|GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER
Series: Characters at a Crucifixion
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 16, 2017
Cleopas: “Jesus….? That was Jesus?”
Aviel: “Jesus! It’s Jesus!”
Cleopas: “Where did He go? Aviel, do you see Him?”
Aviel: “That was Jesus right? I wasn’t just seeing things, that was Him right?”
Cleopas: “I was going to ask you the same thing. I saw Him, it was Jesus. But where did He go, He was sitting right there. His food is still there and warm.”
Aviel: “I don’t know… But we must return to Jerusalem and tell the disciples that we have seen Jesus. I wonder if they will even believe us.”
Cleopas: “Hold on, I want to talk about this for a second. I want to make sure we’re together on everything that just as it happened.”
Aviel: “Ok, so lets start when we left Jerusalem and were walking on the road to Emmaus.”
Cleopas: “Yes, lets start there. Well we were just walking along just you and me, enjoying our time together and talking about what had happened to Jesus.”
Aviel: “That’s right but remember we were both really sad about Jesus dying…”
Cleopas: “Yes, it had been a tough couple days.”
Aviel: “I remember as we were walking, I first saw this traveler wrapped in his tunic sitting on the side of the road. Then as we got closer, this traveler stood up and asked to walk with us. We of course said yes and he joined us. As we continued walking and discussing about everything that had happened, this man stopped us and asked us what were talking about.”
Cleopas: “I remember you and I both stopped dead in our tracks and turned to him, thinking he was crazy! I even asked him how he was the only visitor in Jerusalem that hasn’t heard about everything that had happened. Then this man just responds, what things?”
Aviel: “Yes - are you kidding me… He has no idea what just happened!”
Cleopas: “I remember I looked at him and said, ‘Well sir, we are talking about Jesus of Nazareth who is was a great man in so many ways. People thought he was a prophet because of the things he did and said. We definitely saw that he was something special and incredible, he did things that I thought only God could do. We believed him when he said that he was the son of God.
But the chief priests and rulers condemned him to death and crucified him - God knows why. Which everyone thought could never happen because we believed that he was our Messiah, our Savior, our King. We really thought and hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
But I remember telling him - Now he’s dead and it’s the third day since these things happened so He really is gone and hope is lost.”
Aviel: “I remember I then told him about what happened this morning.”
Cleopas: “Yes, you told him about the women. What exactly did you say again?”
Aviel: “I told him that some women shocked everyone with some unbelievable news. These went to the tomb early in the morning to prepare Jesus’ body for burial but when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that Jesus was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but He wasn’t there.”
Cleopas: “After everything that’s just happened I’m starting to think the women were right.”
Cleopas: “Yes it was crazy! I remember that he said, ‘How foolish are you, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer all these things and then enter his glory?’
Were you as shocked as I was Aviel? I didn’t know what to say, this traveler was so right. Jesus did seem to have everything planned, I mean he told all of us that he was going to die before he was ever arrested.
But it was so hard to believe that, Jesus had just been murdered. Hope was gone and Aviel and I had no idea what to do. So Aviel and I just stayed silent as the three of us walked the last mile to Emmaus.”
Aviel: “Well after this crazy statement by the traveler and a mile of silence, we finally entered Emmaus, the traveler said goodbye and continued to walk on. I yelled out to him and invited him to come eat dinner and stay with us for the night. He agreed and we went back to my house for dinner. As we sat down to eat, the traveler took the bread. He lifted it to the sky blessed in the name of the LORD and then he broke it.”
Cleopas: “Yes it was amazing! Suddenly, it felt like a fog had been lifted from my head and my eyes were opened and cleared. And we saw that this man was in fact Jesus. He’s not dead but alive just like the women told us He was. Then suddenly he disappeared. I can’t believe it! He was with us the entire time and somehow he missed him?!?! How could we be so blind?”
Aviel: “Yes, I can’t believe it. But, where did He go?”
Cleopas: “Who cares, we’ve got to go and tell the disciples back in Jerusalem!”
Aviel: “You are right, lets go! You know looking back we should have believed Jesus when He said He was going to die but then rise again, He was telling the truth. I hope the disciples will believe us.” (1)
Early in the morning a group of women arrive a the tomb. Find the stone rolled away.
(cartoon) “The original rock… and roll.”
They go into the tomb and find it empty. While they’re trying to figure out what that means, two angels tell them that Jesus is risen from the dead. The women go back to the disciples with the news.
Peter and John go to the tomb. Find it empty except for Jesus’ burial clothes. They go away trying to process what they’ve just seen.
Later Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. She goes to tell the others that Jesus is alive. Others who are still mourning and weeping at Jesus’ death. Others who don’t believe her.
Even the guards - who’d had a front row seat to the resurrection - they went and reported to the chief priests and elders what they’d seen. The chief priests paid them off - bought their silence. Told them to tell people that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body. The original conspiracy theorists.
Then there was Cleopas - who is named in the Luke account - and another man - who we’ve taken the license to call Aviel. In Luke 24 - sometime that afternoon - these two men are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
Which you can see on the map here is a town all of about 7 miles to west of Jerusalem.
While these two men are walking - they’re discussing what’s taken place in Jerusalem over the last few days - talking about Jesus’ crucifixion - the report they’d heard from the women about the empty tomb - trying to make sense out of what they’d hoped - what they’d seen - what they’d heard.
While they’re walking Jesus joins them - enters into the conversation - challenges their interpretation of what they’ve seen - explains what Moses and the prophets had said about the Messiah what they’d been seeing.
When the reach Emmaus Jesus gets invited to dinner. At some point Jesus takes the bread - blesses it - breaks it - gives it to them. Suddenly there’s this spiritual light bulb “a hah” moment and they get it. And Jesus is gone. He removes Himself from their sight. After which comes the conversation you’ve just seen. With some license.
The result comes in Luke 24:33: “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.”
Imagine telling people the greatest news in history. Telling people - people in despair and confusion - who need hope - who are just barely hanging on - people who should already want to hear that news - should be lapping it up - believing you.
Imagine telling people the reality of what you’ve experienced with Jesus - and having people just not go there. “We don’t believe you.” Or, like so many today: “What you believe is what you believe. Everyone has their own beliefs. It’s all good.” Which is still, “I don’t believe you.” But it’s just PC.
Reading down through the sequence of what comes next - Jesus appears to the disciples and they finally believe. Later in the next few weeks Jesus appears to hundreds of people who come to believe in the reality of His resurrection.
Then - 40 days after the resurrection - Jesus is with His disciples on the Mount of Olives towards Bethany. Jesus tells them they are to be witnesses of what they’ve seen and experienced and know to be true about Jesus - witnesses in Jerusalem and to the end of the earth. Witnesses as we also are called to be witnesses of what we know and have experienced because of Jesus. (Acts 1:4-11)
First: Witnessing is an us thing. Sharing the good news of the gospel. That’s what we do.
That doesn’t guarantee that we’re going to share and people are going to believe. The two men witnessed and even the disciples didn’t believe. We can share with our family and friends and people we work with and people God leads us to share with and they may not believe. But, we’re still called to witness.
Let’s be clear on the message. Pop quiz. We ought to be able to do this in our sleep.
John 3:16. The message of the Bible - the gospel in a nut shell. Let’s repeat it together: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NASB)
First, there’s good news. God loves you. We are the world.
God loves us each of us. No matter what we may think of ourselves. No matter what others may think of us. No matter what our sins or our attitude towards God or whatever our baggage or hang-ups or failures or weaknesses. Whether we accept the truth of His love or not - He does love you.
Second - there’s bad news. We’re perishing.
The word “perish” means to be utterly destroyed. That’s not good. The reality is ongoing forever destruction that just continues on and on and on without end.
The contrast to that is described by the words “eternal life” - living forever with God. Joy - peace - enjoying the fullness of God’s presence. Forever. Whatever horror “perish” is - eternal life with God is the opposite.
The bad news is that every one of us - apart from Jesus - because of our sin - every one of us is perishing - facing eternity without God.
Then there’s more good news: Jesus! God gave His only Son.
The God Who created everything - God - humbles Himself to take on Himself what it means to be one of us - minus the sin part. Why and how goes beyond our ability to comprehend. But, God is God. And, that is exactly what God chooses to do.
God so loves each of us that He gave His Son be betrayed and beaten and brutalized. Gave Him to die on a cross - crucified - horribly. Gave Him to deal with whatever needs to be dealt with because of our sin.
Jesus dies taking the penalty and wrath and judgment of God - taking on Himself what should have been leveled against us. Jesus doing whatever needs to be done to make us right with God. Then Jesus resurrects proving that He can.
Then: You Choose: “whoever believes.” God lays out His offer of salvation for us. But each of us needs to individually choose how we’re going to respond to God’s offer.
God promises that whoever will respond to His offer with belief - welcoming what God has done - rejecting and turning from their sin - repenting and trusting Jesus as their Savior - God promises - that we will not perish - but we will have eternal life - life now and forever with God.
That - in a nut shell - is what we witness to.
We may have the opportunity to share about how we came to trust in Jesus. We may have the opportunity to share why we believe what we believe. We may have the opportunity to discuss our doctrine and theology. Which is all good.
But witnessing of the good news is sharing a very simple basic truth: Because of sin we’re toast - forever. But God in Jesus offers to save us. Turn from your sin and trust Him.
We are to witness - to share that truth even if we’re not believed.
Our second take away is this: Salvation is a God thing.
The women - the two guys walking to Emmaus - the disciples - hundreds of others in those first four weeks - only come to belief because of Jesus revealing Himself to them. Each of us only comes to faith in Jesus because of the work of God in our lives.
I would suspect that this is true of most - if not all - of us here. At one time or another we’ve heard God saying, “I want you to share the gospel with that person.” Or, “You need to talk to that person about Jesus.” Or, “You need encourage that person by sharing what I’m doing in your life.” And we end up playing mental mind games with God - or struggling within ourselves - about why we can’t do that.
Anybody else here with me on that?
Isn’t it true that most of the time that internal dialogue centers on us? Just saying.
Whether we feel adequate or we’re fearful of what the response might be or whatever reason we convince ourselves of. Isn’t it true that most of the time that dialogue centers on us as a reason to hold back?
When Jesus tells the disciples they’re going to be witnesses He tells them that the power for that is going to come from the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8)
It’s the Holy Spirit Who convicts us of sin. (John 16:8-11)
It’s the Holy Spirit who brings about our spiritual rebirth. (Titus 3:5,6)
Salvation is a God thing. It’s what goes on between whoever’s hearing the gospel and God. Not us. Salvation is about what God is doing in that person’s life. The results are up to God. Not us.
Meaning that being called to witness and trusting God for the results ought to take a whole load of pressure off of us. Witnessing isn’t about us. It’s about God.
It’s not about the answers we give or the slickness of the presentation or whatever… Salvation is a work of God. Not Steve, not Andrew, not any one of us.
The first step of witnessing of the good news of the resurrection means saying “Yes” when God calls us to step up.
So, maybe when we’re hearing that voice of God prompting us to say something or be intentional about our witness - like when we do survey on Saturdays - just saying… we ought to start praying, “God - Holy Spirit - give me the strength. Give me the words. Get me past myself and onto what you’re doing here.” Praying and stepping up and seeing what God will do.
We’re witnesses of the greatest news in history… period.
We’re like those two men. We’ve personally encountered Jesus. We’ve witnessed the astounding reality of His resurrection. Embraced the reality of the good news. For most of us this isn’t our first Resurrection Sunday Service of Worship. So now what?
Sometime this week God will prompt you to step-up and witness of the resurrection. Just know that He will. We need to step-up trusting Him for the results. In fact, here’s a challenge. Don’t wait. Ask Him for the opportunity. Be looking for it and open to it. Pray and see what astounding thing He does through you.
1. Script written by Pastor Andrew Smith
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.