Last Thoughts from the Road to Emmaus

In my last devotion, “With God on the Road to Emmaus”, there were two other points that I wanted to mention but ran out of time. Remember that the risen Christ is walking alongside these two disciples on the road to Emmaus and Jesus begins to quote scripture to them. In Luke 24: 32, these two disciples asked each other: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

This took me back to April of 1976 when I publicly accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I was sitting in the pew with my mother at Harmony Baptist Church in Banks County and my heart had been “burning” for several weeks as the Holy Spirit was convicting me of my need to accept Christ as my Savior. I had decided that this would be the Sunday that I would go up at the end of the service and make my public profession of faith in Christ. I had not discussed with my mother what was happening inside me and she was very surprised when I got up and made my way up front.I remember her tears of joy afterwards and she told me how proud she was of the decision that I had made to follow Christ.This was a moment with my mom that I will always remember and cherish.

I remember walking up to the pastor as the invitation was given and telling him that I believed in Jesus and that I had accepted him as my Lord and Savior and I wanted to be baptized. What I remember very clearly was the immediate feeling of calm and peace that came over me at that very moment. It was a feeling that I have experienced only two other times since. That burning in my heart now gave way to peace and a certain knowledge that I now belonged to Christ and would spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Last Sunday as I preached a sermon on, The Road to Emmaus, I also received an unexpected surprise later that afternoon. During the sermon, I was trying to get across the point that as believers, we need to remind each other of the good news of Christ’s resurrection again, and again, and again. Each time that I said, “again, and again, and again,” I looked to the three different sections of the church as if I was speaking directly to them. I recall looking at my family and my youngest daughter had her head down and it did not appear that she was looking at me or listening to me.

Later that afternoon as I got home and was putting away my Bible, I noticed a bulletin insert that was sticking out of my Bible. I took it out and saw that my youngest daughter had been drawing and writing on the insert. She had drawn a pulpit and a stick figure of a person standing behind the pulpit. Above the person was an arrow pointing to the person standing behind the pulpit and the following words were printed above the arrow: “Daddy preaching. Again and again and again.” She had been listening after all!

This drawing is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am so thankful that my mother made it a priority that we were in church almost every Sunday. And I also take very seriously the responsibility to make sure that my children are in church, almost every Sunday as well.

Church is where we connect with our fellow believers in Christ. Church is where we comfort each other when we lose a spouse, a child, a parent, or a close friend. Church is where we grow and learn to work with each other in order to carry out God’s will for our lives. Church is where we remind each other, again and again and again, that Christ is risen and that we are saved and assured of eternal life because of what Christ did for each one of us on the cross.

 

 

 

With God on the Road to Emmaus

The Road to Emmaus: Luke 24:13-35

The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is beautiful portrayed in Luke’s Gospel. The only other mention of this powerful story is from Mark’s Gospel and it is only two verses long. Thankfully, Luke goes into great detail and there are many truths to be learned from his account. A journey that began in hopelessness and despair turned into one that brought the assurance that Christ had defeated death, once and for all, and had given us the promise of eternal life by belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

The story takes place on Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday. These two disciples were not among the now eleven disciples, but they were followers of Christ, probably in Jerusalem. They knew the eleven and probably had regular contact with them. These two followers have just heard the news that Jesus’ tomb was found empty, but they could not grasp exactly what was happening. It seemed that all of the disciples had to be reminded, again and again, that Christ would rise from the dead on the third day. These two followers were wondering what had happened as they trudged along on the road towards Emmaus.

And as they walked along the road, downcast and without hope, the risen Christ walks up alongside them. Luke’s Gospel tells us that “they were kept from recognizing him.” Jesus begins a conversation with these two men and these two disciples were stunned that this stranger had not heard of the terrible news of Jesus’ crucifixion in Jerusalem. They then explain to Jesus how the prophets had predicted that the Christ would have to suffer these things and then enter into glory. Jesus sort of scolds them by saying, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

It is only later, after the two disciples invite Jesus to come in and stay with them, that they discover who this “stranger” is. Jesus pretends to be going on further but the two disciples insist that Jesus come inside and eat, rest, and be safe. They were offering hospitality to a stranger. Jesus accepts their offer and as Jesus breaks the bread they were able to recognize Him. And Jesus immediately disappears from their sight.

Jesus had been with these two men all along but they were so lost in their grief and sorrow that they did not, or could not, recognize the risen Christ. Many times we are just like these two men. We get so caught up in the turmoil of our own lives that we can’t seem to realize that Christ is also there with us, in the midst of our troubles and sorrows.

We don’t know why these two disciples were traveling towards Emmaus. It is possible that they lived there, they could have been going there on business, or they could have just been looking to escape the terrible things they had witnessed a few days earlier in Jerusalem. They probably just wanted to get away from the difficulties of the last few days.

What do you do to escape the pressures and the challenges of this world? Do you get lost on a road that leads to despair and loneliness? Do you ever get so tired of trying to do what’s right – only to have more problems and difficulties come your way? Are you to the point that you are so downcast and beaten down by this world – that you fail to look up and notice that Christ is there with you – in the midst of your difficulties?

These two men were not looking for Jesus, in fact, they don’t even recognize him when He comes up and walks alongside them. It is important to note that Christ was meeting them in their place of loss. And that is precisely where Christ is waiting to meet us today. He is already there for us but He is waiting for us to acknowledge His presence and His power to change our situation of hopelessness and despair into one that is full of joy and hope and eternal life.

Struggling with Evil

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10-18: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

I am preaching a sermon today on the road to Emmaus passage from Luke. As I started putting together my sermon early this week, I began to notice small “stumbling blocks” that appeared in my way. It was just small, insignificant things that was causing me to lose time that should have been devoted to my sermon. And as the week progressed, these small stumbling blocks became bigger and threatened to take more time away that was devoted to my sermon.

I was able to recognize that the evil one was at work, trying to do everything in his power to keep me from focusing on God’s message. So throughout the week, I prayed for God to not allow Satan to destroy my preparation time. This was a constant prayer that I prayed many times throughout each day of the week, because I could feel the attacks getting stronger.

Finally, on late Friday and Saturday, the attacks increased dramatically. Many things went wrong that threatened to take considerable time away from my sermon and to cause me to completely lose focus. However, God is faithful and He continued to protect me from the evil that Satan was trying to inflict upon me.

Satan tries to attack those who minister for God in many different ways. The evil one puts seed of doubt in our minds, he wants us to listen to what other people are saying, instead of focusing on what God is leading us to do.

The evil one will also use other people to bring trouble against you, causing you to lose focus or to take you in another direction, away from God. One thing after another seems to go wrong, and we get so caught up in dealing with these things that we drift away from God. Satan will try to bring so many things against you at once, that you will find that you have little strength to do what God is calling you to do.

That’s what I felt at the end of the afternoon on Saturday. My strength was almost gone, I was tired and was losing focus. I decided that instead of just sitting down and falling asleep that I would go to the sanctuary at church and run through my sermon and hopefully be able to gain some peace and calm.

As I stood there alone, in the empty sanctuary, I began to sense a calm and peace, run through my body. It was quiet, except for the creaking sounds that you hear in the quietness of the large, empty sanctuary. Satan had pulled out all the stops to try and cause me to stumble, but he was no match for the greater power, that is God.

Thanks be to God for protecting his children and helping us along our path each and every day. Prayer and trusting in God, is what got me through this week, as I acknowledged before God my weaknesses and asked Him for guidance, protection, and help.

 

 

Doubting Thomas

John 20:24-29: Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Thomas is your classic pessimist, and he usually is referred to by his famous nickname, “Doubting Thomas.” Doubting, is the one word that comes to mind when you mention the name of Thomas the disciple. But as we examine his life more closely, we may be surprised to find out that he is not so much the doubter as portrayed in John chapter 20.

John MacArthur, in his book, Twelve Ordinary Men, says this about Thomas: It probably is fair, however, to say that Thomas was a somewhat negative person. He was a worrywart. He was a brooder. He tended to be anxious and angst-ridden. He was like Eeyore in Winne the Pooh. He anticipated the worst all the time. Pessimism, rather than doubt, seems to have been his besetting sin.

In the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the disciple Thomas is only mentioned when he is named with the other eleven disciples in a list of disciples. Matthew, Mark, or Luke do not give us any further details about the disciple Thomas. Everything that we know about this man comes from John’s Gospel.

Thomas was a devoted disciple to Christ. In John chapter eleven, Jesus is headed back to Judea to raise his dear friend Lazarus from the dead. His disciples try to remind Jesus that the last time they were in Judea, things didn’t go very well. “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” – John 11:8.  The disciples were worried that Jesus would be killed if he returned to Judea and they were probably worried about their own safety as well.Then in John 11:16, we see a different Thomas in this passage when he says to the other disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

You could look at this passage and label Thomas as pessimistic or lacking in faith. I see Thomas in a somewhat different light. I see a disciple that is saying that he is willing to follow Christ, and if Jesus is going to die, then he is prepared to die with him. He is not afraid to speak up and tell the other disciples to come and follow Jesus and accept whatever lies ahead. In this passage, Thomas can be seen as a source of strength to the other disciples.

Thomas gets labeled a doubter because he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the grave until he saw him face to face. Remember however, that the other disciples also were slow to believe until Jesus appeared to them shortly after His resurrection. It didn’t take Thomas but just a few moments to utter that memorable phrase after seeing Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas was a true believer, but like most of us, his faith at times was weak. Jesus knew that and by His infinite grace, he renewed the faith of Thomas and used him to spread the Gospel to foreign lands.

John MacArthur goes on to say this about the later ministry of Thomas: There is a considerable amount of ancient testimony that suggests Thomas carried the gospel as far as India. There are churches in south India whose roots are traceable to the beginning of the church age, and tradition says they were founded under the ministry of Thomas. The strongest traditions say he was martyred for his faith by being run through with a spear – a fitting form of martyrdom for one whose faith came of age when he saw the spear mark in his Master’s side and for one who longed to be reunited with his Lord (John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men, page 164).

Thomas was a doubter, he was pessimistic, and his faith was sometimes weak. Many of us are like Thomas, at times. We doubt, we become weak, we lose faith, especially when things don’t go our way. But like Thomas, our faith and our outlook on life can be renewed by the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thomas stands as a testimony that God can use those of us that are weak and inferior to spread the Gospel message that Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen Indeed!

 

 

 

Easter Sunday – Christ is Risen!

The Empty Tomb: John 20: 1-9

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

  “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

   Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

   She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

On this glorious Easter morning we awake to a world that is filled with hope instead of despair. A morning that is full of light instead of the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Christ is risen and He is victorious over evil.This Easter morning we join with believers throughout the world in proclaiming: Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen indeed!

 

Holy Saturday

Today is called Holy Saturday and it is the day after Good Friday. Holy Saturday is sometimes called Black Saturday. It is the last day of Holy Week, in which we await the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning. On Holy Saturday we remember the day that the body of Christ lay in the tomb.

From the book of Matthew we find this event happening on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. Matthew 27:62-66: The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

John 16:20-22: I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

On this day, I am certain that the disciples were confused and scared. Jesus had been crucified and all may have seemed hopeless and lost. We know that the disciples struggled often in their walk of faith and on this dark day they probably could not begin to comprehend what was about to take place the next morning. The despair that they must have felt and the guilt of abandoning Jesus would have been a heavy burden to bear. They probably could not see or imagine – the light and the hope that would forever change the world – come tomorrow morning. Even though it may have seemed that evil had prevailed we know that evil will never prevail against God’s Kingdom. Tomorrow we can say with complete joy and confidence that – Christ is risen – Christ is risen indeed!