Luke 24:13-35

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Theme and Parts:

“God’s Story Ends Correctly”

            I. With Hope (13-24)

            II. With Understanding (25-27)

            III. With Joy (28-35)

            Dear fellow redeemed,

            “WHAT?! What kind of ending was that?” My friend and I sat dumbfounded as the credits rolled. We had just watched the latest superhero team-up film. As the movie went on, I had become increasingly uneasy. It was clear we were near the end but nothing had been resolved. Finally, the unthinkable happened: the villain won. The final shot of the film is the villain resting secure having conquered. Fade to black. Credits roll. It was just a movie but honestly it was pretty disturbing and troubling. Let’s make this more real: how is the COVID-19 pandemic going to end? How will my own life end? What’s the ending for those all too real stories? Will it be the right ending? Don’t be disturbed; don’t be troubled. Easter gives us the assurance that God’s story ends correctly.

            Our text takes place on Easter Sunday. Sometime after the women reported the empty tomb, two of the disciples left Jerusalem for the village of Emmaus. These two were not part of the twelve, but rather part of the larger group of disciples who followed Jesus. We know nothing else for certain about these two and only one of them is even named. It seems that they lived in Emmaus, a walk of about two and a half hours from Jerusalem.

            Luke tells us that these two “were talking with each other about all these things that had happened” while they walked. They discussed everything that had happened to Jesus, the report of the women and Peter and John of the empty tomb, and their own fear and misgivings. They were without hope because they believed the story of Christ had ended badly.

            But, Luke informs us, “While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Jesus had risen! He joined them in a natural way as when one traveler comes upon another. They did not recognize Jesus because Jesus prevented it. They were not yet ready for they did not yet understand the ending of the story.

            The risen Christ then asked His two disciples, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” This is not pretense on Jesus’ part. He asked so that they would state their problem to Him so that He could then solve it. He asked them to explain their hopelessness that He should give hope. They didn’t understand the end of the story but Jesus would explain it to them.

            Once Jesus asked the question, it had the intended result. The two expressed their hopelessness. “And they stood still, looking sad.” They stopped in their tracks and were gloomy. They were also incredulous that anyone in the area could not already know the details of the past week.

            Cleaopas recounted what had happened to Jesus. In so doing, he betrayed their lack of understanding of God’s story. After retelling the death of Jesus, he said, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” They knew the Old Testament. They knew the Savior would redeem His people. But, they didn’t understand the how – the end of that story of redemption. Therefore, they thought the story had ended all wrong! Jesus died! How did that redeem anyone? And so, their hope was gone and they were in sorrow. Even reports of the empty tomb had not changed their minds.

            It’s not certain exactly where the thinking of these two disciples had gone wrong. Had they fallen into thinking Jesus’ redemption was to liberate Israel from Roman rule? Had they retained the proper thinking that Jesus came to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil but they had failed to see how His death did that?

            God’s story unfolds correctly; Christ gives hope. Jesus has redeemed us. To redeem is to set free by paying a ransom price. The price to set us free from sin, death, and hell was His own holy blood. Just as Peter wrote in our Epistle Lesson that we were ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (I Peter 1:19). We are free.

            This is our hope. We have the sure confidence that our sins are forgiven, we will live after death, and heaven is our eternal home because Jesus has set us free. He died to give us such hope. The proof that this hope is correct is seen in the fact that He rose again. He was victorious in us work of setting us free. Good Friday ended correctly; Jesus’ death gives hope.

            No matter how dark, hard, or sad certain times in your life may be, your story is going to end correctly in Christ. It will lead to the correct final chapter. It will end with you entering into the glory of paradise in your Savior’s presence. Your hope will be fulfilled for all eternity.

            God’s story ends correctly and He gives understanding of this truth. Jesus said to the Emmaus disciples, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” They should have known the Scriptures better. Everything had unfolded exactly as the prophets had foretold by inspiration of the Lord. These two had overlooked the most essential parts of the Savior’s story! The happy ending had been foretold from the beginning!

            But, before we become too incredulous, consider your own sin in such matters. The Lutheran theologian Paul Kretzmann once wrote, “We Christians indeed believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. But this our faith and hope is often subject to vacillations and uncertainties. Hours of weakness, of trouble and tribulation will come, when all the things which we have learned from Scripture seem no more than a pious dream. Then it seems to us as though Jesus were dead, as though we had lost Him and His salvation out of our hearts.”

            When the story seems to be going wrong to us, don’t we often react in such ways? Don’t we often react with attitudes of gloom and doom when the story of our lives becomes difficult? Don’t we often turn inward in dejection? This is the sin of not understanding Scripture. It is the sin of acting as if the truths of Scripture are merely pious dreams.

            But look at what Jesus did for the Emmaus disciples. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” He gives understanding of how God’s story ends correctly. Scripture is all about Christ. The Old Testament is all about Christ. It is all about how the Christ pays for the world’s sin by shedding His holy blood and rises again showing the Father’s acceptance of that payment. Christ is risen; your sins are forgiven.

            Christ gives you this understanding through His Word. See Christ in all of Scripture. As you study Scripture, see it as the history of God’s story. God gave His promises and He fulfilled His promises. Christ has redeemed you. Everything led to that. Now, your story is leading to the fullness of redemption in the new heavens and the new earth. You will live in soul and glorified body as a redeemed child of God. The Lord will bring you through the hurts of this world to that glorious, correct ending. The end of the story is a joyous beginning.

            God’s story ends with joy. The three travelers reached Emmaus. Jesus would have kept going but the two urged Him to stay. “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” Note that Jesus forces Himself into no one’s home. Those who close their homes to Him will not have His presence. Those who neglect His Word and Sacraments will lose His presence. But, those who receive Him through His Word and Sacraments will have His presence. He does abide with them.

            “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.” In an instant, they recognized Jesus. The Lord no longer held back their eyes but now gave them immediate recognition. And then, Jesus vanished. In His exaltation, His body was no longer limited, and now that they believed He was alive, His visible presence was no longer necessary. Now, they would trust His Word and have His constant presence.

Now their sorrow had turned to joy. This joy is yours. In their joy, the Emmaus disciples said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Jesus’ teaching warmed their hearts. Their hearts were now burning with faith, assurance, and joy. That’s what Jesus’ Word does. Use Jesus’ word; it fans into a fire faith, assurance, and joy. Do you have more free time during this pandemic? Dedicate some of that time to study of Jesus’ Word. Look to Jesus for joy.

            The joy of the Emmaus disciples led them to action. They had to tell the other disciples that the Good Friday story had ended correctly! Jesus had won eternal life for us. Jesus is alive. So, they went directly back to Jerusalem. Their boldness is seen in that making such a journey at night was unusual because it could be very dangerous.

            That gathering was a joyous one. Peter had seen Jesus alive since they had left earlier in the day, and they reported their own encounter with the risen Lord. This joy did not mean they would not struggle with fears and doubts; we saw that in last week’s text which immediately follows this one. It does mean that they had, and we have, God’s Word to uphold. We have the source of joy when we are attacked with sorrow. We have the source for understanding when we are plagued with doubts. We have the source of hope when we are troubled by misery.

            Dear friends, God’s story ends correctly. In fulfillment of prophecy directed by the hand of God, Christ Jesus suffered, died, and then rose again in triumph. I had to wait a full year for the sequel to the superhero movie to see things end correctly in that story. The Emmaus disciples had to wait about 48 hours after Jesus’ death to understand that God’s story ends correctly. You don’t need to wait a year or even a few days to learn the ending; you know it from Scripture. As you wait for the conclusion of your story in God’s history, you can rest secure knowing that your victory through Christ is certain. You need not wait anxiously for that ending. No, because of Christ you wait with hope, understanding, and joy. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.