2019 05 12 Gordon Green EMMAUS
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The Road to Emmaus

 

Where There is Love, There is God

Luke 24:16,31,35

Redhill. 19 May 2019. Presented by Gordon Green

 

Is it possible for people to be good without God? If so, why do we need God? When non-Christians do good where does that goodness come from? In John 3:16 we read that because God so loved the world he gave his one and only son and to save the world. 2 Corinthians 5:15 teaches us that Jesus died for all and that Jesus has reconciled the world to himself. Since this has happened shouldn’t we see the fruit of God’s love in people whether they have worked it out theologically perfect or not? Shouldn’t we see some evidence of the goodness of God in the lives of non Christians?

 

On the road to Emmaus the two disciples “were not able to recognize who he was” (Luke 24:16 - also verses 31 and 35). They believed that Jesus was the messiah and that he would redeem, set things right and bring the Kingdom of God. But he was dead. They were dejected, depressed, deeply disappointed. Jesus joins them on their journey but they do not recognise him. This wasn’t the first time Jesus was not recognised. Mary at the tomb didn’t recognise him either. She thought he was the gardener. Peter and the others didn’t recognise Jesus on the beach. It’s possible for Jesus to be amongst us and not recognise him. How often does Jesus come amongst us and we miss him because we believe that that’s not the way he is or does things. We view Jesus through our pair of glasses. When we do that we will not see him. The two disciples were standing right there looking at him and walked with him for miles but didn’t recognise him because they had the wrong glasses on.

 

In the parable of the soils (Luke 8:4-15) Jesus explained that “the seed is the word of God”. What is the word? If we believe that the “word” is preaching, teaching and evangelizing we may be limiting the lesson – and our Christian worldview. But if we understand “the word” to be Jesus (John 1) we are presented with a life-changing perspective. In the parable the seeds work in every kind of soil and are effective in one way or another. In each picture there is nothing wrong with the seeds. They offer life to the soil, germinate, spring up and begin their work. Whether they land on good soil or not each seed is still full of life. Even the birds pick up the seeds because the seeds are life to them. There is a purpose for a seed. It is not meant to just lie around forever doing nothing. You could say a seed seeks to express itself as a fruit, a vegetable or a flower. Therefore, is it that difficult to accept that Jesus is seeking expression in every culture, religion or philosophy?

John 1:9 - Jesus is “the true light, which gives light to everyone”. If a solitary seed can reveal itself as a flower in a crack in a pavement why can’t we envision Jesus coming up through the cracks in society and seeking ways to express himself by letting his light shine in? James 1:17 teaches us that “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father.” God loves to share himself with everyone and anyone. We stunt our growth if we limit him to our tiny views. We can stagnate spiritually and become spiritually blind so that we can’t see or perceive clearly.

A few examples of looking at God with the wrong pair of glasses: “My church is right and all others are deceived.” About thirty years ago a member of a different church from mine was critically ill. Doctors said there was no hope of recovery. His church prayed for him and he was completely healed. I couldn’t understand. He had - in my conceited opinion - some strange beliefs, wasn’t a member of my church and certainly didn’t keep God’s laws the way I did. Surely God would never heal him. After all, my church was right and his was way off track. What was my problem? I had the wrong pair of glasses on. I needed to pull the weeds out of my thinking. In my know-it-all attitude I thought I had all the answers. I slowly began to realize that this kind of narrow minded, graceless thinking locked me into a crippling darkness resulting in a limited, stunted perception of who God is.

Don’t look at Jesus through the wrong glasses. If we believe that Jesus will only work in my group or my church – so much so that if you see someone like Mother Theresa doing astounding selfless acts in India and you won’t recognise Jesus because you have the wrong glasses on. “What? Jesus works among Catholics?!” Actually it was Mother Theresa who said  “Where there is love there is God”. Or perhaps you might concede that God works in other churches but is only present in conservative churches – certainly not liberal or Pentecostal churches. Or my political party is the one God supports – “Jcsus can’t be in other political parties but mine.” We must realise that Jesus loves someone and could hate their politics. He doesn’t endorse any politics. Jesus is not a conservative or a liberal. He is Lord of all.

A reason why we don’t often recognize Jesus is because he is full of surprises! Jesus doesn’t do things the way we would expect him to do it. The way he would do it! He was born in a manger – not in a clean home or even a palace. He rode a donkey into Jerusalem not a great white horse. On the road to Emmaus he appeared to two unknown disciples. Why didn’t he first go to the “important” disciples like John, Peter or James? Jesus is full of surprises. You see we don’t own Jesus. We can’t say Jesus you can’t do that!  You can’t be over there. Jesus says I can.

Think of this: Paul spent time with Peter, John and James. He had the Damascus road experience and provided us with half of the New Testament. He said “Now I know in part” (1 Cor 13:12). If Paul only knew “in part” what do I know? We may know a lot but we don’t know everything. Once we’ve learned all we can learn there will still be more to learn. Amazing Grace: When we've been there ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we've first begun. We believe what we believe but our beliefs are limited by what we know, see and experience.

The final book in C.S.Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” is “The last battle”. It’s about the defeat of evil and the dawning of the eternal world, Narnia. Aslan is the lion, the king of Narnia - the Christ figure. After defeating evil, Aslan opens the door to the new Narnia which begins in a dark, damp, musty, cold, dirty stable. But the stable is just the entrance into the vast new world of Narnia. Some – the dwarves – are content to stay in the stable. They believe that this is all there is to life. They have been saved from evil and all they have to do is remain there. But it is just the first step in and they need to listen to Aslan’s call to go “further up and further in” – a recurring line in the story. The message is that no one should stay in the stable because “Aslan is on the move”. Other characters in the story also encourage the dwarves not to remain where they are but to keep on pressing on. One of the most loved characters in the story, Lucy, is told; “the further up and the further you go in, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.” Lucy realizes that it’s “a whole world with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains.” “I see” Lucy said. “this is still Narnia, only more real and more beautiful.” But the dwarves continue to remain huddled in the dark, damp, cold stable. They think that the one step into this new life was the totality of it. But the whole new world of Narnia is out there waiting to be explored.

We can be like the dwarves – content to stay as we are. Are you limiting God? Creating God in your own image? Content and comfortable to believe you have “arrived” in your Christian journey? Instead of remaining comfortable and safe in our beliefs and accepting that this is all there is, Jesus invites us to share his adventure with him. When we do that we learn and experience that he is bigger and far more unpredictable than we ever imagined. Aslan, we are repeatedly told, is not a tame lion and he is not safe.

“He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe “Gone! And you and I quite crestfallen. It’s always like that, you can’t keep him; it’s not as if he were a tame lion.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

We can’t make Jesus into our image of Jesus Christ. He is something other. Actually it is his very goodness that makes him not safe. Jesus wants us to leave the stable where we took our first step and get up and move on and chase after him. There is no where we can go and escape God’s presence or his love. There is no place where God cannot work or person to whom he deeply desires to share his love with. So let’s never lose sight of just how big and limitless loving our God is. Just when we think we have come to grasp God’s love, he will show us it’s bigger still

 



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