May 3, 2020. Sermon Title: “When Hope Seems Lost, Jesus Comes!”

First Mennonite Church

May 3, 2020

“When Hope Seems Lost, Jesus Comes!”

Text: Luke 24:13-35

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 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 took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

This gospel account is a familiar post-Easter passage. It is not hard to envision the two disciples walking on that dusty trail. As we all know by experience, there is nothing as good as a long walk in the company of someone, our spouse, children or a friend. Walking, as simple this exercise could be, has a powerful therapeutic effect on the body, mind, and soul. Conversation flows, ideas germinate, the body relaxes as the lungs increase the intake of oxygen into our blood stream, and the soul is freed to express itself in song, prayers, admiration of the beauty around and so much more, take place when we walk.

Luke begins his account by setting the timeline in relationship to the Passion Week. It was the same day Jesus was raised, yet the disciples were still doubtful about good news. That same day, Cleopas and another of his fellow disciples bade goodbye to other nine friends and hit the road to Emmaus. It was most likely that the two had made up their minds to abandon the others, who preferred to stay huddled together behind closed doors in Jerusalem. These two wanted to breathe fresh air and also wanted to air the troubles and despair threatening to explode their hearts. Cleopas and his friend possibly wanted to distance themselves from anything and everything related to Jesus. Deep down in their hearts did not remain anything more to look forward. It was the third day Jesus had died.

Unbeknownst to Cleopas and his walking companion, Jesus walked with them, listening and watching their lively interaction as they walked along. Luke says that these two “were talking and discussing” the events recently occurred in Jerusalem. The word “discuss” has the connotation of “throwing back and forth” the issue of their conversation. These two were seriously trying to make sense of what had happened to Jesus. At one point during their intense back and forth, Cleopas and his friend “stood still, looking sad.”

It is so interesting that up to this point in their journey, Jesus had been silently walking and observing what the two were doing, but their eyes had failed to recognize Jesus. Jesus had asked them about the reason for their sadness and serious deliberations. Cleopas almost rebukes Jesus for his apparent lack of knowledge of the recent events happened in Jerusalem. The whole world knew what had happened on Friday of the past week. Jesus, a well-known and beloved teacher was crucified. But Jesus knew everything, in fact it was to him that everything had happened. How ironic of Cleopas to reprimand Jesus for his lack of knowledge of the recent events.  

Cleopas and his walking companion told Jesus of what had happened. Jesus of Nazareth, a man who had performed wonders and spoken the word of God, was handed over to the rulers to be condemned to death. It was already three days since Jesus had died; although, word of him being alive again had just started to come out. The news of Jesus being alive was hard to believe. Never before had such think ever happened.

It could be Cleopas’ incognizance that it was Jesus who was talking with him that made him so honest; thus, he opened his heart and revealed his true feelings and expectations about Jesus. The first four words Cleopas uttered reveal the greatest truth of what makes us humans keep on going in life: “But we had hoped . . . .” Having hope. Although Cleopas’ hope was erroneous, in that he had hope Jesus would deliver his people from foreign oppression, Cleopas remained in the company of those who followed Jesus. It could be that Cleopas expected Jesus to lead a revolt against the Romans and establish Israel’s new kingdom. However, to Cleopas’ utmost dismay, the Romans played a significant role in the death of Jesus. The title Pilate, the Roman representative, put over Jesus’ head on the cross, “Jesus, the King of the Jews” was nothing but utter disdain and humiliation of Jesus and his followers. The words of Cleopas, “But we had hoped” were his heartfelt confession of despair and of his total abandonment of his journey and association with Jesus. Cleopas’ hope, despite being mistaken, kept him hanging around Jesus. But once Jesus had died, Cleopas’ hopes died and he wanted nothing to do with the One he had followed for some time. His heart was being overtaken by pain, despair, and loss. Cleopas’ heart was turning cold. But Jesus was about to set his heart on fire again.

My dear friends, our world keeps turning because there are people who still have hopes. The apostle Paul says that “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?” (Romans 8:24). Hope is what inspires us to believe that just beyond the horizon, our eyes can see, is something worthwhile living for, waiting for patiently, and doing our best for in the meantime. When we hope tomorrow will be a better day than today, we patiently endure what is happening today, we patiently keep trudging despite the challenges we face.

On the other hand, when people lose hope, some not only go through bouts of depression, but, as we know, some even take their own lives. When people lose hope, fear, anger, and anxiety flood their hearts.

We are facing one of the must uncertain of times in our lives today. No one knows or can predict what the world will be after Covid-19 is over or at least gets under control. It could be that in this time of mixed feelings about almost anything we can understand how Cleopas felt about not having Jesus around, as he was used to. When Jesus was around, Cleopas felt his world complete and headed on a good direction. But once Jesus died, Cleopas’ world was turned upside down. Nothing made sense. And again, our current situation might be about the same as Cleopas’. But for us people of faith, we should remember that just as Jesus did to Cleopas, he is also walking alongside us, listening everything we are saying and watching everything we are doing.

What it is that we have been saying in our most honest talk about what going on? How have we been acting or reacting to what is being done or said about our current situation? Let us not forget that Jesus is listening and watching! He has not abandoned us. He is alive and is walking along with us as we walk the dusty paths in life. He wants to engage us in our troubles. He wants to know what makes our heart ache or what makes us sad.

As Jesus engaged Cleopas and his friend, Jesus opened the scriptures to them. From that instant, Cleopas’ heart began to warm up to the point of burning inside his chest. When Jesus broke bread with them that evening, their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but Jesus disappeared. They were already restored, not only in their faith but also in their physical strength that they walked back to Jerusalem that same night.

Jesus wants to remind us that he understands how we are felling today. Let us plead with him to stay and to have fellowship us. He wants to break bread with each of us. He wants to open our eyes to be able to recognize him in the midst of our confusion. We, then, will recover strength and hope, that even in the midst of this dark times, we will proclaim that our Lord is alive. He wants to reestablish our hope in him. Amen!  

Pastor Romero