How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?

Whose Plans Are Those? [Luke 24: 13-35]

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Luke 24: 13-35

Note: For the most part, this is a sermon I prepared for the week after Resurrection Day (Easter). I was asked to speak in the absence of the pastor. I encourage you to read my last blog dated May 18 as it contrasted the plans and expectations of people with the plans of God as they related to the life of Jesus Christ. – JM –

As much as we don’t want to be, we are all still in a pandemic. Have you had plans that changed because of it? Do you miss getting together with family or friends? How about travel plans? . . . . Plans. The best of our plans can be ruined or altered at any time by circumstances beyond our control.

At the beginning of today’s Bible passage, we find two of Jesus’ disciples heading from Jerusalem where their friends were in order to travel home to the small town of Emmaus
[“eh-MAY-uhs”], about seven miles from Jerusalem. What has happened to bring about leaving their friends in Jerusalem? Their teacher, their Rabbi, their Messiah had been arrested and put on trial by the Jewish leaders, then he was given over to the Romans to be tried and executed. All their expectations for the future were executed on the cross, and their dreams – their plans – died with Jesus’ last breath. 

“Now that same day two of them [disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.”  [Luke 24: 13-16. NIV]

This same day, three days after the execution of their great teacher and the same day that women and Peter found there was no body in the tomb – all of Jesus’ followers were grieving, crushed by the loss of their friend, the expected Messiah – with their dreams of being a part of the re-establishment of the Kingdom of David, freedom from the Romans, positions of power and wealth – all of it was dashed. And now you’re up-to-date.

Two of them, one of them named Cleopas [“CLE-o-pas”], may have given up and decided to go home to Emmaus. Just the two of them walking along the road, discussing those last three heartbreaking days. They were in no hurry as they sauntered on their way with broken hearts.

Jesus (Yes, the same Jesus who was executed on the cross and who was laid in a borrowed tomb. The same Jesus whose body was not in the tomb as of that very morning. Yes, that Jesus.). Jesus came up from behind on the road and started walking with the two disciples. But they didn’t recognize him.

Jesus asked them what they were talking about. They stopped in the road and told him about the last three days up to that morning. They told him they were talking “about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” [v. 19]

Jesus replied, in effect, that you folks have missed the point.

“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer thee things and then enter his glory?”  [vv. 25-26]

Jesus told them that all these things that have happened was a part of God’s intentional plan, and the prophets had spoken of this throughout Scripture [what Christians call the “Old Testament”]. Then what did he say to these two disheartened disciples?

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets , he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” [v 27]

They arrived at the two disciples’ home, and they insisted Jesus stay with them for the night as it was early evening.  What is going on? They are having incredible Bible study with the Master Teacher. We would like to continue this. Why don’t you stay with us for the night? Note, if you will, that the two still did not recognize Jesus.

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” [vv. 30-31]

What about this act revealed to these two who Jesus was? They saw him take bread, give thanks and break the bread many times before. Was it some mannerism or some habit he had when he did so? Or was it when he began to give it to them? I don’t know, but something about the act of serving the bread to the two followers opened their eyes. At the point they recognized him, he disappeared! How amazing was that! He had a body, he had a presence, but his body was different such that he was able to disappear from the room (and later that same evening he showed he was able to appear again in a room in Jerusalem).

WOW! Did the two men began jabbering with each other that Jesus was with right there with them and he suddenly disappeared???  NO!! Instead, they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  [v. 32]  They had communed with God the Son in fellowship without knowing it, and they delighted in studying the Scriptures in a new light.

What did the disciples do next? What would you have done? It was late in the afternoon or perhaps early evening. Jerusalem is 7 miles away, and they had just come from there. They didn’t say, “Let’s go back to Jerusalem after a good night’s rest and meet with the believers in the morning.” Instead, “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem!” [v. 33a]

When the two disciples arrived to the gathering in Jerusalem, they told those gathered all that had happened to them in meeting Jesus.

What a great narrative. Luke gives such detail in the whole exchange that you could write a play from it. It was all a part of God’s wonderful plan foretold in Scriptures for over a thousand years by the time Jesus ministered on the earth.

Do you ever think of yourself as being a part of God’s plan? These two disciples heading home in sadness and discouragement were in God’s plan. What about you? Let me tell you about something that happened to my wife and me several years ago as an example. I was graduating from seminary (theological graduate school) in Kentucky with a Master of Social Work degree (MSW). I had a job lined up as the Program Director of a Christian children’s agency in Redding, California (about five hours north of San Francisco), and we were leaving that very Tuesday with our three children (ages 5, 8, 12). However, that Saturday before we were to leave on Tuesday, I received a phone call from the director of the children’s agency. Summary: “Due to financial problems, your position is no longer available.”

What??? What!!! We called my wife’s parents in Washington State and told them of our situation. They said that we could stay with them while I looked for work. Now, whose plans are at work here? They sure weren’t our plans!

While I was unemployed, I sent out job applications to social work positions as well as churches as I had previously earned a Master of Divinity degree and had pastored. Meanwhile, I helped the church where I grew up in Washington State with organizational and conflict management issues to explain it simply. After ten months, I got a job. And guess what? Do you remember the previous job offer that was cancelled? After ten months, I still ended up at a Christian children’s agency in Redding, California as the Program Director! It was the same position in the same city but with a different agency! That was what God had planned for us. He just wanted us to take a ten-month detour to help out a small church in Washington State that had problems.

Our plans certainly change, but what about God’s plans?  God’s plans may be different than we expected. Remember the people’s expectations for the Messiah as opposed to how God actually carried out his plan that I discussed in my previous blog?

“The Lord Almighty planned it, to bring low the pride of all glory and to humble all who are renowned on the earth.”  [Isaiah 23: 9. NIV]

“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” [Psalm 33: 10-11. NIV]

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”  [Isaiah 55: 8-9.  NIV]

It didn’t matter what the Jewish leadership had in mind for what the Messiah was supposed to be and do, God had other plans. As horrible as the trial and death of Jesus was, it was part of God’s big plans to bring people back into a loving relationship with himself through faith and trust in Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. God had his plans – and his plans are perfect.

John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” That’s God’s plan for you and everyone on the earth.

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