Sunday, April 6, 2008

Believing Is Not Seeing

SERMON for The THIRD SUNDAY of EASTER: April 6, 2008
"Believing Is Not Seeing"Our Gospel lesson this morning presents a fascinating question for the examination and edification of God's people today:
"Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32 NKJ)
And yet, their eyes were not opened and they did not know Him until He sat at the table with them, . . . took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. (Luke 24:31 NKJ)
What is more, once "their eyes were opened and they knew Him; . . . He vanished from their sight.(Luke 24:31 NKJ)
Why is that?
Why is it that today’s Gospel reading, about two disciples walking to Emmaus after the resurrection, reveals yet again a story of discouraged and depressed disciples – even though they were in the very presence of the risen Christ? Why is it that they relate to the stranger on the road a message of despair and disappointment? Even more, why is it that He remains a stranger to them? Why is it that in the very presence of the risen Christ they still do not get it and instead bemoan, "we had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."? (Luke 24:21 NKJ) Why? There is a very simple explanation. This is what happens when we rely on our emotions, rather than the Word of God. It is what happens when we believe our eyes before the Scriptures – when we place our earthly senses and human reasoning above the Word of God.
The lesson that we learn here is the lesson Paul teaches:
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.(2 Cor 5:6_7 NKJ) And that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom 10:17 NKJ)
In other words, believing is not seeing the things of this world, but hearing the Word of God that speaks of unseen, heavenly, forever things.
While one can hardly blame these men for being emotional over the events of the past seventy-two hours, their conclusions were made apart from the words the Lord had shared with them, His words by which He had clearly told them what would happen and why, His words of absolute truth.
[SINE NOMINE DAILY DEVOS for the 3rd Sunday of Easter’s Gospel]
We are no different today. We get emotional over the various events of our lives –particularly the crosses we carry. And Jesus talks with us on the road of life too. Our hearts burn within us as He does, and yet we do not truly recognize Him in these worldly things either -- "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom 1:20_21 NKJ)
No one truly recognizes God until He takes bread, blesses it and breaks it, and gives it to us. Why? Because until we see Him as the risen Christ who has risen precisely to show us His wounds, we do not see Him as THE Savior.
This is what Jesus’ famous bread lecture following His feeding of the five thousand is speaking of:
Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven__ not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."
. . . Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"
When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? . . . It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:53_63 NKJ)
Until we see Him as the risen Savior, the One crucified in the flesh and pouring out blood for our sins, yet risen and still bearing the wounds in His hands, feet and side – we see only one who came to show us how to get to heaven rather than One in whom "it is finished" and so brings heaven to us. Until we receive that forgiveness from His lips to our ears, from His heart to our heads, from His hand to our lips, we see only one who comes to rescue us from those sinners out there, rather than one who comes to rescue us from our own sin.
We are all -- each and every one of us here in this sanctuary, even each and every person on this earth whom God desires so dearly to teach and give the bread of life that they may see and know His salvation is in Christ and Christ alone – we are each of us a disciple on the road to Emmaus. While our hearts burn within us with our own passion for the Lord and what we think of Him or what He should be, we do not see and know Him until He teaches us from the Scripture that He is the One who took on flesh to go to the cross and until He gives Himself to us to see for ourselves with the eyes of faith – like he did for the women outside the tomb, like he did for the disciples behind the closed doors of the upper room, like he did for Thomas again behind the closed doors of the upper room, like he did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus – in His sacrificial wounds still born by His risen body.
Today, and each Lord’s day here at Trinity Lutheran Church -- and wherever the Gospel is purely proclaimed and the Sacrament observed according to His command -- our crucified and risen Savior walks the road with us in the Divine Service, where He expounds to us in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself; takes bread, blesses and breaks it, and gives it to us. So that then our eyes are opened and we know Him, just like He did with the disciples.
And remember this, as soon as the disciples eyes were opened in faith, Jesus vanished from their sight – and ours. As he sends us out onto the Emmaus road of your life in this world, remember that believing is not seeing. He is with us even to the end of the age as we disciples go forth and make more disciples, teaching the world everything He has commanded us and baptizing into His name and forgiveness all who will receive Him even as we are baptized, forgiven and have eternal life now and forever in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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