Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. The journey’s over … or maybe, it’s just begun! This coming Friday we are going to have a retreat, a quiet day, a prayer day at Brockworth Court. It’s not too late to sign up to join us – have a word with Judi Marsh or sign the list on the piano in church. Just before Easter we joined Jesus on the long journey as he ‘made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem’. That was way back in Luke’s Gospel at chapter 9 verse 51. The journey, with all its wonderful story-parables, takes up no fewer than 10 chapters in Luke’s Gospel – almost half the Gospel! On Easter Sunday, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is on the road again. This time he joins two of his followers on the Road to Emmaus, a distance of approximately 7 miles. It was great re-living that journey dramatically in our Easter morning service and around the Lord’s table in our Easter evening service. But for Luke that journey doesn’t mark the end of the story he has to tell: it’s the beginning of something new. There’s a second part to his story of Jesus. In the Book of Acts, Luke takes us on a sequence of journeys from Jerusalem to the heart of the Roman Empire, to Rome itself. On all those journeys Jesus was the guide and the Bible was the guide book. There are all sorts of journeys ahead of us through the summer and into the future. We’re going to join Luke and reflect on the way Jesus is the guide and the Bible the guide book we need for the journeys we make.
Welcome and Call to Worship
410 Jesus Christ is risen today!
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
The Seriously Surprising Story
Reading: Luke 24:36-49
A Hy-Spirit Song
Activities for all Over 3
The Journey Goes on
A Guide … and a Guide Book
Just before Easter we joined Jesus on the long journey as he ‘made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem’. That was way back in Luke’s Gospel at chapter 9 verse 51.
The journey, with all its wonderful story-parables, takes up no fewer than 10 chapters in Luke’s Gospel – almost half the Gospel!
On Easter Sunday, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is on the road again. This time he joins two of his followers on the Road to Emmaus, a distance of approximately 7 miles. It was great re-living that journey dramatically in our Easter morning service and around the Lord’s table in our Easter evening service.
But for Luke that journey doesn’t mark the end of the story he has to tell: it’s the beginning of something new.
There’s a second part to his story of Jesus.
In the Book of Acts, there’s a drama to the way Luke tells the story of the way the Good of News of Jesus spreads. It starts in a tense Jerusalem awaiting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – it is Jesus who maps out all that is going to happen.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8.
Then in Acts 2 the Holy Spirit is poured out and we remain in Jerusalem and Judea until chapter 7. And then in chapter 8 the Gospel spreads through Judea and Samaria and into Africa in Ethiopia. By chapter 9 the followers of the Way as Jesus’ followers are called have spread north to Damascus in Syria. It reaches the Roman capital of Judea and Samaria Caesarea Maritima in chapters 10 and 11 and then the coastal lands of Phoenicia, the island of Cyprus and Antioch a leading city in Syria in chapter 11. In chapter 13 it spreads to what we think of now as Western Turkey and as far as Pisidian Antioch, a really important Roman city that is the capital of the province of Galatia, still minland Turkey.
It reaches the Mediterranean coast at Ephesus and crosses over into what we think of now as Europe – Philippi, Corinth and Athens by chapter 20.
Paul makes his own journey to Jerusalem in chapter 21 where he is arrested, put on trial and held captive in Caesarea Maritima through to 26. In chapters 27 and 28 he makes his journey to Rome, being shipwrecked on the shores of Malta and eventually in chapter 28 arriving in Rome where Luke leaves him.
It is not just Paul who has arrived in Rome – it is the Good News of Jesus Christ, more than that it is the presence of the living Christ let loose by the Holy Spirit that has we now see at the very heart of the Roman Empire, Rome itself.
The first part of Luke’s story is built around Jesus’ journey to Jerusaloem and the heart of the Jewish world while the second part of Luke’s story is built around the journeys that take the Gospel to very heart of the Roman Empire, to Rome itself.
It is here in Acts that we learn that one of the very earliest titles for the Christian Church was taken from the imagery of the journey. The followers of Jesus are known as The Way.
I love that image.
I think it’s a metaphor for life. It’s a metaphor for faith as well. We are always on a journey … but to follow Jesus is to be part of the Way he has opened up for us. That makes the journey a purposeful one.
For Luke it is the presence of Jesus that is there for the whole of the journey.
That’s the first thing I want to take with us into the future that lies ahead of us. Life’s a journey, Faith’s a journey – but it has purpose and direction if we look to Jesus every step of the Way.
He is our guide for the journey. He gives us a sense of direction – as he maps out the way of life for us all to follow with love for God and love for neighbour too. It’s a challenge to follow his way – as we have been recalling in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King – to put that love into practice is the challenge he gives.
But there is also a comfort and a strengthening as we were recalling as we celebrated David’s life on Thursday – it’s always good to know you’re not alone, there’s someone with you on the way – the last image on a lovely collage of pictures had David standing on a beach – bringing to mind the footprints poem that meant such a great deal to Danny too. Jesus with us along the way … and at the most difficult times carrying us in his arms.
Not only do we have the presence of the living Lord Jdesus Christ as the Guide along the Way, the Guide for the journey.
We also have a guide book to follow.
This is the Guide Book – the Bible.
There is a problem, however. How do we read the Bible? It can be a difficult book – especially in the Old Testament.
Indeed, it can be a dangerous book.
How we read the Bible is something I am passionate about. I believe we each of us as Chrsitians who are followers of the Way of Jesus Christ need to think through how we use our Bibles. And Especially how we use the Old Testament.
It can be problematic.
If you find it difficult, especially reading the Old Testament it is some comfort to know that you are in good company.
Those two on the Road to Emmaus simply hadn’t got it. They had missed the point. It is in the conversation with the Jesus they do not recognize that this becomes apparent.
They were “14 talking with each other about all that had happened, talking and discussing. There was no concealing the fact that they were sad.
They were speaking of Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how he had been crucified, and how their hopes had been dashed.
They had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
There had been rumours that he was even now alive. But they and none of the other men believed the women who had passed that message on.
Jesus then shares something with them.
25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
I think that it’s really significant that this is Jesus’s priority that resurrection day.
They had not got it.
They had spent possibly three years with Jesus and still they had not got it.
They had not read their Hebrew Scriptures properly.
He is frustrated – how foolish they are … and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared.
Jesus spends the time on that walk – maybe an hour and a half left working through the Hebrew Scriptures – beginning with Moses, that’s the books of Genesis through to Deuteronomy, the Law, or the Torah, and then going on to all the prophets – that’s Joshua to II Kings and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and th eBook of the 12 and interprets to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures – which includes Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and the rest of that miscellany known as ‘The writings’.
It is as if he is offering them a way in, a way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures we think of as the Old Testament.
They recognize him in the breaking of the bread and then they recall how they felt as Jesus was working through the Scriptures through them. It was as if for the first time they had got it. They could see how they held together. They really had got it!
32They 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?’
So 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem only to find that the risen Jesus had appeared to the others in the Upper Room, where the eleven and their companions had gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’
35Then the two companions on the Emmaus Road told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
It is at this point in the story that Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’
They are startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He addresses their fear and their doubts and shows them his hands and feet. “Touch me and see,” he says, “for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
He has a meal of broiled fish and ate in their presence.
Then notice what happens next. IT may be late. But Jesus has much he wants to share with this larger gathering of the 11, their companions and the two travelers on the Road to Emmaus.
44 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.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And 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.’
The key priority of the risen Jesus on this Resurrection Day is to “open their minds” so that they “understand the Scriptures., that’s to say, the Hebrew Scriptures we call the Old Testament.
Notice again what he says, “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.”
The whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, Law, Prophets and the writings find their fulfilment in Jesus.
This is the key.
And grasping it makes a world of difference to the first followers of Jesus.
I have often thought it would be wonderful to have been a fly on the wall in the Upper room and a fly hovering over the travelers on that road to Emmarus. It would have been wonderful to have heard what strategy Jesus shared with them.
Actually, it’s my belief, that we can do the next best thing.
Reading Luke’s gospel account of the resurrection it seems to me that this is what Luke wanted us to take away from the Easter story. As he tells the story of the risen Jesus let loose into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts he shows how the followers of Jesus took to heart Jesus’ way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures.
Follow that story through and you can see how the risen Lord Jesus is the guide for us all on the journey that lies ahead of us … and you begin to see how to read the Bible through Jesus’ eyes. Get to the end and you reach the point at which Luke turns his hand to researching the story of Jesus further. Come back then to Luke’s Gospel and as he tells the story you find that from the very start Jesus’ way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures is there for all to see if only you have eyes to see it.
Since we gave notice of our retirement more seven months ago, we’ve shared in Harvest, Remembrance, Christmas and now Easter. It’s a bit scary! I don’t think the next three months will go any more slowly!!!
In the lead up to Easter I shared what to me is at the heart of the Christian Faith. In the next three months we’re all going to be on something of a journey. We’re going to read through the story Luke tells in Acts and come back to the story he tells in Luke and we’re going to be on the look out to see how Jesus is the guide we each of us need on the journey ahead and we’ll also reflect on how vitally important it is to read the Bible through the eyes of Jesus.
Reading: Luke 24:25-27, 32, 44-49
Hymn: Light of the minds that know him
Prayers of Concern
416 Christ is alive!
Words of Blessing