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April 23, 2017

Sermon Luke 24:13-27 . . . “People to meet in heaven:  Cleopas”

“People to meet in heaven:  Cleopas”

Luke 24:13-27

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

On Friday, January 12, 2007, a little before eight o’clock in the morning, in a subway station in downtown Washington D.C., a forty-something year-old man wearing jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap took out his violin from its case.  Then he laid the case at his feet, threw in a few dollars and some pocket change as seed money, turned to face the passersby, and began to play.

The man’s name?  Joshua Bell.

Who’s he?  He’s one the greatest and most famous violinists ever, of whom the New York Times once said, “Joshua Bell stands in no one’s shadow when it comes to playing the violin.”  So why would he play in some subway?

It was all part of an experiment by The Washington Post.  You see, they wondered what would happen if you took an exceptionally gifted, world-renowned, concert musician with a three hundred year-old, $3.5 million Stradivarius and stood him up next to a trash bin.  Would anyone notice?

The first of his six pieces was called, “Chaconne,” written by none other than Johann Sebastian Bach, what Bell called, “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history…emotionally and structurally perfect.”  Of that piece, even Brahms once said, “If I had even conceived the piece…it would have driven me out of my mind.”

So, did anyone notice?  Not really.  A local waiter tried to listen, but he was on the job and the glass doors separating them weren’t always open.  A number of people stood waiting in the Lotto line, but cared more about buying a winning ticket.  A few children wanted to listen, but their parents quickly pulled them alongside.

And for his 43 minutes of incredible, beautiful, world-class music, what did he get?  $32.17.  Here he was, the gifted, the talented, the world-renowned Joshua Bell, playing in a subway, and no one noticed.

“Actually,” Bell said with a laugh, “$32.17 isn’t so bad, considering.  That’s 40 bucks an hour.  I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn’t have to pay an agent.”

So it was for our Savior Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Please turn in your Bible to page 1125, as I read the words of our text.  I’ll start at chapter 24, verse 13:  “That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles form Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.  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.  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?’”

“That very day,” it says.  What day?  The first day.  Easter Day.  The very day Jesus rose from the dead.  He had been crucified on Friday, He laid in the grave all day Saturday, then triumphantly arose on Easter Day.

Then it says, “That very day two of them…”  Two of whom?  Believers.  Disciples.  Followers of Jesus.

If you would, glance up at verse 9 for just a moment, because it’s rather important.  It says, “And returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.”

You see, just as soon as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James heard the news that Jesus was risen from the dead, they ran to tell the disciples all the things the angels said.

But notice those words at the end of verse 9, “They told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.”

You see, it wasn’t only twelve men who followed Jesus.  As His ministry began, He sent out the seventy-two.  In Acts chapter 1, there were a hundred and twenty.  And Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “After He rose, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”

There weren’t just twelve disciples.  There were many men (and women!) who followed Jesus!

And as these two walked along the road, heading back to their small, small town, verse 14, “They were talking with each other about all these things that had happened,” about Jesus, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified.

And as they walked along, as disappointed, depressed, disillusioned and discouraged as anyone could be, who should suddenly walk with them, but Jesus!  But, as it says in verse 16, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.”

Verse 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.”

It’s no wonder they looked sad!  It’s been said that the longest walk you’ll ever take is to walk away from the grave of someone you love.  To walk away and feel as if your world has come to an end, to think about what used to be, and what might have been, to know that life will never be the same.

Then in verse 18, we get a name.  “Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered Him…”

Cleopas.  That’s interesting.  Who could he possibly be?

Now we can’t be completely sure, but we have a pretty good guess.  If it’s the same Cleopas as we find in John chapter 19, then he’s the brother of Joseph and the uncle of Jesus Christ.

And that means that he knew Him.  He was related to Him.  He loved Him.  And that’s why he was so sad.

Can you fathom the depth of his sadness?  Verse 20:  “How our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.  But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.”

We had hoped, he said.  We had waited.  We had prayed.  But now our Lord, our Master, our Savior, is dead and gone.

Then verse 25:  “And He said to 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?’  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Then with deep compassion and insight, Jesus wove a picture, not of conquering Messiah, but of a suffering Savior who bore the sins of all the world.

“You remember the words of Genesis, don’t you?  Just as soon as Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, the Father promised that Messiah would come.  ‘He will crush your head,’ He said to the serpent, ‘but you will crush His heel.’  So began the centuries-long struggle between good and evil, life and death.

“You remember when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, only to get him back again, or Joseph who saved his brothers even when they tried to destroy him, or the Israelites who escaped from Egypt by the blood of the Passover Lamb?  And remember how Moses lifted up a serpent on a pole in the wilderness and said, ‘Everyone who looks on it will live’?  All these were a mere shadow of the Christ who was to come.

“Just as the prophets promised, He was born of a virgin in a little town called Bethlehem.  His name was Immanuel, God with us.  Isaiah wrote, ‘Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.’  And David wrote in the book of Psalms:  ‘Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and feet…they divide my garments and cast lots for my clothes.”

That’s when it hit them like a ton of bricks.  Jesus was the Passover Lamb of Exodus, the Sheep led to its slaughter, and the Branch of righteousness.  Just as He said while He was with us, He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

“Now we get it,” they said.  “Now it all makes sense.  Jesus is the One God promised would come.  That’s what He said when He was with us:  ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinners.  He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

And as they sat down to break bread in that dusty, little town, that mysterious Stranger who opened Scripture to them, took bread and gave thanks.  And as He did, something caught their eye.  His hands were rough and calloused, far different than what they would expect from a Man of such great wisdom and intellect, and each bore a jagged wound as if a nail had been driven through.  And in His eyes they saw a sparkle, one that had seen somewhere before.  Could it be?  No, it couldn’t.  Yes, it is.  It’s Jesus, risen from the dead!

Like those two disciples of old, we too live somewhere between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  We walk together along that long, lonely Emmaus Road.  There are times when we feel discouraged and doubt creeps into our minds.  All hope, it seems, is gone.

But that’s when Jesus comes to us and says, “No, you’re not alone.  You never were alone.  For when you thought I couldn’t be any farther away, I was with you every step of the way.”

Have you been rejected by those who should love you?  So was Jesus.  The people He came to save demanded His crucifixion.  Have you been tormented by those who are closest to you?  So was Jesus.  His own people plotted His death.  One of His own disciples betrayed Him with a kiss.  The ones Jesus loved beat Him, crowned Him with thorns and nailed Him to a cross.  Have you felt forsaken?  Then hear Jesus cry, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

All this He suffered to be our Redeemer, Savior and Friend.

Dorothy Sayers was a mystery writer, born in the late 1800s.  She authored some twelve different novels such as, Five Red Herrings, Hangman’s Holiday and Murder Must Advertise.  She died in England in 1957.

And in her novels, her main character was a detective named Lord Peter Wimsey.

Now I’m no expert, but scholars believe that, even though he was a fictional character, she fell in love with him.  That’s why she created a new character called Harriet Vane.

You see in her books, Harriet Vane was awarded a degree from Oxford, just like Dorothy, and she wrote detective fiction, just like Dorothy.

So you see what happened.  First Dorothy created Lord Peter Wimsey, then she wrote herself into the story to fall in love with him and then to marry him.

Our God too is the great Author of our lives.  And He loved sinners so much, He stepped into our story.

As it says in Micah chapter 7:  “Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives transgression?  You do not stay angry forever, but delight in unchanging love.”

 

Dear Lord, when we sometimes walk that Emmaus road, we pray that You will walk with us.  Open Your Word that our hearts may burn.  And help us to know that as You are with us, we are safe.  This we ask in Your name.  Amen

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