Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter (A)
April 6, 2008
Text: Luke 24:13-35

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

Dashed hopes! That’s the syndrome the Emmaus disciples were suffering from, and you know exactly what that’s like. “(W)e had hoped that [this Jesus of Nazareth] was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21; ESV). We had hoped that He would lead Israel to a new age of national autonomy and freedom from Roman tyranny, but now He’s been crucified as a rebel. Now He’s dead and buried. What’s more, our women have some crazy ideas! They’re seeing visions of angels who say He’s alive! What could these things mean? It’s all so confusing. But one thing is for certain: Jesus didn’t do what we had dared to hope He would.

If you’re honest, you’ve had dashed hopes just like the Emmaus disciples. There have been times when Jesus hasn’t done what you hoped He would. He hasn’t healed that cancer. He allowed the car wreck. He didn’t provide the new job you were counting on. Your marriage is a shambles. Your parents just don’t understand you. Your loved one has died. And what is Jesus doing about it? You had hoped He would have the magic cure. You had hoped He would rescue you with a miracle. But it seems that He is silent. It seems as though He doesn’t care. It seems as though He is still dead and buried, as if the Creed ends with those words.

And yet… Could it not be that sin and unbelief have kept your eyes from recognizing Jesus hidden precisely in your suffering and dashed hopes? Perhaps the problem is not Jesus, but you. Perhaps your eyes are closed in unbelief, blinded by sin, focused on the wrong thing. So it was with the Emmaus disciples. Their hopes were dashed because having eyes, they did not see. They were walking along, talking about the events of Jesus’ suffering and death, but for them, the Creed ended with His burial. “While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him” (vv. 15-16). It never dawned on the disciples that the One walking with them was the risen Lord. Because they had seen Him die. He was crucified, died, and was buried. End of story, in the minds of the Emmaus disciples. So even when Jesus began with Moses and all the Prophets and “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27), they still did not recognize Jesus.

How often is the same thing true of you and me?! Our eyes are wide shut! How slow of heart we are to believe what the prophets have spoken. How slow of heart we are to believe what the Holy Scriptures say. If Christ is risen, how is it that we walk around with dashed hopes? If Christ is risen, how is it that we miss His presence as the God-man for us even in the midst of our suffering, even when the cancer is not cured, even in the car wreck, even in the midst of hurting relationships, and even in the face of the death of a loved one, or our own death for that matter? What is Christ doing about it? He already did more than you could ever have hoped or dreamed! Christ has died. Christ is risen. And Christ will come again. And in the meantime, He has promised never to abandon you or forsake you. He gives you His good gifts and Spirit. He opens His Word to you so that your hearts burn within you. He abides with you in these gray and latter days as the world hastens toward the evening of its existence. And He takes the bread which is His body, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to you for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. It is in these gifts that you recognize Him. He reveals Himself to you beginning with Moses and all the prophets, the evangelists and all the apostles in the Holy Scripture, and in the breaking of the bread, which is the Supper of His body and blood. Do you suffer from dashed hope syndrome, as the Emmaus disciples did? You need the Word and the Sacrament. For there you will see that Jesus is not in the grave. He is risen, just as He said.

If you ever wonder where Jesus is when you need Him, you can always find Him right where He has promised to be: in the midst of His Church, His congregation, distributing His gifts in the means of grace. This Sunday is really “Means of Grace Sunday.” The lectionary, the appointed readings of day, tell us that Jesus is present for us in Baptism, the Word of God, and the Lord’s Supper. The First Reading from Acts (2:14a, 36-41) is a selection from St. Peter’s Pentecost sermon, and it drives home the point that Baptism saves us. After Peter had indicted the Pentecost crowd in Jerusalem for the crucifixion of Jesus, the people “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (v. 27). Peter does not direct them to their own works, but to the work of God in Baptism. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (vv. 38-39). When you are baptized into the Name that Jesus bears, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, you receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. And this promise is for adults as well as children, thus we dare not withhold this life-giving gift from infants who are also sinners in need of forgiveness and the Spirit. Likewise the promise is for all people, including those who are far off, people of every race, Jew and Gentile, thus the great need to make Baptism along with teaching a central part of our evangelism and mission work as the Church of Christ. For those whose hopes are buried in tombs of death, Baptism’s regenerating power brings resurrection life in Christ Jesus.

The epistle lesson (1 Peter 1:17-25), also authored by St. Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares to us that we have been born again (another reference to what happens in Baptism) as imperishable seed “through the living and abiding word of God” (v. 23), and that “‘the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (v. 25), the good news that you have been bought at a price, ransomed “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (vv. 18-19). From this we learn that the death and resurrection of Christ are bestowed upon us not only in our Baptism, but through the Word. And this Word is versatile. It comes to us in a multitude of ways, in preaching, in the public Scripture readings and devotional reading with the family and in private, and in the Holy Absolution, that proclamation of the Word which declares all your sins forgiven on account of Christ. This is also the Word combined with the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of the Supper that makes these Sacraments efficacious. For those whose hopes are buried in tombs of death, the living and active Word of God enlivens those who have ears to hear and brings them to new birth into a living hope.

The Gospel lesson (Luke 24:13-35) also speaks of this Word. It speaks of the Word of the Lord in the Old Testament, Moses and the prophets, which is code language for the whole Old Testament, and how these Scriptures proclaim nothing but Christ, and how it was “necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory” (v. 26). It speaks of the Word of Jesus explaining these Old Testament Scriptures, and of Jesus, the Word made flesh, fulfilling these Old Testament Scriptures. This causes the disciples’ hearts to burn within them. And it causes the hearts of disciples today, whose hopes have been dashed, to burn within them as well. For Jesus fulfills all hopes. Maybe not in the way we thought He would. Maybe not in the way we think He should. Maybe not in a way that is immediately apparent to us. But Jesus fulfills our hopes in a way we could not have dreamt or imagined. He dies for us. He dies on the cross for our forgiveness. In the death of Christ, you are forgiven of all sin, as am I. And now He hides Himself in our present sufferings to work good, even out of the bad things that happen. And even when that good is never apparent in this earthly life, Jesus is present with His resurrection power, ever making us new. We recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. We recognize Him placing hope on our tongues as He distributes His risen body and blood, given and shed for us for our forgiveness. This body and blood are the price of our ransom. Jesus has redeemed us lost and condemned creatures, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death, that you and I may be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

And since this is most certainly true, can we do anything other than gather together with Christ’s Church, as the Emmaus disciples were gathered together with the eleven and those with them, and proclaim to one another the good news?… He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! And there is no greater hope than that, for the hope of the resurrection is sure and certain in Christ our risen Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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