Jesus Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed.
This proclamation is at the heart of the Easter message.
The hope of Easter is that the Crucified One has been raised – death has been conquered, sin erased, and the way into the bosom of the Father opened for all who belong to Christ. The fact of the resurrection – its historical reality and its sin-shattering and earth-changing ramifications – propelled a small group of former fishermen and tax collectors to go to the ends of the world to proclaim the hope of salvation.
But this was not how that first Easter morning started. It began in darkness, confusion, and grief. After eating the passover with his disciples, one of them – Judas – gathered the temple guards and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Jesus was taken away, beaten, spit upon, and given a sham trial during the night.
He was presented the next morning to Pilate and the leaders of Israel demanded he be crucified. They led him away, making his carry his own cross – the instrument of his death. This perfect, innocent man, this unblemished lamb, had his hands and feet nailed to the wood of the cross and was lifted up on a hill outside the city walls.
Many of his disciples had fled. The few who stayed stood with a group of women as Jesus suffered, crying out and praying for the very ones who mocked and condemned him. After a few shorts hours in excruciating agony, Jesus died.
A man named Joseph was given his body and buried him in an unused tomb. They rolled a stone in front of the tomb to seal it and those who loved Jesus wept. On the third day, the women who had stood there as he died went to his grave to anoint his body.
That first Easter morning began in the wake of betrayal, crucifixion, and hopelessness. But that is not how the story ends. Before we hear God’s word this morning, please take a moment to pray with me.
Father, may your Word be our rule,
Your Holy Spirit our teacher,
and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.
If you are able, I invite you to stand to hear God’s word.
Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn,
they came to the tomb,
taking the spices they had prepared.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
but when they went in, they did not find the body.
While they were perplexed about this,
suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.
The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground,
but the men said to them,
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?
He is not here, but has risen.
Remember how he told you,
while he was still in Galilee,
that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners
and be crucified and on the third day rise again.”
Then they remembered his words,
and returning from the tomb,
they told all this to the eleven and all the rest.
Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James,
and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
But these words seemed to them an idle tale,
and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb,
stooping and looking in,
he saw the linen clothes by themselves,
then he went home,
amazed at what had happened.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus,
about seven miles from Jerusalem,
and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other
while you walk along?”
They stood still, looking sad.
Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him,
“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know
the things that have taken place there in these days?”
He asked them, “What things?”
They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over
to be condemned to death and crucified him.
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
Yes, and besides all this, it is now three days since these things took place.
Moreover, some women of our group astounded us.
They were at the tomb early this morning,
and when they did not find the body,
they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who said that he was alive.
Some of those who were with us went to the tomb
and found it just as the women had said,
but they did not see him.”
Then he said to them, “Of, how foolish you are,
and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!
Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things
and then enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going,
he walked ahead as if he were going on.
But they urged him strongly, saying,
“Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them,
he took bread, blessed and broke it,
and gave it to them.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him
and he vanished from their sight.
They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us
while he was talking to us on the road,
while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem,
and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed,
and he has appeared to Simon!”
Then they told what had happened on the road,
and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
While they were talking about this,
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
They were startled and terrified,
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
He said to them, “Why are you frightened,
and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet;
see that it is I myself.
Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
While in their joy thy were still disbelieving and wondering,
he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a peace of broiled fish,
and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you
while I was still with you – that everything written about me
in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,
and he said to them, “This it is written,
that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name
to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.
And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised;
so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany,
and lifting up his hands, he blessed them.
While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.
And they worshipped him,
and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and they were continually in the temple blessings God.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God (You may be seated)
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
But we had hoped. Easter morning for two disciples walking the Emmaus road was a morning of broken hope, of crushed dreams. The weight of Christ’s death drowned out the hope of resurrection that morning. They could not dare to believe it. They had hoped, but they could no longer.
But we had hoped.
They had hoped that in Jesus the Messiah had come. They had hoped that fullness of life was upon them. They had hoped that the kingdom of God was arriving in Jesus. They had hoped, but now Jesus was dead. And not just dead, crucified – a cursed death on a tree.
It is not just those two disciples long ago that walk on the road to Emmaus. Our world lives between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We had hoped, our world says. Even though Christ was risen that Easter morning, the disciples on the road walked in darkness, unable to see Jesus. Even though Christ is risen, many in our world still walk the dark road to Emmaus. We had hoped, we say. Have you been there? Walking in the darkness, unable to see Jesus.
But we had hoped, they said as they walked along the road. Even though Jesus has risen from the grave, they walk lost in the darkness. But something happens. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Jesus comes near and walks alongside those on the Emmaus road. The resurrected Jesus walks with those who are struggling in the shadows, even though we cannot always see him. As they walk along, Jesus doesn’t immediately reveal himself. He asks about their troubles, he listens as they lay their heart ache before him – their beliefs, their pain, their hopes, and their doubts.
Jesus did not reveal himself immediately, but listened, walking along the road with them. Then he opened the scriptures to them. He shows them how what God had promised all along was fulfilled in the suffering of the Messiah. He pointed to Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah to say that this was God’s grace, this was God’s kingdom in the suffering of the Son of Man. And their hearts burned within them.
When they reached Emmaus, they invited him into their home. He took the place of the host – he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him and he vanished from their sight.
They saw Jesus and everything changed. Hope ignited in their hearts and their world turned right-side-up. No longer crushed under the darkness of his death, these two disciples race back to Jerusalem to tell what had happened on the road and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. All this because they see Jesus.
That first Easter morning, the longing of every heart was to see Jesus. The women approached the tomb to see Jesus’ body. They want to see Jesus. The angels tell them they are looking in the wrong place. Jesus is not among the dead, he is not in the place of defeat, but he has risen. He is alive, just as he promised. After reporting to the disciples, most are skeptical, but Peter races to the tomb to see Jesus. He stoops and looks in, seeing the linen clothes by themselves. Peter, too, goes to see Jesus, but heads away amazed at what had happened.
Cleopas and his companion on the road have Jesus walking alongside them, but their eyes are kept from seeing him. Even with Jesus right beside them, because they cannot see him, they are struggling without hope.
Then in the breaking of the bread, they finally see Jesus. They rush to Jerusalem and find that Peter has seen him too. Then Jesus himself stands among them speaking to them. They see Jesus. He tells them, look at my hands and my feet, see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.
Easter hope hinges on seeing the risen Jesus. Before they see him, even though he walks alongside them, they struggle. But we had hoped. But after seeing Jesus, hope is ignited. Multiple times, the scriptures describe the disciples as being filled with joy having seen Jesus.
Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.
The difference between despair and hope, between dejection and joy, between struggling under the weight of death and living in the joy of resurrection life is in seeing Jesus. Jesus shows himself to the disciples and hearts catch fire, joy lines faces, and repentance and forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Yet, it is no longer that first Easter morning. The crucified Jesus, who has risen from the grave, is now seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. Jesus is seated on the throne and all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. Jesus Christ is reigning and though he is with us always, he no longer makes bodily appearances to disciples on the roadside. Jesus no longer enters rooms and stands among us.
So how do we see Jesus? How does the risen and ascended Christ show himself to us? How does he reveal himself so that we know the hope of that first Easter? How do we see Jesus if not standing in front of us as a man with wounds in his hands and feet? How does Jesus show himself to us so that our hearts burn within us, our despair is turn to hope, and our lives are turned right-side-up?
Where do we see Jesus? In the same places he revealed himself to the disciples on that first Easter morning – in the Word and at the Table.
As they walked along the road to Emmaus, Jesus opened the Word of God to the disciples. He showed how all of it points to him, how all of it shows forth Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah. Were not out hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he opened the scriptures to us?
Jesus opened the Word of God and set their hearts burning. If we want to see Jesus, if we want to know him, to know the hope and life and peace that he promises can only be found in him – if we want to see Jesus, whether for the first time or the thousandth time, we come to the Word. It is through the Word that Jesus shows himself to us. It is through the Word that the promises of the gospel are proclaimed, that hope is ignited, and Jesus himself is revealed to us. If we truly want to know Jesus, open a Bible, for it is there that Christ speaks.
Jesus shows himself to us in the Word and at the Table. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him and he vanished from their sight. Then they told what had happened on the road and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
If we want to know Christ, come to the table of the Lord. He is made known to us in the breaking of the bread. When we come to the feast, Christ shows himself to us as the true heavenly bread that strengthens us unto life eternal. In the cup of blessing he comes to us as the Vine in whom we must abide if we are to bear fruit.
If we want to see Jesus, we are invited to come to the table. Break the bread, drink the cup, proclaim the Lord’s death, and see Jesus. The table is the place of Last Supper remembrance, but also of Easter hope and joy, for the ascended Jesus makes himself known in the breaking of the bread.
So come to the table. All who are baptized and know Christ and long to know him more deeply, come to the table. All who belong to Christ, have been marked as his own, and who seek to follow him daily are welcome here at the table. Come and see Jesus.
If you are not sure this morning, if you do not know Christ, but find yourself hungry for the things of God and your heart burning within you, please come and see me after the service. If you long to know and be known by Jesus Christ, to know hope and joy and peace, please talk to me after the service.
People of God, come to the table. Come, for Jesus Christ is risen. Come, for the grave has been conquered. Come, for the hope of the world is found in Jesus. Come, for these are the gifts of God for the people of God.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.