When I was a small boy and our family supper was finished, we 5 kids would say, “Daddy, tell us a story about when you were a kid.” So dad would tell us about his horse, “Old Ghost”. Ghost had a natural camouflage color that made him invisible when he was out in the pasture.
These were true stories and we never got tired of hearing them. They gave us a sense of heritage and belonging. The stories about the resurrection are the same kind of stories.
The early Christian community never got tired of telling them or hearing them. They were the kind of stories that caused children to say, “Tell us again, Daddy, tell us again!” Open your Bibles to Luke 24 as we listen to Cleopas tell his story of Jesus to his children.
“It was that first Resurrection morning, two of us were going to a village called Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem. We were talking with each other about what had happened...” Lk 24:13…
Only been a week before the children had been shouting “Hosanna”, “hosanna”. But then came the cleansing of the temple, and Jesus denouncing the religious leaders as hypocrites and blind guides. That scared us to death. We knew Jesus had signed his death warrant
Later that week on Thursday night, Jesus washed our feet and told us to do the same. He told us he was going away and we were scared. He broke bread and gave it to each of us saying, “This is my body”. Then he passed the cup and said, “This is my blood shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of their sin.” But we had no clue what he meant.
Then we all went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed so fervently that the sweat formed like blood on his forehead. And we all fell asleep. Then Judas came with an armed mob and they arrested him. They beat him and crucified him… We thought he was the Messiah, now – we weren’t so sure! It seemed so hopeless, so sad, so very sad.
We wondered where God was at in all this? Why did God let these terrible things happen? It was Sunday morning after Jesus had been killed. We had heard that his body had been taken from the tomb. A friend of mine and I went on a walk to try and sort it all out.
“And as we walked along on the way to Emmaus, we were talking. Then this guy came up and walked along with us; but we didn’t recognize him.” Luke 24:15
“Was it Jesus, Daddy?” “Be patient children and I’ll tell you!” The stranger said, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” I couldn’t believe anyone could ask such a silly question! We stopped looking very sad, which is exactly what we were.
And then children, I have to confess I was rude. I said to the stranger…“Are you some country bumpkin? Don’t you know what just happened in Jerusalem?”
“To which the stranger replied,” (help me out here, kids!) “What things!” So we poured our hearts out to him. “What did you tell him, papa!”
“We told him about Jesus! How he was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people! But the chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death and last Friday, they crucified him! We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel!” Luke 24:19…
And then we said, “This morning some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early but didn’t find his body! They came and told us they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive! Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the woman had said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”
Children, do you remember what happened next? Beginning with Moses and the prophets, the stranger explained to us what the Bible said about the Messiah. He reminded us of when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Isaac said, “Father, here is the fire and the wood for the sacrifice, but where is the lamb?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb.”
“And God did provide the lamb, didn’t he, papa!” “Yes, children, God did!” “What did he say next, papa?”
The stranger reminded us of how God saved Israel from her slavery in Egypt through the blood of a lamb that was put on the doorpost. The blood caused God’s judgment to pass over that house. That’s why we call it the “Passover” right, papa!” “That’s right children!”
The stranger quoted Isaiah who wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Is 53:6
The stranger told us that in order for our sins to be forgiven, two things needed to take place. First, the penalty for our sins must be paid. Second, we needed to be washed clean and clothed in a robe of perfect righteousness that we in do not possess.
So God provided us with a sinless substitute, a perfect sacrifice lamb who would die in our place. “It was Jesus, wasn’t it, papa!” “Patience, children, I’m not done with the story!”
“As we approached the Emmaus, the stranger acted as if he were going farther. But we urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it’s nearly evening.” We couldn’t get enough of this guy.
That evening as we sat down in the inn to have supper together, the stranger took bread, he gave thanks and he broke it! And our eyes were opened and we recognized it was Jesus. His body was whole complete, radiant with life. But he wasn’t a ghost, he was fully human in every way, then in an instant, he vanished from our sight. We were, “Blown away”!
We jumped to our feet, dancing around! Then we got our heads together and raced back to Jerusalem. When we arrived we found the other disciples gathered together, chattering away about Jesus appearing to Peter and suddenly there he was! Jesus, was right in the midst of us. We hugged him, we hugged each other. How marvelous! How wonderful!
But this isn’t just a pretty story, children, it has a meaning! “What does it mean, papa?” It means that when we couldn’t get to God because of our sin, he came to us! He gave his life on the cross so our sin could be forgiven forever.
I like how Isaiah said it, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD, (that’s what Jesus did with us on the road that day), though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isa 1:18
“Is there more to the story, papa?” Absolutely! This is a story that never ends. This is a story that gets bigger and bigger as more and more people are swept into it. If you are a Christian this morning, you have become part of the story! Practice telling it again and again!
Forty days after Jesus met these men on their way to Emmaus, he ascended into heaven where he sits beside his Father on the throne of heaven. And though we can’t see him, or hug him, or do any of the other things we could do when he first rose from the dead, we still know he is with us because he sent his Holy Spirit to live in our hearts.
His Word is still alive and active and creating life wherever it is being told. When two of three are gathered in his name, he is there, just as he promised. When we lift our voices in praise and worship, when we study his Word, when we gather around the Lord’s table to celebrate the breaking of the bread, he is there with us and eternity has already begun.
Jesus taught us something that day on our walk to Emmaus. Don’t forget the story. Tell it to your children. Remind each other when our grief and despair turns us in on ourselves and we are tempted to forget.
On the way to Emmaus, we were so wrapped up in our grief, guilt, despair that we had forgotten the story, but Jesus met us and reminded us. He told us the story all over again. He took us back to the Word, back to the Bible. And then he sent us out to tell the story to others. We learned something that day. The more we tell the story, the more the story gets ahold of us and the more the story gets ahold of us, the more it drives out our fear.
Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Rom 1:16
The writer to the Hebrews said, “The Word of God, (the Gospel story) is active and alive, sharper than a two-edged sword.” Heb 4:12
When we neglect feeding on the Bible, God’s Word, the story, our spiritual self begins to starve and we are powerless to fight the battles that confront us. God’s Word is the bread of life. It convicts of sin, it points to Jesus, it assures us of forgiveness, it opens our eyes, it’s the means through which the universe came in to existence, and it the means through which God creates faith in our hearts calls his lost children home to live with him forever!
Don’t neglect the story! The reason we gather here every week is to remember God’s story, to hear it again, to talk about it and sing about it. God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. When we neglect it we disconnect ourselves from the Lord who is the source of our life and like a branch disconnected from the vine, we begin to wither and die.