A sermon based on Luke 24:27-35
Saturday, December 31st, 2016 and Sunday, January 1st, 2017
"Where are we going?" Jack asked his wife.
"You'll see," she replied.
Jack was riding in the passenger seat, but had no idea where they were or where they were headed. His wife had him blindfolded. Before long she parked the car and opened his door for him. And taking him by the hand, she said, "Just trust me. Follow me."
Jack was carefully led up a step or two and heard his wife knock on the door. He was led inside, where she finally took off the blindfold.
"Surprise!" came the shout from the living room in which he was standing, "Happy Birthday, Jack!" cried all his family and friends, gathered to celebrate another decade of Jack's life. And Jack couldn't have been happier. His heart was full.
In a sense, something similar took place on the Road to Emmaus one Sunday afternoon. Two of Jesus' disciples were confused. Where were they going? They knew they were on the way to Emmaus, but they wondered, where are we going after that? They had put all of their hope in Jesus, the Messiah, their conquering hero. And now he was dead. Now what???
But Jesus pulled the blindfold off. He showed them what the Messiah had really come to do: to pay for their sin. And when he did, they couldn't have been happier. He filled their hearts.
As they came to Emmaus, they pleaded of Jesus, "Stay with us." And Jesus did something better: He opened their eyes and he set their hearts on fire.
Today, as one year draws to a close and a new year begins, we too might pray to Jesus, "Stay with us!" And he promises he will. He's already opened our eyes to see who he is and what he's done. And he will continue to set our hearts on fire to live for him in thanks in 2017 and beyond. Our lesson for consideration is Luke 24:27-35…
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
I. Open Our Eyes!
The Emmaus Disciples must have known something about post-holiday depression. The Passover was over, the celebration done, and they were on their way home. But it wasn't just that the holiday was over that had them depressed. It was that Jesus, their master, their hero, their Savior… was now dead. What hope did they have now?
But they didn't get it. The cloud of sorrow that surrounded them kept them from seeing clearly. It was like they were blindfolded to the truth. They couldn't understand that Jesus had risen from the dead.
But Jesus opened their eyes. And it wasn't just by appearing to them. No! When he appeared to them, they still didn't see him—they didn't recognize who he was, they didn't get that he was alive. No. Jesus opened their eyes, not by his physical presence, but by the Bible study he led them through and when he broke bread with them. "He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…" And it says again in verse 35: "Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread." Then they got it! Jesus had to die to pay for their sin! But now Jesus was alive again! He was the proof of sins forgiven!
You and I may be going through some post-holiday blues too. But we don't need to. Because Jesus has opened our eyes too. And let's face it, we've gone around blindfolded ourselves – with a blindfold we've put on ourselves! By our apathy towards the word, by our laziness in study, by that foolish thought that we already see all we need to see in the word…
Just look back over the last year. Have you studied the Word of God the way you wanted? Did you worship God with your whole heart? Did you give your gifts to thanks to him? Did you always live for him? Why not? Because we took our eyes off the cross. We willingly looked away and put on blinders to see only what was immediately before our eyes, the instant gratification of our sin.
But look back over this past year and see how many times Jesus opened your eyes again. How many times did he remove the blindfold, clear the fog, and let you see him and his cross clearly again? Every time you read a devotion, every time you listened to a sermon, every time you heard the words of the absolution, every time you knelt at the communion rail, you saw Jesus clearly again. You saw who he is—the perfect, sinless, Son of God—and you saw what he's done—removed your every sin, taken away the punishment you deserve by the cross, given you a clean slate, and a reason to rejoice and live for him.
Not by physically appearing to you, but by his Word and by the bread that we break he's opened our eyes and shown us himself and his work for us. Now resolve to stay in that Word in 2017! Resolve to receive the Lord's Supper more often! Resolve to keep your eyes open!
Would you drive home from church blindfolded? Of course not! You could easily crash, get into in a wreck, and even be killed! Would you choose to go through life with your eyes closed all the time? You might manage, but who would want to?! Likewise, don't go through life blindfolded to the Word, with your eyes closed to the truth!
So make a resolution today. Resolve to come to stay for Bible Class after worship as we study the Book of Revelation then the Old Testament sacrificial system. Resolve to come to Wednesday night Bible Class as we study the Screwtape Letters and learn the mind of the enemy. Resolve to read Meditations every day. Resolve to read one chapter of the New Testament every Monday through Friday and finish the New Testament in 2017! Resolve to borrow this copy of "Through the Bible in a Year" and do it!
Resolve to strengthen your faith by the Word and Sacraments so your eyes are always open. And as you carry out that resolution, Jesus will not only keep your eyes open, but he will also set your heart on fire!
II. Set Our Hearts on Fire!
The Emmaus Disciples finally understood. They understood who Jesus was and what he had come to do. And with that understanding came a change in how they felt. No more post-holiday depression for those two! Now they said, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
Their hearts once dull, were now full—of peace and joy. Once confused, now enlightened—with that "aha!" moment the Bible study brought. Once sad and depressed, now excited—eager to share what they'd learned with their friends. So they didn't stay home and go to bed. Instead, "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen!"
Like Jack was excited to see his family and friends when his wife took of the blindfold, in a similar way those disciples were excited to go see their friends when Jesus pulled the blindfold off for them.
Likewise, we too have no need to feel the holiday blues. Sure the presents are unwrapped and maybe some of them already broken, you may be a few pounds heavier now and coming down off the sugar high of all those Christmas treats, you may be looking back over 2016 and thinking about some of your failed resolutions. But none of those are any reason to be sad—not even your sin!
Because earlier in the service you heard again those words of absolution: Your sins are forgiven! And in a minute Jesus will gives you his body and blood in the Sacrament once more to assure you that you are indeed forgiven! And that forgiveness sets your hearts on fire again and rekindles your peace and joy and your excitement to live for him!
So in the year ahead may you continue to be excited to hear of that forgiveness again and again—may that message never grow old or tired to you! May you be excited again to gain more and more understanding in his Word as the Scriptures are opened to you! May be excited again to share what you've learned with friends as Jesus lights the fire beneath you making you eager to live for him!
Go ahead and resolve to lose a few pounds, but not just so that you look better, but that you have more energy to serve Jesus and maybe a few more years to serve Jesus too. Resolve to get pay down your debt and get debt free, but not so you'll have more money to spend on yourself later, but so that you'll be able to support the work of the Church. Resolve to read more books and gain more wisdom and insights, but especially resolve to read the Word of God where he'll open your eyes and set your hearts on fire.
Finally, Jesus left those Emmaus Disciples, but not really. He left Emmaus. And eventually Jesus left earth at his ascension. But even then he promised to be with his disciples always—to the very end of time!