Easter: Hope vs. Hopelessness

Title: Hope vs. Hopelessness

Text: Luke 24.13-35

CIT: Two men who had followed Christ headed home after the events of the weekend. They were confused about all they had heard and experienced. But, an encounter with Christ changed it all.

Introduction: We’re in Luke 24.13-35.

This past week Al Kaline passed away. “Mr. Tiger”, as he was known, was 85. 22 years with the same team – the Detroit Tigers. I look at his life in baseball and wonder where all of the heroes have gone. I miss the days of solid play, where men joined a team and stayed for a career. I miss the days where money wasn’t the driving force and fans were. I miss men like Al Kaline who, as was written about him: when he came up to shake your hand, even though he was the star, he made you feel like it was you who was most important.

Did you see that Linda Tripp, the former White House whistle-blower, who recorded conversations with Monica Lewinski passed away on Wednesday? She was only 70 years old.

Shirley Douglas, Kiefer Southerland’s mom, passed away this past week.

Bill Withers, singer, songwriter, passed away the week before: he wrote and recorded “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Lean on Me,”

And Kenny Rogers passed away the week before that. I remember as a little kid, my dad had an 8-track of Kenny Rogers and the 1st edition.

When we lived in Tyler, there was a woman who lived about 12-15 miles away from us in Jacksonville, TX. She was one of the oldest living people in the world at 116 years old. So, I followed the list closely, watching as she moved up the list to become the oldest living person.

Every so often I’d check the list. One such lady who held that record was Misao Okawa, of Japan. Show pic: I think she was the last person to be born in the 1800s! What struck me about her was a comment she made at her last birthday: She commented that her life seemed rather short. What! If 117 years is ‘rather short’, what hope do most all of us have! Think about this: if God told you today that you were going to die in the next few minutes, would you think to yourself: wow, that went by really fast?

Emily Phillips, someone I’m sure you’ve never heard of, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Knowing that she was dying, she decided to write her own obituary. She wrote: So…I was born; I blinked, and it was over. Talk about hopeless… BTW: she was 69 years old.

I want to spend the rest of the morning talking to you about hope in the midst of what appears to be hopeless.

Where there is hope vs. where there is hopelessness

Life has a way of squeezing hope out of us. People betray us and let us down. The loss of a job; the fracture of a relationship; the despair from crushing news brought by a doctor; the disappointment we bring to ourselves…I never thought I’d find myself here. Gary Inrig: In any situation in life, Hope is like Oxygen to the soul, but hopelessness is like leukemia to the spirit.

That’s what Resurrection Sunday is all about: hope. It is a day that reminds us that there is hope. Despite all that may attack us, despite what may happen in the course of this life, there is hope.

Now, when we get to our text, we find a group of hopeless people. Many of them had given up the last three years to walk with Christ and learn from him. So, someone they loved had died, but there was more: their hope was that he indeed had been the long-awaited Messiah. And, now that hope had faded…

We pick up in our text, Luke 24, in verse 13: rd

But we had hoped… let those words ring in your ears for just a moment. My guess is that every single member of this tiny group of disciples believed Jesus was dead. They knew it. Not one of them believed he was alive after many of them had witnessed his death and burial.

When I think about Peter and his despair, how he ran away and wept. Friday must have been the worst day of his life, as he saw it. It was probably that way for all of them! Saturday was probably the longest day of their lives as they waited in silence and secret, for fear of what would happen to them. I don’t imagine Sunday was anything they were very excited about.

Think about this: why were the ladies on their way to the tomb that morning? It was to give Jesus a proper burial. Because back a couple of days, the Sabbath was upon them, they ran out of time. Two men buried Jesus. It was a hasty burial. The women were coming to do it right. This group, called his disciples, was hopeless. Jesus was executed – the death of a criminal – he was dead and buried. Their expectations would be the same as yours and mine – that a dead body would do what a dead body does: lay there and rot. Rd 21b; and now it’s been three days – he’s dead.

I’m sure this was tough on them. I’m not sure how you get over something like this. Peter had betrayed Jesus with his denial. They all had fled when Jesus was arrested. Some, though, appear to be doing their best to move on – to put this behind them: It’s over. Let’s go home. Geographically, Jerusalem is to their backs. Metaphorically, the events of Jerusalem are behind them. They’re talking about all that was to be. What happened? It was just a week ago that the whole city was in an uproar, welcoming him, laying out palms on his pathway and crying out, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. We thought: this is it! It’s finally going to happen. Where did it all go wrong? How could things change so quickly!

Then, as they’re walking and talking – remembering – a stranger happens along. No big deal, many would have been traveling home after the Passover Celebration. Somehow though, they didn’t recognize this stranger. Their eyes were ‘kept’ from seeing him (16). The way it’s written here, it sounds as if this was God’s doing.

Now, you might be asking, how is this possible?

Ill.: When I was in Cotulla, I organized a youth choir. We were tiny – not really a choir at all. But I had a friend who was taking his youth to Florida on a long Choir tour/Mission Trip. My few grew into a big choir! There was only one problem. I had classes at seminary that interfered with the tour. My pastor was in full support of my schooling and felt I should get everything organized and send them off. Lisa was going to go with them. So, I did. Then I went back to school in Ft. Worth.

During the first few days on their journey, my adults noticed that they were being mistreated. They got all of the ‘dirty jobs’, the harder meals to prepare and clean up. The other group was getting preferential treatment. As it was, I had no classes the next day and only one on the day after that. I was sad that I couldn’t be there. One of the sponsors decided to buy me a ticket if I could come. Lisa asked and I said yes. Tickets were purchased and no one knew I was coming except my wife and this one chaperone. They wanted it to be a surprise. And a surprise it was!

I remember the flight. It was the first time I saw Pacman in a field. I landed and Lisa and this chaperone, Linda, were there to pick me up. We were in Tallahassee/Crawfordville, Fl. They took me back to the church were our kids were in downtime. The church we were staying at has a swimming pool and gym. Pretty cool. Anyway, I walked into the gym and saw a group of men and teens playing basketball. They were from that church and I didn’t know them. My kids were all out playing in the pool. About that time, Donna Van Cleve, a mother of a couple of youth and one of my chaperones, walked into the gym. She saw me standing there with Lisa and Linda, but she didn’t recognize me. She figured I was one of the men from that church. I couldn’t believe that she didn’t say anything to me. So, I walked over to her and stood beside her watching the game. She just continued watching the game. So, I got closer and closer until I actually touched her shoulder to shoulder. She moved away and looked up to see who this creep was invading her space.

I’ll never forget her reaction. It was priceless. But, I’ll also never forget that she looked right at me and didn’t even recognize me. She said later that she was standing there thinking about me – that if I were there, I’d be playing basketball with those guys. That’s funny, I was on her mind, she saw me with her eyes, but didn’t even recognize me.

App.: I guess it was because she didn’t figure I should be there. That’s what’s going on with these guys: they thought Jesus was dead. They never expected him to be there.

Now, this stranger asks them what they’re talking about. What are you guys talking about as you walk along? The Gk here is so descriptive. Most literally, what words are you tossing back and forth between the two of you as you walk along? It’s kind of playful. Upbeat.

But they are not as he. The text actually tells us that they stop and standstill. Read v 17; And they stood still, looking sad. They actually stop walking. And they’re blown away that someone could be coming out of Jerusalem and not know what has been happening. Cleopas breaks the momentary silence with a question that I imagine he asks incredulously: rd v 18 Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And Jesus answers: what things?

Are you serious?!? What things? Jesus said, Lit.: Things?

“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.

But there is more: rd 21-24;

If your taking notes this morning, I’ve come to my first point: Hopelessness comes when you are confused.

 

I.     Hopelessness comes when you are confused (22-24)

exp.: Hopelessness comes when you can’t make sense of your situation. That’s how these guys were. You know, it’s the same today: many are confused over the empty tomb. It doesn’t make sense to them. Here’s the situation: There was an execution. He was dead and buried. But today, the tomb is empty – there is no corpse.

They actually tell us why they’re confused. They don’t know this, but we can see it now. It’s because they don’t understand who Christ really is. To them, he is: (rd v 19)

  •             Jesus, a Jewish name
  •             Nazareth, from a town around Galilee
  •             A man – just a simple man, who did great things
  •             A prophet – mighty in deed and in word
  •             But he was condemned and put to death

Yes, they’re confused because they didn’t really know who he was.

2nd, they’re confused because they didn’t really understand what he came to do. They said, 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. What they say is right, but their understanding of what it means is different. They are thinking from a human, earthly standpoint. Yes, he’s come to set them free – but not from the Romans, but rather from their sins.

I’ve got to stop here and make an application: could it be that many are confused today because they’ve misunderstood the purpose for which Jesus came? Maybe you’re there today? Maybe you’ve thought that giving your life to Jesus meant that he was going to make everything perfect in your life. You’d never get sick, you’d always have enough money, you’d always prosper in all you do. No! The purpose of Christ’s coming to this earth wasn’t so you’d be healthy, wealthy and prosperous in the physical sense. He came to make atonement for your sin. And not your sin only, but for the sins of the world.

He then speaks to them in v 25; rd v 25-27;

He then takes them methodically through the O.T. and reveals to them just how this was all supposed to happen; rd Ps 22.1-18; Isaiah 52.13-53.12; It is as if these two men were eyewitnesses to the crucifixion. It’s like they were sitting there at the foot of the cross, watching and listening in.

Rd 28-29; the time has passed quickly as they’ve walked together on their way. Jesus has opened the Scriptures to them and explained to them how it is that this has been God’s plan from the beginning. They ask him to stay:

  1. Because it’s practical – the day is far spent, if you keep going, you’ll be out on the road after dark
  2. Because it’s personal – there is nothing like the excitement of someone who knows what he is talking about.

ill.: There are certain scholars I have experienced this with. #1 David Helm. David has a mind for the deep things of God but uses a vocabulary for us simple folk. He has a gift for communicating clearly and concisely. I sat under his teaching and was amazed that his hour was up. It felt so short. R. Kent Hughes is another man like that. These men explain things and I’m like: why didn’t I see that?

That’s probably what has happened here: they want to spend a little more time with this stranger. I say this because there is something unusual about the setup; rd v 30; The Jewish custom was pretty particular about this: the man of the house was given this responsibility. He would lead his family in this manner. For some reason, unknown to us, Jesus performs this duty. Rd v 31;

I wonder what it was exactly that caused this.

  • Did he say something in Hebrew to begin the meal, something they had heard before or something with which they were familiar?
  • Was it simply the way he said it, the way they had heard him say it before?
  • Or, was it the way he broke the bread as he spoke?
  • Or, did they see the wounds in his hands?
  • Or, was it simply as the Scripture records: 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Before, they were kept from recognizing him. Now, their eyes are opened.

I don’t know the answer to that, I only know their eyes were opened – and they knew. It’s him! It’s Jesus!

And the passage reads in v. 31: And he vanished from their sight.

t.s.: I told you point #1 is Hopelessness comes when you are confused. Here is Point #2

II.    Hope comes when it all finally makes sense (31-35)

exp.: like these guys, I don’t know what that will be for you. Maybe you’ll finally understand his purpose. Maybe for the first time, Scripture will make sense. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll see him for who He is – The one sent to die for your sins.

ill.: I guess it should be too amazing to me that the Empty Tomb didn’t confirm for these guys that Jesus rose from the dead. The disciples began to think of physical possibilities. Mary: They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him. And again: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” The Pharisees, too: The disciples have stolen the body.

Maybe, you’re like Thomas, who said that it was just too much for him to understand. Unless he could see the hands with the nail wounds and the whole in his side that he would not believe.

For these people, it has to make sense physically. But, maybe, just maybe, something is happening to you like happened to these two disciples, Cleopas and his friend. Rd v 32: 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?”

I love what happens next: rd v 33-35; They got there, I’m guessing with the hope of telling everyone, but boom: they got upstaged! “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Isn’t that just like Simon Peter!

I love the logical reasoning behind the understanding that Jesus rose from the dead. William Lane Craig outlines them in his Paper – Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We see them in this text:

  1. First of all, there is an Execution that takes place. rd 19-21; He died.
  2. 2ndly, there is the Empty tomb. We see this in 22-25; pretty simple and straight forward. There is so much work that has been done on the historical accuracy of the resurrection. There are so many non-biblical accounts that verify the resurrection.
  3. 3rdly we have the Eye-witness accounts, the resurrection appearances. We see this in 33-35; It’s more than just an empty tomb – there are verifiable witnesses to a resurrected Jesus. As Luke says in Acts 1.3: He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
  4. 4thly, we have the Explosion of growth through the early church. What would cause 3,000 men to get saved at a fisherman’s preaching? What would cause 2,000 more in another time of preaching? I love what Paul said to Agrippa and Festus in Acts 26.24-26

24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.

The early church exploded because they were eyewitnesses to these accounts of an empty tomb and his appearances.

I think this is summed up best by an orthodox Jewish Rabbi, who by the way, believes in the resurrection, but denies Jesus as the Messiah. He believes God raised Jesus because of the incredible injustice done to him by his enemies and his followers alike. Pinchas Lapide writes: When the scared, frightened band of the apostles which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation.

Source: William Lane Craig – Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

**Show next screen: execution, empty tomb, eye witnesses, explosion…

Conclusion: Let me ask you this morning: Where is your hope? Do you have hope? Do you understand that your life is like a vapor of steam that appears for just a moment? You are born, you blink, and boom, it’s over! As I talk about these things this morning, is there more confusion than confidence? Is your heart burning within you – is that the best way to describe it? Is there something going on and you don’t even understand it, but you know – for the 1st time or maybe the 1st time in a long time that you know – you really know Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins, that he was buried in a borrowed tomb and that three days later he rose from the dead and is alive today! I want to encourage you to do the same thing: to rise up at this moment. Reach out to us via tarpleybaptistchurch@gmail.com

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Filed under Easter, Luke, Scripture, Sermon

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