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This Easter I want us to think about the theme of hope. Hope is something which we all need. Perhaps, the spread of the coronavirus in recent days has made you think about your own hopes.
What do you hope in? Who do you hope in? Is there a real foundation to your hope?
Many of us hoped that today we could meet together for worship in church. We cannot.
We hope that the lockdown won’t last for too much longer – we cannot be sure – it is uncertain.
However, when it comes to the Bible, the word ‘hope’ is not something uncertain – just wishful thinking. In contrast, Christian hope looks forward to things which are definite. Christian hope is certain because it is based on the reality of God and his promises – promises which he keeps. It is based on the great historical facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago.
As we think about these disciples on the road to Emmaus, let’s consider:
1. Hope lost
2.The only way of lasting hope
3. Hope found
1. Hope lost
As we listen in to the conversation of these disciples, it is clear that their world has fallen apart. Their hope is rapidly fading. They are confused and distressed and full of doubts. And all because they had placed all their hope in a person – Jesus Christ.
What lies at the heart of these disciples’ lost hope? It was that their expectations of what Jesus would do had been shattered! ‘They crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.’ (Luke 24:20-21) They were so certain that death was the end for Jesus, that the women’s reports of seeing the risen Jesus, and Jesus’ own promises to rise on the 3rd day don’t even register with them.
2. Our only way of lasting hope
Why does Jesus not reveal himself and just shout out ‘It’s me!? Don’t be depressed. I’ve triumphed over death!’ Because he wants them to understand from the Bible who he is and what his work has been. In other words, he wants them to understand Good Friday and Easter Sunday!
At the heart of their despair lies their misunderstanding of the Bible. And so, what is Jesus’ solution to their problem? He gives them a Bible study! ‘He said to them, How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ (Luke 24:25-27)
What does this mean? Jesus is saying that the whole of the Old Testament is about him, and if we read it, we find a clear pattern, that the Promised Rescuer/ Messiah would first have to suffer and then after that there would come glory. First there would be the cross, and only then the crown.
It had to be that way. Why does Jesus (who is God) need to give his life in order to rescue us? Was it really necessary? Yes, it was necessary because of the virus that each member of the human race suffers from. It’s called sin. A small word – but it has an impact even more far-reaching than the coronavirus. Morally speaking, we all have a huge debt with God – a debt which we can never pay off, no matter how hard we try. This is the bad news. This is why we need a Rescuer.
The Bible had taught this all along. But the people only seemed to focus on the prophecies which spoke of the victory of the Messiah, and almost totally ignored the prophecies about him suffering.
How amazing it must have been for these 2 disciples, hearing Jesus explaining from the Bible about how the Messiah had to suffer! Perhaps he read from Isaiah: ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
If you would like this sure and certain Christian hope, what does God want from you? He wants you to confess your sin to him in prayer, and thank him for dying for sinners, and ask him to be at the very centre of your life, and to take charge of your life. In short, he wants you to turn from your sin and put your faith in Jesus.
3. Hope found
Can you imagine the joy these disciples feel when they realise that Jesus has risen from the dead? He is the Messiah after all, but he hadn’t come to set up a political kingdom, but to forgive our sins and establish a spiritual kingdom, which would be world-wide in its scope and would last forever!
Their hope is rekindled and soon their hearts are burning. ‘Were not our hearts burning within us…’ (Luke 24:32) Why were their hearts burning within them? They realised Jesus died in their place. The love of God is flooding their hearts. The Holy Spirit is giving them spiritual sight. They realise that the cross is not weakness, but rather the answer to our deepest need, that of forgiveness with God, now possible because Jesus has died in their place, as their substitute.
The coronavirus is a truly awful virus, and we must do all that we can to fight it. But the truth is, that we will all die one day and we will have to meet almighty God. We can only be ready for meeting God if we have placed our hope in Jesus, just as Cleopas and his friend do here. Only Jesus has defeated death by rising again. No one else has any answer to death but Jesus has; he has conquered it by rising again.