Jesus reveals the problem that Jesus addresses later in the passage.
In Luke 24:3, the women who visited the tomb early in the morning “found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” They saw the empty tomb, but they didn’t see Jesus. In Luke 24:12, “Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves”. Peter “saw the linen cloths”, but he didn’t see Jesus. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus call attention to this point in verse 24: “Some 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.” Other disciples had not seen Jesus, and now these disciples didn’t recognize Jesus even though He was standing in their midst. And yet, this inability to recognize Jesus wasn’t a physical eye problem or a brain processing problem, but a spiritual heart problem – and their spiritual heart problem is the problem that Jesus will address.
But first, Jesus inquired about the conversation the two disciples were having: “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (v. 17) This question caught them off guard: “they stood still, looking sad.” (v. 17) They were sad anyway, but they were stunned that this stranger seemed ignorant of the momentous events of the last few days. After the awkward pause, Cleopas broke the silence and replied with a question of his own: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (v. 18) Years ago I heard a preacher call attention to the irony of Cleopas’ question, for the fact of the matter is that Jesus is the only One who truly did understand the things that had happened in Jerusalem over the last few days. But at this point in the discussion, Jesus seems to them an ignorant stranger. And like a wise master teacher, Jesus asks them another question in order to draw out their understanding: “What things?” (v. 19) Answer: things “[concerning] Jesus of Nazareth”. Their answer unfolds in five parts.
The greatness of Jesus (v. 19)
First, they highlight the greatness of Jesus: “a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (v. 19). In preaching and teaching, as well as in performing miracles and healings, Jesus had favor with God and with the people. God was with Him, and He was well-regarded by scores of ordinary people.
The demise of Jesus (v. 20)
Second, they highlight the violent demise of Jesus: “and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him” (v. 20). This wasn’t how the story was supposed to go, as far as they were concerned. It is this rejection that introduces the tension: here was a mighty prophet who raised our hopes and did so much good, and yet our leaders saw fit to snuff out his life.
Their own shattered hope (v. 21)
Third, they call attention to their own shattered hope: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21). They had hoped that Jesus was the one who would deliver Israel from her enemies, “build up the ancient ruins” (Isaiah 61:4), restore her former glories, and cause Israel to shine brightly on the world stage. But the death of Jesus seemed incompatible with the hoped-for redemption. After all, a man’s death typically represents the end of that man’s plans (see Psalm 146:3-4). A man’s plans die with the man – or so it would seem.
The women’s report (v. 21-23)
However, the disciples’ are experiencing consternation not only because Jesus’ death threw their hope down to the ground, but also because some of the female disciples reported amazing things earlier in the day. So the fourth consideration is the women’s report: “Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.” (v. 21-23) These women testified what they had seen and heard. They had seen an empty tomb and two dazzling angels (Luke 24:1-4), and they had heard the angelic proclamation: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:5-7)
Other disciples confirmed the women’s report about the empty tomb (v. 24)
Fifth, other disciples confirmed the women’s report about the empty tomb: “Some 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.” (v. 24) And there’s the rub: “but him they did not see.” Seeing Him would make all the difference – or would it? These two disciples have seen Him for the last 15 minutes running, but how beneficial is it to see Him if you don’t recognize Him?
Now everything that the two disciples articulated in verses 19-24 is correct. They have honestly reported the data – the facts – but they don’t know how the data fits together. They don’t know how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. When you don’t know how the pieces fit together, you don’t have the right expectations. And when you don’t have the right expectations, you are vulnerable to having your hope shattered. These two confused, sad-faced, and disheartened disciples will go around in endless circles of unresolved discussion unless Jesus intervenes.
THE STRANGER NURSES THESE DISCIPLES TO HEALTH (v. 25-31)
And Jesus does intervene, but we must remember that the two disciples still don’t know that it is Jesus who is with them. So, in Luke 24:25-31, the stranger nurses the two disheartened disciples to health.
How does Jesus nurse these two disheartened disciples to health? Not by coddling them! Not by sympathizing with them! Not by treating them like victims! Not by telling them that their confusion is understandable! Instead, Jesus reproves them and instructs them. Specifically, Jesus reproves them for not believing the Scriptures, and then He teaches them the Scriptures.
In our sentimental age, we underestimate how much of our confusion and discouragement is the direct result of our own foolish and unbelieving hearts. Foolish and unbelieving hearts don’t need to be coddled; they need to be exposed, corrected, and healed.
Jesus reproves the two disciples
So, Jesus began His ministry of spiritual healing for these two disheartened disciples by drawing out their thoughts and perspectives (in v. 17-24). Having done that, now He reproves them:
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (v. 25-26)
What was the root problem of these two disheartened disciples? It certainly wasn’t their physical inability to recognize Jesus. Their root problem was spiritual and theological. Spiritually, they were foolish and slow of heart to believe the totality of God’s Word revealed through the prophets. The heart of wisdom is to trust God and embrace His perspective on all things. Such wisdom can only be attained by eagerly studying the Scriptures and believing all that Scripture says. But if you have a dull heart, then you will also have a thick skull.
The spiritual problem of a dull heart that is slow to believe God’s Word will always lead to a theological problem. If God’s Word, rightly understood, isn’t informing your mind, then something else will be. Either God’s Word will generate clarity in your mind, or a hodgepodge of other things will generate confusion in your mind. This great divide between clarity and confusion is not about intellectual ability, but spiritual teachability to receive and trust God’s Word. If these two disheartened disciples had believed “all that the prophets [had] spoken”, then they would have known that it was “necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And if they had known this, then they would not have been disheartened by the events of the last few days. Instead, they would have been overjoyed that the words of the prophets were being fulfilled before their very eyes. But their spiritual problem (“slow of heart to believe”) led to a theological problem (they didn’t realize that the Messiah had to suffer), which in turn compounded their spiritual problem because when the Messiah did suffer contrary to their deficient doctrine, they got dejected and sad.
The path to their deep discouragement is not difficult to trace: immature faith --> bad theology --> wrong expectations --> shattered hope. How many people go down this path and, at the end of it, simply walk away – they walk away from the Lord, they walk away from the Bible, and they walk away from the church. Every single one of us should take heed: an immature and ill-formed faith will travel the path of bad theology and wrong expectations, and will end up in the ditch of shattered hope. The odds are that in a gathering of 150 people, some of you are down that path. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do something about it. It is no wonder that the apostle Paul placed so much emphasis on sound faith tethered to sound teaching: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught” (Colossians 2:6-7, italics added).
Jesus instructs the two disciples
By God’s grace, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not walk away, because the Lord restored them. After reproving them for not understanding and believing “all that the prophets [had] spoken”, Jesus then took a big chunk of time to carefully explain the Scriptures. It must have been a remarkable sermon: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (v. 27) In light of verse 26, Jesus must have been especially focused on explaining from the Old Testament that the Messiah’s suffering was foretold and that the Messiah’s suffering had to come first, before the Messiah’s exaltation and glory. The Lord took them on a journey from one passage to the next, showing them how the Old Testament pointed to Him. The sermon might have echoed some or all of the following:
The Messiah is the Seed of the Woman: He bruised the serpent’s head, but in the process His own heel was bruised (Genesis 3:15). He is the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of Isaac, the true Israel who must sojourn in Egypt before He inherits the promises: “out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1). He is the Passover Lamb, whose blood must be shed in order to save the people from death (Exodus 12). He is the Son of David, the Righteous Sufferer, whose life is depicted beforehand in the psalms: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:2); “how many are my foes” (Psalm 3:1); “I am… scorned by mankind and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6); “The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me” (Psalm 18:4-5); “they divide my garments… and for my clothing cast lots” (Psalm 22:18). And yet, the psalms also foretold the glory that would follow the suffering: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10); “O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 30:3); “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22). He is the Suffering Servant who is “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5), and yet He lives again to enjoy the fruit of His suffering (see Isaiah 53:10-11). Like the prophet Jonah, He must descend into the depths for three days before rising again to bear the message of salvation to the world (Jonah 2-3). He is Yahweh, the One pierced by His people (Zechariah 12:10). And yet, He is the Shepherd who is struck by the sword of Yahweh (Zechariah 13:7).
This is just a brief sampling from “Moses and all the prophets”, but it represents the storyline of the Old Testament. Wise ones who were earnest to believe all that the prophets had spoken would have understood that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then to enter into His glory. But who was wise? Who had understanding? Who was eager to lay hold of all that God has revealed?
As Jesus was preaching the Scriptures to these two disciples, something profound was happening in their hearts. In verse 32 they reflect back on what they were experiencing during the sermon: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Their dull and foolish hearts had been kindled, ignited, lit up, energized and made aglow by the preaching of the Scriptures. The lights went on: their foolish hearts learned wisdom, their dull hearts saw and believed. They were fast becoming new men with renewed hope, all because of the Scriptural instruction they received from someone they still regarded as a stranger. But their hearts were now enthralled with this stranger, and they wanted more interaction with Him.
Jesus stayed with them
As it happened, the Lord’s sermon concluded about the time that the men were reaching their destination:
“So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went it to stay with them.” (v. 28-29).
Wise teachers know that it is better to take your leave and have your students urge you to stay longer, than to crash the party and have your students urge you to leave. These students wanted their teacher to stay with them, not only because it was late in the day, but because their hearts had been profoundly stirred up by His teaching.
Once they got to the house where they were staying, a remarkable thing happened. They sat down at the table, and the stranger assumed the role of host: “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” (v. 30) For readers of Luke’s Gospel, this sounds familiar. This is what happened when Jesus fed the five thousand: “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” (Luke 9:16) And this is what happened when Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them” (Luke 22:19). Whether or not Cleopas and his unnamed fellow disciple were present at either of these earlier meals or had heard about them, doesn’t really matter a whole lot. What does matter is that it is Jesus’ way to reveal Himself – His plentiful provision and sacrificial love – through the taking and blessing and breaking and giving of bread. He is, after all, the bread of life – the true bread of heaven – who gave His body for the life of the world (see John 6:47-51). Therefore, by God’s perfect design, it was at this very moment when the two disciples’ eyes were opened: “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” (v. 31) What a breathtaking moment! The One who had been with them these last couple of hours – the One who had walked with them and taught them and given them bread – was the Lord whom they loved.
Now if they had been in charge of the rest of the evening, they would have lingered in the Lord’s presence for a quite a while. But it was not to be. We don’t know exactly how long Jesus remained with them after they recognized Him, but it wasn’t long. It might have been 5 seconds or it might have been 50 seconds, but it wasn’t long: “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.” (v. 31) After being mysteriously present with them for a few hours, He quickly and mysteriously “vanished from their sight”. In forty days He would ascend into heaven and be physically inaccessible to His followers. Preparation for that day had to begin immediately.
THE RENEWED DISCIPLES RETURN TO JERUSALEM (v. 32-35)
While the presence of Jesus had profoundly changed the course of the conversation during the previous few hours, now the vanishing of Jesus profoundly changed their plans for the rest of the evening. Sad and disheartened people often like to take their broken hearts away from the larger group and suffer quietly into the night. But their disheartened sadness evaporated in the sunshine of divine grace. Freshly encouraged people like to take their renewed hearts back to the larger group in order to share their joy with others. Little did they know that the larger group also had joy to share with them.
After calling attention to the fact that their hearts had burned within them while the Lord opened the Scriptures to them (v. 32), they decided they would immediately return to Jerusalem: “And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.” (v. 33) If the seven-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus had taken about two-and-a-half hours, I wouldn’t be surprised if the return walk from Emmaus to Jerusalem took only 90 minutes. The downcast walk slower, but the uplifted quicken their pace. They were eager to reconnect with their company of fellow disciples: “And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together” (v. 33). Remarkably, this large company of disciples had also discovered the joy that the Lord has risen, for they were saying: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (v. 34) The whole band of disciples was testifying to the truth of the resurrection. And now the two disciples who had returned from Emmaus added their testimony: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (v. 35) Several hours earlier, the two disciples had been discouraged and apart from the group. Now the whole group was back together and sharing together in the joy that the Lord is risen. This was the turning point that set the stage for the rest of their lives.
APPLICATION OF THE PASSAGE
This passage is rich with application. I want to unfold some application for in three parts.
Points of connection between their heartache and our heartache
Let me begin by highlighting three points of connection between the heartache, sadness, and shattered hope of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the heartache, sadness, and shattered hope that we might experience. Their heartache was unique in that they were attempting to sort things out over the course of those three critical days when Jesus died and rose again. Our heartaches will have their own unique features. But all heartache, sadness, and shattered hope is profoundly interconnected.
First, all heartache, sadness, and shattered hope relates to the fact that we live in a world characterized by sin and death. If you could take sin and the effects of sin out of the picture, and if you could take death and everything that leads to it out of the picture, you would have a perfect world in which you could enjoy life forever. Every problem that we face relates, directly or indirectly, to the bitter presence of sin and death. And what we need to understand is that Jesus came to address that problem: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3), and by His resurrection He “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Every heartache will find its ultimate resolution in Christ’s victory over sin and death.
Second, remember that much heartache, sadness, and shattered hope relates to our deficient faith, leading to bad theology and faulty expectations, which then sets us up for huge disappointment. The disciples on the Emmaus Road wanted Israel to be redeemed from the power of Rome, but did they want themselves to be redeemed from the power of sin?
Third, remember that in this fallen world, God has appointed seasons of heartache and suffering as the pathway to seasons of blessing and prosperity. Israel had to suffer affliction in Egypt. The generation of Israelites that entered the promised land had to come of age in the wilderness. Job lost almost everything and was pushed to the edge of sanity, but in the end he got a clearer sight of God’s glory, which is the greatest treasure. David, before he ascended the throne, had to live as an outlaw from King Saul. David, after he had been on the throne for many years, had to go on the run to escape the plot against him from his very own son Absalom. The signs and wonders that were done through Daniel and his three friends in Babylon, were done in the context of a foreign land where they had been deported after Judah was struck by Babylon. After the Lord apprehended Paul on the Damascus Road, the Lord told Ananias, “I will show him [Paul] how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:16)
Remember David and other psalmists pour out their grief in the psalms. Remember the barren women. Remember the depression that befell Elijah after he had won a great victory. Remember the honest doubt that John the Baptist had late in his life. Remember that the prophet Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth – and so did Job. Remember that Paul and Timothy “were so utterly burdened beyond [their] strength that [they] despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). They were afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Maybe you come to church and you think that everyone else has it all together, everyone else is flourishing on all cylinders every day, everyone else has a wise and eager-to-believe heart all the time, everyone else’s life is problem-free, everyone else is just a beautiful picture of spiritual repose in the promises of God, and you’re the solitary outlier who is messed up and falling apart. No, you’re not. We are, in fact, a company of struggling and suffering souls. We open up the Scriptures, even as our Lord opened up the Scriptures on the road to Emmaus, not to put more information on your brain’s memory card. The Scriptures are opened up so that they might cascade over our struggling and suffering hearts, and bring life, encouragement, and hope.
The pathway to spiritual healing is through the ministries of Word and Table
Next, I want you to see that the pathway to spiritual healing is through the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the Table. This jumps out of the passage. In verse 17, the two disciples are sad. But in verses 32-35, their hearts have been kindled with joy. This journey from sadness to joy is centered on Jesus. In verse 16 they didn’t recognize Him. But in verse 31 “they recognized him”. So the question to ask is: what happened in between the time that they were sad and blind, and the time that they saw and filled up with joy? The answer is clear: the ministry of the Word (v. 25-27) and the ministry of the Table (v. 30).
The ministry of the Word
Jesus’ ministry incognito to the two disciples is a huge gift to us. For if they had recognized Jesus the whole time, we would be tempted to think that their seeing Jesus face-to-face is what made all the difference. But it didn’t. God didn’t will for these two disciples to immediately recognize Jesus. Instead, God willed for them to see the risen Jesus only after they had gotten their Old Testament Messianic theology straightened out. Beware of all the people out there today who talk of following Jesus but who dismiss the Scriptures. Beware of all the people out there today who talk of honoring Jesus but who denigrate biblical doctrine. God doesn’t will for us to comprehend Jesus apart from the Scriptures, but through the Scriptures. What Jesus does in verse 27 sets the stage for all subsequent Christian preaching: we proclaim “all the Scriptures” with a special eye on how Christ fulfills the Scriptures. I’m all for giving hugs and practical helps to sad and disheartened people. But what sad and disheartened people need most of all is a true glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Scriptures. The disciples’ foolish and slow to believe hearts began to burn when Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. You don’t have the option of seeing Jesus face-to-face right now. That beatific vision awaits that glorious day when our Lord returns. But now, at this present time, you can see the glory of Jesus radiating off the words of Holy Scripture.
The ministry of the Table
But the ministry of the Word wasn’t the only ministry that Jesus brought to His two struggling disciples. Jesus also brought the ministry of the Table. In fact, “their eyes were opened” (v. 31) in conjunction with Jesus taking, blessing, breaking, and giving the bread to them. Verse 35 concludes that “he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
The ministry of the Table in verse 30 legitimately points in two directions. The ministry of the Table points to the symbolic meal of the Lord’s Supper, when we eat the bread and drink the cup in order to remember our Lord’s sacrifice. In this sense, verses 25-30 encourage us to the twofold ministry of Word and Table, Scripture and sacrament, orderly instruction and holy ordinances. While verse 30 points to the Lord’s Supper, I don’t think that it only points to the Lord’s Supper.
As an ordinary meal with bread at the end of the day after a long walk and intense conversation, “the breaking of the bread” also points to table fellowship in general. It is characteristic of Christians to share meals together, practice hospitality, make room for each other, and serve each other in kitchens and around dining room tables. Such hospitality and sharing are expressions of our love for one another and the fellowship that we share together in Christ. So, verse 30 highlights the value of continuing our fellowship after the formal instruction has come to an end. Much spiritual good is done to our hearts when we carry on meaningful conversations over dinner, and when we embody love practically and share what we have with each other.
The church’s ministry: Word proclamation and Table fellowship
The ministry of Word proclamation and the ministry of Table fellowship, exampled by our Lord in verses 25-30, is the ministry of the church. This is our commission and central calling. There are a hundred other practical fruits that overflow for the good of others, but these two things must always be central. We are a community of disciples gathered together in love around Jesus and His Word, and His Word corrects us, instructs us, and trains us in righteousness. This instruction matures our faith and sustains a community of disciples who truly love one another. Jesus shines brightly in both the Scriptural exposition and in the practical demonstration of love.
Don’t turn the ministry of the church into something that is complicated. It isn’t. In recent membership interviews that the Elders have conducted, I’ve had the opportunity to hear at least two different people say that this church is characterized by faithful teaching and by a compelling fellowship of people. Before the Good Friday Service, Brian came up to me and he prayed and he told me that his life has been profoundly transformed this past year by the Scriptures, as he has heard faithful teaching here and also as he has engaged with the Scriptures in his own private devotions. The Scriptures are causing his heart to burn within him. At our Home Group this past Wednesday, Dane led our group in a celebration of a Passover Seder meal. God doesn’t intend for us to only engage with His words at the conceptual level, but He wants us to internalize them even through sight and touch and taste. The ministry of Table fellowship, whether we’re talking about the Lord’s Supper or a Seder meal or an Easter meal that many of you will enjoy later today, means that God wants our well-instructed faith to be embodied in loving relationships with one another.
The church is a fellowship of joy in the risen Lord
Finally, I want us to catch something of a vision for what it means for the church to be a fellowship of joy in the risen Lord. In Luke 24:33-35, the company of disciples is full of joy, because they now know that “[the] Lord has risen indeed”.
When I was in seminary, I read some books by a theological scholar named Jaroslav Pelikan. Years later I came across a quote from this man. Pelikan said, “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen, nothing else matters.” Now this isn’t the sort of comment you make about most things. You only make a comment like this about something that is so significant that if it happened it changes everything and if it didn’t happen, we’re still in deep trouble.
The resurrection of Jesus is of utmost significance. If Christ is not risen, then we are still dead in our sins, the world is still an unresolvable mess, death is coming for us all, and everything we do is a complete waste of time.
But Christ is risen. And since Christ is risen, our sin has been atoned for, our guilt has been removed, death has been defeated, hope for the future has been secured, and our mission is clear: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47) This task of global proclamation – which includes local proclamation – is not a cakewalk. We are called into this pattern of sharing in the sufferings of Christ now (Romans 8:17, Philippians 3:10), knowing that one day we will share in His resurrection glory (Romans 8:17, Philippians 3:11). And so, in the midst of this suffering world, with affliction and persecution and opposition and weakness, we need the strength of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10) and the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49) to sustain us as we follow Jesus and carry out His mission.
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