Last week we wrestled with the question of how we know if our faith is strong. We empathized with those disciples on the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday evening (Luke 24:13-35) shaken to their very core, doubting everything they thought they believed. But then Jesus came along and showed them who he was.
Even though they didn't at first recognize that stranger walking next to them as Jesus, he showed them so clearly the Christ we meet on every page of Scripture. "These are the Scriptures that testify about me," he said (John 5:39). Can you imagine that sermon, as our text says that, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." Can you imagine being there to hear that?
Maybe he took them through Isaiah 53 and the promise of the one, "stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted." Maybe he pointed them to the Psalmist promising the one who would cry out, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?"
How has God given you the sure hope that you will not be forsaken by him in eternity? The answer is that man walking to Emmaus talking to you through his word - alive from the dead - really, physically alive from the dead, just like the Bible said.
Imagine that sermon. Imagine having things open up for them like that - all the prophecies we wouldn't have even realized - "out of Egypt I called my son," Jonah in the belly of the fish, a lamb sacrificed, a scapegoat sent away, a flood, a friend's betrayal, 30 pieces of silver, a potter's field, a virgin, a son sacrificed, a prophet killed, a king suffering, life from death again and again and again. "These are the Scriptures that testify about me," he had said. And now he shows them.
Have you ever had that feeling, where you're hearing someone explain God's word to you and it just opens up? It clicks - this is really love - it's not just a bunch of words on a page; it's not just something I have to do to get right with God. This is love. This is my God, and that's a good thing - a very good thing.
And so Cleopas and his traveling partner on the way to Emmaus, the instant they realize what just happened, as soon as Jesus let them know who he was, they took off.
They just saw a man disappear in front of their eyes, and their first question was, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" It wasn't the miracle that did it. The word got their hearts burning, the word restored their hope.
So what do you think they were huffing and puffing about as they ran back? Can you hear them saying, "Look at me: I believe. I'm a Christian. I have faith"?
No way - they just do. They don't have to announce it. If they are talking about anything, it most certainly isn't about themselves; it's about the one they believe in.
When you have felt that fire in your heart, for example, on Easter Sunday, when you were singing your lungs out to God's praise and our voices were swelling the song, were you thinking, "Boy, I sure do have a great faith"? Not a chance. You were thinking: "Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! My redeemer lives. I have an awesome God."
If we look to ourselves, all we see is sin and death. You look for faith and it seems to elude you, because faith was not made to look at itself. Faith does not mean looking within. Faith means looking away from yourself. And there, in Jesus you see everything you need.
"How do I know I am a Christian?" That's an awful question. Throw it out. Ask this instead: "How do I know God loves me?" Then the answer is simple: Jesus. Christ is Risen! Amen.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.