So how long did your Easter high last? Do you know what I'm talking about - that rush of spirituality that just seems to be in the air around Easter - with all the special music and the attention to religion given - even on TV? It all comes together to get the Christian's heart burning with excitement, with love, with joy and hope.
But how long did it last? Did the next Sunday feel the same? Or, an even better question: what about that Thursday or Friday, or whenever life threw you a curveball? Was your heart burning then or more burnt out? That's the question the disciples on the road to Emmaus had to wrestle with that Easter Sunday night. Please find a Bible (If you don't have one, contact me - I'll get you one) and read Luke 24:13-35. This takes place that weekend that Jesus died - and gives us a great lesson on that fire in the Christian's heart and where it comes from.
In the text, you've got the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and as excited as they had been the previous Sunday (Palm Sunday) when Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the shouts of "Hosanna" - they were in just as severe a pit this Sunday - with their hero dead (or so they thought). Their words make clear their disappointment: "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
After all the things they had seen him do and heard him say - they just couldn't handle seeing the setback of that crucifixion. It shook them to their very core. Have you ever been there? Have you ever looked at your faith and wondered about it a little bit? Is this really what it is all about? Is this really faith? Am I even a Christian? You know, if I were really a Christian, I wouldn't have such a hard time resisting _______. I wouldn't be talking about people like I do. I wouldn't always assume the worst. I wouldn't .... And you could go on all day. It's easy to find yourself hopeless when you're asking yourself about your faith.
Why? Well, the facts and events of our lives sometimes seem to show a defeat where we thought we knew we had victory. So the temptation is to do like those disciples on the road to Emmaus. Pack up and go home. Because, after all, how can you really know if you believe enough? I mean, of course, you can call yourself a Christian and go through the motions - but that doesn't do it. We come to church, but don't always feel it. How can you know?
If you can relate to those questions, you've been thinking like these Emmaus disciples. They believed - they were just looking in the wrong place for their reason to hope. They were looking into themselves, instead of to where this stranger points them.
I'll get to that, but first, let me ask you a couple questions: Set aside the question of whether your faith is strong enough for now and answer this: What has God done about the sin you see in your life? Has God found a way to make you acceptable in his sight? Has God left anything unfinished when it comes to your salvation? I'm trying to do what this walking stranger does for those Emmaus disciples. Notice how he turns them from looking at what is in their heart to what is in his. And this is important, because real hope can never come from the look inside - never. Because what we see inside is that we are, after all: sinners. So look up, look to where this stranger points them and see real hope.
Jesus points them to where they can always see him - never to be deceived by their eyes. He points them to the word. "Isn't this how it had to happen?" he asks them, and then our text says, "Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." Notice, the place to see Jesus accurately is in the word. And so Jesus reintroduces them to the Jesus we meet on every single page of Scripture. And this (the Bible) is not an inferior way of meeting Jesus compared to seeing him face to face. This is where we finally know him fully, we finally understand him.
Because God's word, like Jesus on that road, points away from what is in our hearts and to what is in God's. And look at what was in God's heart, v. 26, "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" He points them to their Savior, suffering shame not his own, dying a death we earned, paying the eternal wages for every sin from Adam's first to my last. That is the answer to every one of our questions. That is what puts the true fire in the heart of the question. I'm out of space for this week, but be sure to check out next week's where we'll hear the sermon Jesus gave those disciples to show them who he really is.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.