WALKING AND TALKING
A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
United Methodist - American Baptist
12 APRIL 1998
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
John 20:1-2, 11-16
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There is something very interesting about the subject before us this morning: walking and talking with Jesus.
And it is particularly interesting when we put it in the light of this resurrection day, for on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, even the disciples had a problem recognizing Jesus' presence with them.
As we talked about earlier this morning at the riverfront sunrise service, Mary went to the grave site expecting to see Jesus lying in a tomb, but she didn't find Him there.
And because her mind was set upon a "dead" Jesus, she only could fathom that someone had taken away the body.
It never entered her mind that Jesus could have actually risen from the dead (John 20:1-2).
Even when Jesus approached her, and began to talk to her, she assumed He was the gardener, and that he had taken away the body.
It wasn't until He called her by name that she came to realize that it was the Lord, her risen Lord (John 20:11-16).
Then in the afternoon two other disciples were leaving Jerusalem in the same depressed state of mind as Mary had experienced when she first went to the tomb.
Let's look at what took place as recorded by Luke (24:13-53).
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
This is about a two hour walk, and as with most people before the days of "walkmen" they would talk to one another, just like us.
14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;
16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
I believe that what prevented them from recognizing Jesus was their lack of faith.
I don't believe that the Lord would prevent them from seeing Him, but that along with everything else, He was teaching them and us a lesson about our faith, following His resurrection.
It is our faith in the Lord that makes Him and His presence "real" in our lives.
And note the loving and compassionate way in which the Lord begins to restore their faith:
17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast.
18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
19 "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
Do you hear their expression of incomplete faith?
They're expressing only the fact that Jesus was a prophet, one that was powerful in word and deed before God and all the people, but still only a prophet.
They had not yet come to recognize Him as their Lord and Savior.
They saw only the Man, not the Lord; thus, they saw only the Man walking with them, and not the Lord.
And the men continue to relate what had happened to Jesus:
20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;
21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.
They had only hoped that Jesus was their Messiah; they had not as yet come to believe that He was, and is, their Messiah.
In their minds, they still needed some physical proof that Jesus was indeed Messiah.
But there is no physical proof that Jesus is Messiah; we must come to that conclusion by faith alone.
And even when they were told the truth, they failed to believe:
22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning
23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.
24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
They still wouldn't allow themselves to see beyond the physical world, and its physical answers.
True faith does not come from book-learning or from physical observation, or they would have recognized Jesus for who He is.
All the physical does is point us to the spiritual so that we would come to believe, which is exactly what Jesus tries to help them understand.
25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Even with all of this, they were not at the point of truly believing.
They had not yet let go of their pride in their physical self long enough to enter the spiritual world of true faith.
Thus, they were still blinded from seeing Jesus as He really is.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.
29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
Cleopas and his companion were loving and generous, but that alone doesn't open up the gates of heaven; it helps, but it's not the key.
The key to heaven is our faith!
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Perhaps in the giving of thanks, Jesus added something about Himself as He did at the Last Supper, when He said, "This is My body which is given for you".
Whatever was said, whatever happened, these two people crossed over from the physical to the spiritual, and they came to truly believe.
Their faith had blossomed.
32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together
34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."
35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
Even though they were told the truth by eye witnesses, they still didn't fully believe, or they wouldn't have been frightened.
38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?
39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?"
Some people, even to this very day say, "If only Jesus would appear to me as He did to the disciples..."
These people wouldn't believe any more than the disciples did, and perhaps even less so.
Jesus really does appear to all of us, perhaps even every day, but His appearance is not physical, it's spiritual.
Unless we allow ourselves to enter the spiritual realm, we most likely wouldn't understand or recognize His appearing.
There is hardly a day that goes by in which I haven't sensed the Lord's presence.
At times, it's as though I can just reach out my hand and touch His garments, or hear His voice in my ears.
He's with me at my computer as I prepare for these services.
He's with me in my car as I travel, and He flies with me in our plane.
And I know He's always with me when I'm on the altar of His church.
In fact, I know He's with with me all the time.
When I don't sense His ever-presence, it's only because my mind is preoccupied with other things.
And I'm no one special, so I know He's with each of you, too.
But sometimes people need some proof, too, which is exactly what Jesus gave them, when He asked for something to eat.
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Jesus opened their minds by helping them see beyond the physical.
The physical was only the touchstone; reality is the spiritual world beyond.
46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
This gift is the Holy Spirit.
And if we allow ourselves to be at peace with Him, we can hear Him speaking to us right now, as a quiet inward voice that speaks to both our heart and mind, and at times even gives us a "chill" that runs up and down our spine.
We need to learn to recognize and accept His presence.
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Even this very day, Jesus has been walking and talking with all of us.
Have we allowed ourselves to recognize His presence?
Has He helped us in our understanding?
I pray so.
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