Joseph von Führich’s 1837 painting of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Image from Wikipedia

God's Word on Sunday: God is always showing the way forward

  • April 19, 2020

Third Sunday of Easter, April 26 (Year A) Act 2:14, 22b-28; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35

The ways of God and the ways of human beings are seldom in harmony.

People often do terrible things, even when they think that they are doing right or pleasing God. Those responsible for the death of Jesus felt that they were defending their religion and their traditions. This was despite the signs, words and deeds of Jesus that indicated He spoke on behalf of God.

Christians have also been guilty of the same things throughout history, even to our own time. Good intentions are not enough — “good” intentions can mask a lot of fear, defensiveness, greed and hatred.

Fortunately, God always has the final say. By raising Jesus from the dead, God put a seal of approval and affirmation on all that Jesus had said and done. Jesus was totally vindicated by God the Father and exalted to God’s right hand.

Humans expend so much time and energy undoing and derailing the work and the plans of God. But God is always several steps ahead of us, removing obstacles and showing us the way forward. In the end, despite everything, the designs and desires of God will prevail.

Peter’s quotation from Psalm 16 should give us great comfort and hope.

The psalmist rejoiced because the Lord was always by his side — he need fear nothing, not even death itself. His heart was glad, he was not shaken, he lived in hope. He was certain that God would not abandon him to the corruption of death.

Our own world seems very frightening and chaotic. There are no quick fixes or easy answers, but we should not forget that we are not alone. The Lord is definitely always by our side and will never abandon us. The way of life is faith, hope and love, even (especially) in the midst of suffering and darkness. That is the greatest response we can make to our situation.

Peter gives us clear direction on how we should live during our time on Earth: reverence, hope and faith. Jesus gave His life and blood not just for our sins, but so that He might be the source of eternal life for us.

He rescued us from something that we seldom think about: futility or giving ourselves to what is not spiritually helpful. Jesus frees us from all that distracts or hinders us on our journey towards God. Let us remember the great price that Jesus paid to free us.

By all human standards, the mission and ministry of Jesus had failed. He was dead and His disciples had scattered, broken in heart and spirit. This is when God usually goes to work.

The two disciples in our story had left Jerusalem for Emmaus. It was Easter morning, but they were not experiencing joy. As far as they were concerned, it was over.

Jesus joined them on the road but prevented them from recognizing Him. He began to toy with them, asking them what they were talking about. Out poured the litany of their shattered hopes and dreams.

They had been totally taken with the words and deeds of Jesus and hoped that He was to liberate Israel. But human intentions had intervened, and Jesus had been arrested and crucified. Even the discovery of the empty tomb failed to enkindle faith for they lacked understanding of its inner meaning.

Jesus then lost His patience a bit at their denseness. The issue was the suffering and death of the Messiah — that was not part of their understanding.

He had to reassure them that this was all part of the divine plan, not an accident.

He began to open the passages of the Old Testament that spoke of Him. It was only at supper, when He blessed and distributed the bread, that their eyes were opened just before He vanished from their sight.

They remarked how their hearts burned within them as He broke open the passages that spoke of Him. They encountered Jesus in their prayerful and reflective engagement with Scripture and in the breaking of the bread.

In this time of great fear and uncertainty, we can find spiritual support in God’s Word, open hearts, (virtual) community and compassionate solidarity. We must all pass through uncertainty and struggle, but with the knowledge that the Lord is the healer of broken hearts and shattered hopes. Jesus walks by our side on the journey home.