Scandalous Grace: The Road to Emmaus

Series: Scandalous Grace: Jesus' Meals with Sinners

Sermon by David Felker on Mar 12, 2014

Luke 24:13-35

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Unrecognized Beauty

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 24.  Luke 24.  And before we read, something to consider.  If any of you know any names associated with classical music you probably have heard the name, Joshua Bell.  Joshua Bell was actually in concert in Jackson just, I believe, it’s been in the last month or two.  Joshua Bell is one of the best violinists in the world right now.  The New York Times said of Joshua Bell that, “Joshua Bell stands in no one’s shadow when it comes to playing the violin.”  And a few years ago, I believe it was in 2007, he was in an experiment that was the idea of The Washington Post newspaper and it was, the idea of that newspaper that what they did was they got Joshua Bell to set up at a metro station, a subway station, in Washington, DC.  And they got him to set up and he started at about seven forty-five in the morning and so he was bumping into Washington, DC rush-hour traffic and they got him to set up.  They chose the subway station that is the prime one for federal workers, and so of course in DC there was a huge presence, just a lot of people coming in and out of that spot.  And the interesting thing that they did was they asked him just to wear a baseball hat, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and blue jeans and to just kind of start playing.  And so Joshua Bell showed up, baseball cap, blue jeans, t-shirt, and pulled out his violin and he kind of put the case out and he threw a couple of dollars and some change into the case and he pulled out, I’m going to have to read this - Bill Wymond probably knows this - but he pulled out his Gibson EX Huberman, which was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari, which was a 3.5 million dollar violin and he started playing it.  I don’t know what that is.  I know that a Stradivari is a nice violin. 

But he played for forty-three minutes and he played six classical pieces.  And the fascinating thing about it - you can watch this actually on YouTube - the amazing thing about it was no one paid any attention to him; no one recognized him.  He played for forty-three minutes. He played the best of the best.  He played Bach and no one saw who he was.  One of the interesting things if you watch the video, there was a booth set up nearby where he was playing where people could buy lottery tickets.  And there was actually a line of people, many of whom had their backs to him for thirty, forty minutes, and they never recognized him.  If that had been a fictional story, and it’s not, it’s true, but if it had been a fictional story our English teachers would say that Joshua Bell was a Christ figure, that he was exuding truth and beauty, he was exuding goodness, but no one saw him, no one recognized him, no one saw who he was.  He didn’t look like royalty.

We’re towards the end of this series; I think we have two more weeks so I don’t know what the plan actually is now with two weeks from tonight being cancelled.  That was supposed to be - David Strain was actually going to preach and close up this series that night, but we’re in a series we’ve called “Scandalous Grace:  Meals With Jesus” and in the first sermon on this series David Strain said that “meals are instruments of social inclusion and exclusion.  Who you eat with, what you do, the social etiquette  involved can either include and welcome or exclude and shun.”  And so we’re looking at different occasions in the gospel where Jesus eats with sinners and engages and talks and deals with people.  And this one is a very famous account.  It’s Luke chapter 24.  We learn some very important things about Scripture here.  Jesus has been crucified, He’s risen from the dead, and He appears to these two disciples on the road and then He eats with them.  But they don’t understand it.  They don’t get it.  They don’t recognize Him, even initially.  And so this is somewhat mysterious to them.  So let’s read Luke 24, beginning in verse 13.  Before we do let’s look to the Lord in prayer.  Let’s pray.

Father, we give You thanks for Your Word.  We confess that every word that proceeds from Your mouth we give thanks.  And we pray that Your Word would be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.  We pray that You would work through my lisping and stammering tongue to drive the hope of the Gospel into us.  And we pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

This is Luke 24.  We’ll read verses 13 to 35:

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from 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?’  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, and 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.  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.  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.’  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.

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 in to stay with them.  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.  And he vanished from their sight.  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?’  And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.  And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Amen.

So Luke 24, let’s briefly just recap and give a little bit of context.  Jesus has died, He’s risen again, He shows up on the road to Emmaus, this small town seven miles from Jerusalem.  One of the disciples was named Cleopas.  The other name is not given.  Some commentators believe that it was Cleopas and his wife but we don’t know.  And they’re walking along.  Jesus walks up to them, and whether He has a hood over His face or what, we don’t know, but they don’t recognize Him and He says, “What are you talking about?”  And they say, “Where have You been? What’s everyone talking about?  We’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth.  We thought He was the Promised One but He died and now we don’t know what to do.” And Jesus, right there on the road says, “You don’t understand the Scriptures.”  And so what we’re going to look at, we’re going to look at just two things in this text, the first is that Jesus is the Messiah of the Bible, that Jesus is the Anointed One, He’s the Redeemer, He’s the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King.  So Jesus, first, is the Messiah of the Bible.  And second, that Jesus is the friend at the table. 

I. Jesus is the Messiah of the Bible

So first, Jesus is the Messiah of the Bible.  These disciples, more than likely, would have been with Jesus for years, probably for three years; they’re not one of the twelve but they were most likely part of a larger group that followed Jesus and so they had been with Jesus, they served with Him, they believed Him.  And so they understand, you see, part of what Jesus did.  They kind of have some of the pieces but they’re missing some.  As you see in verse 17, they’re sad.  Verse 21 they say, “We thought he would be the one to redeem Israel.”  In verses 22 and 24 they say that, “these women tell us he’s not in the tomb anymore.”  And so they have some of this information and they don’t know what to do.  Verse 16, for whatever reason they don’t recognize Jesus, and they travel these seven miles with Him.  But Jesus essentially is with these people who have invested time, they’ve invested energy, they’ve had their hopes and dreams seemingly dashed, and so Jesus is going to these people who are sad on the road and where does He direct them?  Jesus directs them to His Word.  He points them to the Bible and specifically to the Old Testament. 

The Greatest Bible Study Ever

I mean think about this.  I don’t know about you but I have always been very prone to use superlatives.  I think especially this is kind of the language you hear junior high students, they traffic in this kind of language. You know, “That was the best meal I’ve ever had in the world.”  I would say that.  I’ll say, “You’re my best friend I’ve ever had,” when I could just say, “You know, you’re a really good friend.”  I’ve heard people say, and I would say this too, “Keifer’s is the best Greek food in the world.”  We would say that.  I think that’s a superlative; it’s good.  Think about, “What is the best Bible study ever?”  I remember the first summer I was at RTS in seminary the language professor at RTS, a man by the name of Miles Van Pelt, told our class that he was able to spend some time on a translation committee of a Bible, of a Bible version, I think it was even the English Standard Version.  And he joked with our class and said, “You know, I’ve just been to the best Bible study ever.  I spent time with these men who could read the Greek and the Hebrew, the Aramaic, like we read the newspaper and they’re discussing, you know, ‘What is this particular phrase really saying?  How can we render it most faithfully?’”  And he joked with our class and said, “I’ve been to the best Bible study ever.”

Now I’m going to use a superlative but this one is accurate.  Jesus, on this road with these two men, this is the best small-group Bible study ever!  It says, Jesus right there on the road says, “You don’t understand the Scriptures.”  And beginning with Moses, that means in Genesis, and so He walks through the Garden of Eden, He walks through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and then Exodus and Leviticus, He goes there, He goes to the Prophets, He goes to the Psalms, and He unpacks how all of it is about Him.  And so He explained to them what was said in the Scriptures, very important, verse 27, what was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself.  I mean this would be the definitive explanation of what we call the Old Testament.  This is the best Bible study ever.  I mean all the promises, all the stories, all the images found their fulfillment in Him.  Everything is pointing to Him.  And that means that Jesus is the point of the Bible.  If you’re in sales you have an elevator speech.  You’re supposed to make a sale in thirty seconds.  “What is the Bible about?”  How would we answer that?  The Bible is about Jesus.  It’s not a reference book, it’s not a book of examples to live up to, it’s not a to-do list.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s a single, true story with a plotline.  The plotline is creation, fall, redemption, consummation.  It’s about grace.  It’s about rescue.  It’s about how Jesus saves His people.  J.R.R Tolkien calls it the eucatastrophe - the story behind the Gospel, he said.  How the King has come back is the one story behind all the stories that we’ve ever loved. 

Seeing Christ in all the Old Testament

And so we don’t know what Jesus here on the road to Emmaus cited, we don’t know what specific quotes, what specific passages in the Old Testament He goes to, which exact ones, we don’t know the examples that He used, we can’t replicate His explanation.  But I put in the prayer sheet, this is a quote, this is written by Sinclair Ferguson.  It’s in his book, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament and it’s very, very good.  And bear with me, it’s long, but I think it’s worth even walking through.  This is Sinclair Ferguson.  He says:

“-Jesus is the true and better Adam; Who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is now imputed to us

-Jesus is the true and better Abel; Who though innocently slain has blood now that cries out not for our acquittal, not for our condemnation but for our justice

-Jesus is the true and better Abraham; Who answered the call of God to leave all of the comfortable, familiar home; And go out into the void not knowing where He went to create a new people of God

-Jesus is the true and better Isaac; Who is not just offered by His Father but sacrificed by His Father; And when God said to Abraham, ‘now I know you love me because you did not withhold your only Son whom you love from me.’  Now we can say to God, ‘now we know you love us because you did not withhold your only begotten Son from us.’

-Jesus is the true and better Jacob; Who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us

-Jesus is the true and better Joseph; Who at the right hand of the King forgives those who betrayed and sold Him and uses His new power to save them

-Jesus is the true and better Moses; Who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant

-Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses; Who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert

-Jesus is the true and better Job; The truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for us and saves His stupid friends

-Jesus is the true and better David; Whose victory becomes His people’s victory even though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves

-Jesus is the true and better Esther; Who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace but lost the ultimate heavenly one; Who didn’t just risk losing life, but it cost His life to save His people

-Jesus is the true and better Jonah; Who was cast out in the storm and the deep so that we could be brought in; Jesus is the Real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us

-Jesus is the true Prophet, the true Priest, the true King, the true Temple, the true Sacrifice, the true Lamb, the true Light, and the true Bread.”

What’s the point?  Jesus is the point of the Bible.  That’s what this book is about.  That’s what Jesus is talking about on the road; something like this.  It’s a great story.  It’s why it says that it “made their hearts burn within them.”  There was a rising melody in their hearts that it is true, the Gospel is true, and little by little they were beginning to see it.  John Calvin said, “This is what we should, in short, seek in the whole of Scripture - truly to know Jesus Christ and the infinite riches that are comprised in Him and are offered to us by Him from God the Father.  If one were to sift thoroughly the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament, if one were to sift thoroughly the Law and the Prophets, he would not find a single word mentioned which would not draw and bring us to Jesus.” 

And so if you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, “Okay, this little thing by Sinclair Ferguson is great, this is really helpful, but I don’t have a seminary degree.  I don’t know how to look in an Old Testament passage, I don’t know how to look for Jesus.  I don’t know how to unpack that.”  Here would be two just little questions to put in your toolbox to help think through, “How is the Bible about God’s saving His people through Christ?”  And a first question would be, as you go to a text, whether it’s the Psalms, Leviticus, Genesis, ask yourself the question, “What is this passage teaching me about God who does the redeeming?”  What’s it teach me about God who does the redeeming?  And then a second question, “What does this passage teach me about me who needs to be redeemed?”  So, “What’s it teach me about God who does the redeeming and me who needs to be redeemed?”

The God Who enters into Our Story

There was a British writer, I’ve never read any of her work, Dorothy Sayers, and she lived around the same time as C.S. Lewis.  She was born late 1800’s; she died late 1950’s.  And she wrote a lot but what she was most known for was detective fiction.  And she was very, very smart.  Like most of us, she learned Latin when she was six.  She was, I believe, the first woman to receive the awarded degree from Oxford University.  And in her fiction the main detective she wrote about was Lord Peter Wimsey, and he was, I’m not an expert on her writing, but most scholars that have studied her writing say that as she wrote about Peter Wimsey that she fell in love with him.  And so later on in these detective fictions there was a new character that showed up by the name of Harriet Vane.  And Harriet Vane is one of the first women to be awarded a degree from Oxford University and she also writes detective fiction.  And so you see what happened.  Dorothy Sayers falls in love with this character in her story and then she writes herself into the story and they get married.  They end up getting married.  When Peter Wimsey sees her he falls in love with her and they get married. You understand what she did in a writer’s way.  She created someone, she loved him so much that she wrote herself into the story.  God loves sinners so much, He’s the great Author of our lives, but He loves sinners so much that He became one of us and He came into our story.  That’s what our God is like and that should make our hearts burn within us.  That should make our hearts burn within us. 

II. Jesus is the Friend at the Table

And that moves us to the second point that we not only see in Luke 24 that Jesus is the Messiah of the Bible but we see that He is also the friend at the table.  And this will be a brief point.  This is, again, one of the last sermons in this series on meals with Jesus but here in verse 28, “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 in to stay with them.”  And so just think about this.  Of all the places that Jesus could be after He’s resurrected from the dead, He’s in Emmaus, this nobody town, and He’s with these two disciples, one of whom is not even named.  And so of all the places Jesus could have been He’s with these two nobodies.  And they beg Him to stay and He stays with them.  And we read in verse 30 and 31, “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.  And he vanished from their sight.” 

And so what is Jesus doing?  He’s doing what He’s doing His entire ministry.  He is having meals with sinners.  They’re doubting; they’re confused sinners.  In fact, one of them, the ironic statement is when one of them looks at Jesus, Cleopas looks at Jesus and he says, “What are you talking about?  Where have you been?”  It’s so ironic because if anything, if anyone knew what happened in Jerusalem it was Jesus.  And he says, “Don’t you know what happened?” And it’s almost identical language towards the end of the passage there.  It’s almost identical language to Jesus feeding the five thousand, that He took bread and He broke it and He hands it to them and immediately they recognize Him. It’s interesting, it’s powerful.  Their eyes were opened, God opens their eyes but the moment that their eyes were opened is when they were at the table with Jesus. 

A Meal with the Savior: A Journey from Sadness and Discouragement, to Hope and Joy

And so what you see in this passage is Jesus coming and taking these men from sadness and discouragement to a place of hope and joy.  So He’s taking them from sadness and discouragement to hope and joy.  And it’s an amazing passage where Jesus teaches us about the Bible.  He’s teaching us here about Scripture, but even here, and this is actually from Sinclair Ferguson, Sinclair Ferguson says this about Luke 24, that even here you have a small story within the larger story of Scripture, that what you see here is what Jesus is doing throughout the story of Scripture.  He’s taking people that are unbelieving and sad and discouraged and rebellious sinners and He’s taking them from brokenness and discouragement to joy and hope.  And so God is moving in this world and He’s moving people from brokenness to joy and you see that here.  What we see in this passage we see it’s the grander story of Scripture.  And so we see Luke gives us a picture of Jesus coming to these two men who are sad and broken, they had expectations that haven’t been met, the passage even says that they’re sad, they’ve devoted years to following Jesus, they thought that He would be a political king, they thought that this would be a political redemption, and now you hear over and over and over again that they’re confused and they’re sad.  They have all this information but they don’t yet know how to put it together.  But Jesus is drawing near to people who are brokenhearted. 

And you see in verse 33 what’s happening at the end of the passage.  It’s amazing.  They, at the very end, they go to tell their friends because they’re so excited.  It finally comes together.  This Jesus, He’s risen indeed!  But what is the source?  The source of their sadness, the source of their grief, Jesus says, that they’re failing to believe the Word of God.  And what do you see as the remedy? The remedy was the truth of the Word of God.  It was the testimony of Jesus worked deep down into their hearts and deep down into their bones. 

And so I think just by way of application it’s important for us to remember because if you’re here and you’re lacking hope, if you’re lacking joy, if you’re discouraged, if your circumstances are lacking, if you’re in very hard circumstances, what Jesus wants us to do is to go back to the Word.  It’s to attend to the Word, to have confidence in the Word, to understand the Word and believe what the Word says about Christ and have joy that’s complete.  That’s Luke 24.  Let’s pray together.

Father, we give You thanks for Your Word.  We thank You for this story of redemption.  We pray that You would plant Your Word, that You would plant the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus deep into our hearts.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

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