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God’s promises rely on them don’t run from them
First Saint Johns May 4, 2014
God so loved the world, John tells us that. Is there any doubt in your mind? How has God shown His love? Here are two disciples, Cleopas and another man. The topic of conversation, the things that have happened in Jerusalem in the last few days. We know this because Cleopas got a little snippy with their fellow traveler when He asked what they were talking about. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Sort of where have you been all your life, don’t you know what’s going on around you? Seems to me Cleopas and the other disciple are the ones who aren’t completely paying attention. Where are they going? … Emmaus. Where did Jesus tell the women to have His disciples meet Him? Galilee. They probably understood that to mean Capernaum where Jesus spent 60% of His incarnate ministry. The sea of Galilee, is over 60 miles straight north of Jerusalem. The feast of the Passover has just been held in Jerusalem, everyone has been there. These two disciples have chosen to leave and they are going to Emmaus, about 15 miles west of Jerusalem. While they are stunned that someone is so out of touch in Jerusalem, the One talking to them … Jesus, is probably stunned too and probably irritated. Why? Can’t you imagine Jesus thinking, “wow, didn’t I just tell all of you what would happen? Did you forget so soon? Maybe you got outta Dodge a little early, the rest of the disciples waited for further direction. More likely they are still in stunned disbelief from the events of Friday, and they might have run away from the events of the cross, but they regrouped.” Matthew 16:21 just before the Transfiguration, the sequence of events that lead to the cross: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Maybe the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, didn’t get that in their notes. Or maybe they’re so upset they didn’t remember or, worse, didn’t trust what Jesus told them and hadn’t stayed in Jerusalem to await the directions that the angel has given to those who remained.
So Jesus takes His two disciples to task: “he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” He could have said, what I told the whole group just before the events that led to My crucifixion, the promise that I made “…on the third day be raised.”? As far as they know a complete stranger has called them out. “Why didn’t you stay? Why have you wandered off? You heard the promise and yet here you are, you’re not in Jerusalem, you’re heading west instead of north to Capernaum as the angel told the women to do. To the place where we shared great times, you heard great teaching and saw stupendous miracles. Why have you picked up and deserted your call? Cleopas refers to Jesus as a “prophet”, the Concordia Self Study Bible notes: “They had respect for Jesus as a man of God, but after his death they apparently were reluctant to call him the Messiah.”1 Jesus goes on to remind them of what Moses and the Prophets, that is everything that was written about Him in the Old Testament, “…seems like you boys need a refresher course, maybe you didn’t hear what I said, but this is what Torah has been saying about me for the last 1,500 years beginning with Moses.” Then Jesus acts as if He’s going to keep going when they want to stop, sort of a way to show His disappointment?
Jesus made a lot of promises to the disciples during His incarnation, He continued to make these promises through His apostles, listen to what Paul said in 1 Corinthians: “Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.” This is the promise that Jesus is all about, that He demonstrated on Easter Sunday. “You see how Jesus was resurrected, that will be us at the last trumpet. We will be imperishable, our bodies will be made to be perfect, no defect, no death, made to exist forever in the New Jerusalem, the new world that God had intended the world to be, a perfect world where we will see the fulfillment of another of Jesus’ promises “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10). We tend to take the word “promise” a little too glibly. We make promises a lot, often our fingers crossed behind our back. The Greek word evpaggeli,a means “assent or pledge, especially a divine assurance of good.”2 God has made a lot of promises, through the prophets in the Old Testament, through Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament. Have any of these promises not been kept? And what is it that drives our faith, the promises that we know that will be kept. The resurrection! We haven’t seen the end times yet, but when we do what is our promise? Eternal, abundant life!
We have Peter on the day of Pentecost in our Acts reading. In the Gospel reading the disciples are holed up in an upper room, windows closed, doors locked, Jesus in His resurrected body appears to them to give them assurance in their fear and then what happens, they aren’t running off to Emmaus, they aren’t hiding behind locked doors, the Holy Spirit has descended on them, and now they roar out of those doors like the Penn State football team and their leader, Petros, the rock, is standing in broad daylight, before thousands of men in Jerusalem proclaiming the promises of Jesus. He holds them accountable, Peter tells them they have committed deicide, they have assisted in the death of the Messiah that God has been promising for centuries. They feel convicted, they know this has happened, they have been cut to the heart. What can they do? Peter tells them: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Another of Jesus’ promises, the promises that started from the very beginning with John the Baptizer. Repent, Strongs defines repent as to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins”. We know that we have failed in our past life, so now we change our mind, we look at our past life with abhorrence, hating our past life and our past sins and we make amends, we will change our life according to what Jesus wants. But how do you do that? Only by repenting? By being baptized? And what does that do? What is Jesus’ promise that He made to Nicodemus? John 3:5, being reborn into the Spirit, putting on Christ, His payment of our sins. By doing this, we are reborn, Jesus has done it all for us and His promise is that we will be saved to eternal life in Him. What the Easter season is all about.
The Easter season is about promise, it’s about renewal, it is about resurrection as we see the death of winter recede to new life. But for us the Christian, for the promises we have in Christ, it’s much, much, much more then birds and bugs and forsythia and leaves on trees. It is sort of like another promise that God made when He put a rainbow up in the sky to assure Noah that from him, God would save man, not just in man’s physical life from floods, but to eternal life in the promised Messiah.
We have so many promises from God that do, as Jesus promised, give us life more abundant, this book is all the promises in the Bible that God has made to us. It lists out 307 pages of God’s promises. The promise that they would have the Holy Spirit is coming to the disciples. Most waited faithfully in Jerusalem, albeit hiding behind locked doors, two decide to go west, feeling that the promise wouldn’t be fulfilled. But it was when the disciples would shortly, receive the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit whose temple we become in baptism.
Trust in God’s promises to us that are documented right here, the new covenant, the new contract that Jesus made. We rely on His payment of our sins and His promises to us that we will be saved to eternal life. Do some Bible reading, check out Paul’s epistles where the promises come fast and furious. What promises do you see and how do they affect your life in Christ, write about them in your journal and pray over them in Thanksgiving to our Father who loves us so much to put His promises, assurances and comforts to us in writing for us to read and take refuge in over and over.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.