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    May 14, 2017

    From Darkness to LIght

    Passage: Luke 24:13-35

    Speaker: Michael E. Karunas

    Series: God

    Category: Faith

    Sermon Delivered at Central Christian Church May 14, 2017 Rev. Michael E. Karunas Text: Luke 24:13-35 From Darkness to Light

    (Read Luke 24:13-35) I’d like to begin by looking at this story in greater detail.  It’s the first Easter day.  Women had gone to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.  They go back and tell the disciples that he’s been raised.  But they don’t believe that it’s true. Later that day, 2 of Jesus’ followers are walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus - a long journey to make on foot. And the point is that they’ve given up.  They’re going home.  They’d given their lives to Jesus but now – in their minds – he’s gone.  They heard he’s alive but they haven’t seen him.  And they doubt it’s true.  So what else is there to do but go home and start your life over?

    Then Jesus comes and starts walking with them.  But they don’t recognize him.  And I believe it’s because of their grief.  Verse 17 says they were “looking sad.”  They’re so down and dejected they can’t bring themselves to look up.  And even if they could, they couldn’t think or see clearly.   That’s the way it is when we’re grieving someone we’ve lost.  It’s difficult to see straight.

    Jesus asks what’s wrong.  Of course, he knows what’s wrong but he gives them a chance to talk about their feelings.  And they do.  They accurately convey all of the things that had just happened.  How Jesus was killed and buried, and how they thought he would save them, but that when he died their hopes died too.  Notice that they had knowledge of what happened, but no understanding of what it all meant.  So Jesus begins to tell them how the Scriptures prophesied that he would die and that this was part of God’s saving plan.  Still, however, they don’t recognize him – even though he’s right in front of them.

    All day they walked and talked like this and when it was evening, the two disciples invite Jesus (whom they still don’t recognize) to spend the night with them.  And as they sit down to dinner, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them (just like he did a few days earlier at the last supper).  And there – in the breaking of that bread – their eyes were opened and they saw clearly: 1) that it was Jesus who was with them; 2) that he had been with them all along the way.  And they immediately get up and go back to Jerusalem – where they had come from – to tell the disciples how the risen Christ changed them.

    Today is week 4 of our sermon series entitled “Easter Changes Everything,” in which we are looking at how Jesus appeared to many people after he rose from the tomb.  Though he appeared to each one differently, this changed them all.  They were not the same people after meeting the risen Jesus Christ as they were before.  That’s certainly true for these two disciples.  Meeting Christ on the road to Emmaus changed them.  Before they met him they were grieving and despondent, ready to give up on Jesus.  After they met him, they were energized and hopeful and witnessed on behalf of Jesus.  Before they met him, they were walking in broad daylight but spiritually in the dark.  After they met Jesus they traveled in the middle of the dark night, but they had spiritual light.  Before they met him, they had knowledge of what happened, but no understanding.  After they met him, they understood things clearly.

    And what was it that changed them?  How did this change happen?  I was reading a commentary on this passage by someone who said, this was the world’s greatest Bible study!  One session of studying the scriptures – in a single afternoon - and they moved completely from confusion to clarity!!  I want to go to that Bible study!!!  We may think that’s funny, but isn’t that what we too often do?  Do we look for the quick fix?  The one retreat or getaway that will put life in perspective?  The one diet or 90-day exercise plan that gives us perfect health?  The one workshop or strategic plan that will turn our business around?  “If I just do this one thing, everything will make sense.”

    But the reality is that these 2 men are not just making a physical journey that day on the road to Emmaus.  They’re making a spiritual one.  They’re showing us that the spiritual life is about moving from darkness to light – often over and over again.  They remind us that sometimes life happens and our world is turned upside down.  We hurt, suffer, lose and feel lost.  We doubt and worry.  We feel all hope is gone.  There’s a temptation to give up.  We wish we could go backward – to a time when everything was easier, better, safer.  It’s like wandering around in the darkness.

    But these two disciples also show us how we can experience a journey from darkness to light.

    First, in that place of darkness, Jesus will come and find us.  He will come and journey alongside us – even if we don’t recognize him at first; and even if it’s not much later until we do.  His being with us is not predicated on our seeing him or knowing he’s there.  He doesn’t come to us only when we identify him but rather he comes precisely when we can’t.  The way for us to move from darkness to light begins by believing that.

    I love this picture by the painter Janet Brooks-Gerloff.  It’s of this scripture – the road to Emmaus.  The figures on the left are the two disciples.  Jesus is the transparent figure on the right.  Even though he’s “invisible” to them, he’s still there.  And my favorite part of the story is how, when the disciples do recognize Jesus over dinner, they say “Weren’t our hearts burning within us as he talked to us on the road?”  They understood that he had been with them the whole time – even though we didn’t know it at the time.

    But faith alone may not be enough.  Secondly, these two disciples were willing to share their hearts with Jesus; their struggles; their fears; their helplessness.  That’s critical.  Last week at youth group one of our HS boys said, “I feel like it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help.”  That might be true for a lot of us and so it’s not surprising someone would say that.  We try to run from painful feelings, as though if we can just make ourselves busy enough, or avoid certain things, the pain will go away.  But this is also sad.  There’s nothing heroic about burying our pain.  In fact, these two disciples show us that only by sharing their feelings with Jesus did they ultimately discover that Jesus was with them.  When we are brave and courageous enough to say “I need help,” we discover the Christ who is there, ready to help us.

    And thirdly, these two disciples never lost their sense of hospitality and openness.  At the end of the day, they invited Jesus in.  It’s a simple part of the story – the invitation to come in.  But had they not done that, they would never have known it was Jesus who was with them.  They would have continued on their way, in spiritual darkness had they not been hospitable.  We cannot let our grief and pain wall us off from others; close us off to them.  Because we never know how God might be reaching out to us; or who God might be using to help us move from darkness to light.

    Meeting the risen Christ changed these two.  We get the sense that they will never be the same again.  The next time they suffer a setback, or encounter something that throws them in darkness again, they’ll be different.  The darkness won’t be as dark.  They won’t give up in disappointment and helplessness.  Their faith will be stronger that Christ will come and lead them to light again.

    So we prepare to go out into the world this week, whether you’re experiencing a time of spiritual darkness right now or not, I invite you to reflect on these 2 questions:

    1. Where in your life can you look back and see that Jesus came by your side and helped you through a dark time?  Even if you didn’t recognize it at the time?  Give thanks for that.
    2. Who might God be calling you to be hospitable toward?  Perhaps someone you’ve been running away from?  How might God be revealed in your openness to them?