Hope in Troubling Times

AdventChapter 24 of Luke’s Gospel shares a compelling story. Beginning in verse 13 we learn of two men walking to the village of Emmaus, a seven mile journey, & they were discussing the current buzz on the street, during which the resurrected Jesus joined them, & entered into the conversation. Read Luke 24:13-27 yourself for the full story, but the tale is a peculiar one.

Here we have a story; two men running errands are joined by another whom they don’t recognize – whom they are KEPT from recognizing; they were engaged in the normal, every-day, and like we might choose to scan the magazine rack at Harris Teeter, & chat for a moment with a friend – in line behind us. If it were today they’d be talking about Covid19, the economy, or the next presidential election & which candidates they’re interested in. Then they brought up the juicy convo of the day: that Jesus guy – who they even heard speak a few times & tried to catch whenever he was around – they even considered themselves his “followers.”  He had been crucified, but the word around town was that his body had been stolen, though some had said they’d seen him alive, which – of course – is crazy talk, so no one takes that seriously! 

Now, have you ever locked step with someone, & after a moment giggling at the awkwardness of it, figured, “Hey – we might as well get to know one another?! What’s your name?” I first met one of my longtime friends that way!

So, that’s what happens here – they have that convo WITH JESUS, having NO IDEA who He was!  Doesn’t that just sound like GOD?!  Seriously, the longer I’m a believer; the more I realize that I just never know when or where Jesus is going to turn up – where, & how God is going to surprise you!  

The first BIG point I notice about this story is that God doesn’t always reveal Himself boldly.  Just like He spoke to Elijah – not through a tornado, or earthquake, or a huge fire – but with a still, small voice… God doesn’t step down out of the clouds in the incarnation, but is born to a poor family in an animal’s stall…  and Jesus doesn’t walk around screaming, “I AM GOD!  WORSHIP ME!”, but instead usually deflects the question, & once responds, “It is as you say.

God pursues us – He is, as Luther said, “the hound of heaven”, but NEVER does He coerce – Christians across the board, with any Biblical concept of the “love of God”, believe in a God that PURSUES – Who WOOES!  And that same God remakes US as a people who PURSUE!

God pursues us, but it’s not only to capture us, but to train us to be – like Him – pursuers.  God WANTS to be pursued, just like He pursues… consider Proverbs 25:2; “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, & the glory of a King to reveal it” – that means it is a GRAND, ROYAL act to DIG for the truth!  To strive – to pursue it!  Not convinced?  Look at Isaiah 45:15; “Truly, You are a God who hides himself…”  God not only pursues us, but He wants to be pursued!

Now, let’s zoom in on Luke 24:21; “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

We – believers & unbelievers alike – who have lived among 2,000+ years of Christianity have a hard time imagining what these disciples were going through…

For one, we too often think simply way too highly of ourselves – that we’re technologically advanced, & understand science & which makes us so much more rational than people who lived in the past… which just isn’t always true. People in Jesus’ day knew that dead people stayed dead! Even the many who believed in the idea of “resurrection” – which was only popular among the Jewish “Fundamentalists” didn’t believe in an “individual resurrection” – when they spoke of resurrection they meant that AT THE END OF TIME, EVERYONE would rise up, & be resurrected AT ONCE. When these guys mention that some women saw angels & said they’d seen Jesus, that wasn’t a comfort to them – in Jesus’ day & culture women’s testimony wasn’t allowed in court … it’s quite possible that this part of the phrase was said with a chuckle… like, “I mean, some women said they saw angels & Jesus…hehheh…whatever.” As far as these guys are concerned, someone has added insult to injury: the guy they thought was God’s chosen had not only been put to death – proving he wasn’t God’s chosen, or so they thought – but now someone had probably stolen the body… maybe to mutilate it? … make spectacle of it? It’ll likely show up again soon someplace, badly marred & mistreated. If not, the first people the authorities will come after were his former followers, so either way, it’s disturbing news. These men have lost all hope.

As someone who has experience, it’s HARD to live life without hope. I’ve been there – I struggled through. It’s amazing the transformation I undertook the moment I slid from hard “atheism” to believing that God “might” exist… I literally became a different person. The introduction of “hope” into my life CHANGED me… so much so that people who had known me my whole life were introducing themselves to me at school the following Fall, thinking I was a “new kid”

The disciples’ lives were coming to pieces –  they “had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel”, but couldn’t reckon what had happened with that truth, so they were without hope – until Jesus put the pieces together for them…

But let’s jump forward to beyond our text: When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Notice, it’s not until Jesus broke the bread that they recognized Him.  Jesus re-worked everything He touched – traditions which had been repeated for a thousand years exactly the same, Jesus tweeked – expanded on – FULFILLED.  And people noticed.  This wasn’t just anyone doing the ritual, it was Jesus breaking bread; these two noticed.  We have an opportunity to have our eyes opened & see Jesus every time we take communion.  But, it goes further than that: we also have an opportunity to open the eyes of others when we take the time to break break with them

And that ties DIRECTLY in to our next point: And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem… Then they told what had happened

Hope energizes us to spread the message of hope – the good news of Jesus! It gives us the strength to push through, but even more so, the vision to see things through with confidence, knowing that God is on our side!

I want you to hear this: the daily grind is a perfect opportunity to meet Jesus, & make Jesus known. These disciples started their day running errands – it was a normal day, & they were simply “gittin ‘er dun”.  In the NORMAL, everyday, position yourself to meet Him… every moment is potentially an encounter with Jesus, but more-so, every moment is potentially an opportunity for OTHERS to ENCOUNTER JESUS IN YOU! Don’t lose HOPE!

So, today… even while social distancing, take hope! Remember that the God we serve is the God of Resurrection! While you may not be able to break bread with someone, give them a call & see how God opens your eyes & heart to how He may be moving among you right now. 

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Comments

  1. Christine Jones says:

    Thank you. That was great. Encouragement just when it is most needed.

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