Beckett: Sermon – Seeing Jesus Clearly

The Supper at Emmaus, c. 1545 by Titian | Wikimedia Commons

Date: April 23, 2023
Festival: 3rd Sunday of Easter
Text: Luke 24:13-35
Preaching Occasion: Zion Lutheran Church, Mt. Pleasant, MI, and CTKLC
Appointed Scriptures: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-25; Luke 24:13-35
Sermon Hymn: LSB #563 Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on the third day after Jesus’ death, confusion—perhaps even despair—abounding among the disciples. Two disciples are on the road to Emmaus, and a man joined them on their journey, whom they did not recognise to be the risen Jesus. Jesus pretends to be ignorant of the recent events in Jerusalem to test their faith, and they say, “Jesus of Nazareth was condemned to death and crucified by the chief priests and the Romans. We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel!” Do you hear the despair? The hopelessness? When Jesus revealed Himself to be the promised Messiah of the Scriptures during His earthly ministry, many believed that He indeed is the promised One! But then He died. What kind of Messiah allows Himself to be put to death? We thought He would be the One to redeem Israel. Instead, He died. He didn’t even fight back. He even told His followers not to fight for Him. The government was supposed to be on His shoulder; instead, the government killed Him [Is. 9:6]. What kind of king doesn’t call in his army to fight his enemies?

“Even more, some of the female disciples among us went to His tomb and found that He was not there! Peter and John ran to the tomb and also did not find His body! The women said He is risen! But how absurd! People don’t rise from the dead! Sure, Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus were risen from the dead, but that’s because Jesus was there. And now He’s dead! Surely, He is not risen. Perhaps someone stole His body. Maybe they were hallucinating. This must be some elaborate hoax. There must be a more logical explanation.”

Whatever rationalisations they might’ve come up with, Jesus laments over their lack of faith. “O foolish ones,” He says, “and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” They believed the Messiah would usher in God’s kingdom, but they did not understand that the Scriptures pointed to His suffering, death, and resurrection. As Isaiah prophesied, “I gave My back to those who strike, and My cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not My face from disgrace and spitting” [50:6]. And, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not [not even Peter]… But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities” [53:3, 5]. So Jesus, still hidden to them at this point, opened the Scriptures to them, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets.”

But they still did not recognise Him. They knew He was a great man of some sort because they wanted Him to stay with them. Perhaps they wanted to learn more. It was a 7-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and Jesus interpreted all the Scriptures to them during that time. What an amazing man to have all the Scriptures memorised! What sort of man is this? But they wanted more Bible study. Besides, it is already evening; the least they could do was offer their hospitality and give Him a room to say for the night.

So, He stayed, and He broke bread with them and blessed it and gave it to them, and that’s when they finally recognised Him. Jesus had opened all the Scriptures to them, showing them through Moses and the Prophets how the Scriptures speak of His suffering, death, and resurrection—and they might’ve finally understood—but it isn’t until He broke bread with them that they finally recognised Him. Just as Jesus fully revealed the manner of His death when He broke bread with His disciples at the Last Supper to give them forgiveness of sins in His body and blood, so with these two disciples Jesus was not fully revealed until He again broke bread. The Scriptures revealed all they needed to know about Jesus, and it wasn’t until He broke bread with them and gave it to them that they finally saw Him clearly.

Perhaps we share some of the disciples’ doubts and confusion. They thought the Messiah would reign on earth; they didn’t think He would die. So, perhaps we wonder, “Why did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t He just command His legion of angels to inaugurate His kingdom and finally bring an end to suffering and death?” Well, He did. He just didn’t do it how we would do it. He’s God; He never does things the way we would do it. We would bring “peace” through war and conquest. But Jesus saw a different way: He brought peace through His suffering, death, and resurrection.

Death is the problem. It is also the solution to all our problems. The solution to breaking the Law of God, the King of the universe, is death. Every time we trust in something more than God, take His name in vain, profane the Sabbath, dishonour and disobey our parents, murder and hate one another, commit sexual immorality, steal, gossip, slander, lie, and covet, the Law’s verdict is death. Even worse, our deaths could never satisfy God’s Law. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, God provided a ram as the substitute because Isaac’s death would not be enough to atone for the sin of the world. Neither was the ram’s, however. The Book of Hebrews writes that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” [10:4]. They had to offer sacrifices every week and every year because these sacrifices were never enough. Our good works aren’t enough either. We might think we’re a good person, or good enough to get to heaven, but this is a delusion. The Scriptures are quick to remind us, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God” [Rom. 3:10; cf. Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3].

Only one person was good enough. Only one Lamb was sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world—for all your sins. His name is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. The Scriptures have told us about Him, just like we heard from Isaiah earlier. Moses wrote that a seed would come from Eve to strike the serpent’s head while the serpent would strike his heel [Gen. 3:15]. The seed came through her descendant, the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus. The devil struck Jesus’ heel when His feet were nailed to the cross, but Jesus struck the more fatal blow to the devil’s head when He died as the atonement for the sins of the whole world.

Again, the near-sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham’s only son, shows us that no man and no animal would be enough to atone for the sins of the world [Gen. 22]; only God’s only-begotten Son would be sufficient. Moses prophesied that a prophet like him shall arise from Israel and it is to Him they should listen, who will speak everything God commands Him [Deut. 18:15-18], which Jesus confirmed when He said, “I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me a commandment—what to say and what to speak” [John 12:49]. Even God the Father Himself confirmed Jesus is the greater prophet to whom they should listen when, at Jesus’ Transfiguration, He declared, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” [Matt. 17:5].

Jeremiah prophesied of the new covenant God would make with Israel, and one that is different than their forefathers’ [31:31-32], which Jesus instituted at the Last Supper when He said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” [Matt. 26:28]. Ezekiel prophesied that God Himself would become Israels’ shepherd “on a day of clouds and thick darkness” [34:12], which Jesus fulfilled when He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” [John 10:11], which occurred on the day of clouds and thick darkness when darkness covered the earth for three hours upon Jesus’ death.

Daniel saw the vision of Jesus John saw as he wrote Revelation [Dan. 7:9-14; Rev. 1:12-16]. Hosea prophesied of that great battle hymn of heaven, “O death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting?” [13:14], which Paul also writes in 1 Corinthians 15[:54-55] because death has lost its power in the resurrection of Christ. Joel gives a prophecy of repentance and a great consecration of God’s people [2:12-17], which was fulfilled at Jesus’ Baptism and then every baptism after that. Amos prophesied, “‘And on that day,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight'” [8:9], again pointing to the cross when darkness enveloped the earth during the day.

Obadiah speaks of the Day of the Lord [15-18], which occurred on Good Friday—His judgement passed over Israel and fell upon Jesus. Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for 3 days and 3 nights, pointing to the 3 days and nights Jesus would be in the belly of the earth before rising from the depths of Hell [Matt. 12:38-42]. Micah prophesied of the Messiah who would be born in Bethlehem [5:2-5], which occurred on Christmas morning. Nahum prophesied of the one who would bring good news [1:15], which Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth said He came to do [Luke 4:16-21]. Habakkuk prophesied that the righteous would live by faith [2:4], and Jesus said whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16]. Zephaniah prophesied that the King of Israel would be in their midst [3:15], which occurred at Jesus’ incarnation, who took on flesh and “dwelt among us” [John 1:14]—Immanuel, God with us.

Haggai tells of the rebuilding of the Temple [1:1-11], which points us to the temple of Jesus’ body, which was “rebuilt” at His resurrection [John 2:18-21]. Zechariah prophesies the coming king of Zion, who would come “humble and mounted on a donkey” [9:9-13], which occurred on Palm Sunday when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey [Luke 19:28-40]. Malachi prophesied “the sun of righteousness” who would rise on the horizon “with healing in its wings” [4:2], which occurred when Jesus rose from the dead. Finally, John the Baptiser—the last Old Testament prophet—literally pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29]. The seed of the woman—the new Adam, the greater Isaac—is here.

When you read your Bible—when you read Moses, the Psalms, the chronologies, and the Prophets—you will see Jesus everywhere. When you read the Gospels, you read about His fulfilment of these Scriptures. When you read the epistles, you read how His Spirit continues His work in the life of the Church. Everything we need to know about Jesus is in the Scriptures. Yet, like the two disciples, we see Jesus most clearly at the Sacrament of the Altar.

“Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood,” Jesus said, “has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” [John 6:54]. When you hold the bread in your hands and on your tongue, you are holding Jesus’ body—for you. When you drink the wine, you are consuming Jesus’ blood that atones for all your sins—He takes them all away. When you see your pastor consecrating the elements and giving you the bread and wine, you are seeing Christ breaking bread for you. The Scriptures tell us all we need to know about Jesus, and yet, our text tells us, “He was known [to the disciples] in the breaking of the bread” [Luke 24:35].

What is Jesus like? He is like the sweetness of bread and wine that fills you. He gives you forgiveness of sins—which literally means release from sin. When you feel shackled to your sin, you come to Christ at the Table and He unshackles you with the key of His grace and looses you from your sins. He gives you eternal life—His Supper is the elixir to eternal death. We think beauty products and surgical alterations will prolong our life, and a good diet and exercise certainly help, but only Christ’s body and blood can prevent your death, which is why He says, “Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live” [John 11:25]. And He gives you salvation—”For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” [SC, The Sacrament of the Altar, What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?]. He saves you from sin, death, and the devil.

The devil feeds off of your guilt and despair, but wherever there is Christ’s Table that releases you from such rotten fruit of the flesh, the devil is left to starve to death. In Psalm 23 we pray, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” [v. 5]. The devil and his demons are those enemies. The Lord’s Supper is the Lord’s banquet, and the devil is not invited. But you are. The devil is not allowed to eat of Christ’s body and blood; indeed, he finds it repulsive. But for you, you taste the sweetness of His grace that reveals to your senses who He is, “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” [Ex. 34:6].

The best relationships are formed around a dinner table. So, if you really want to get to know Jesus and build a relationship with Him, come to His Table where you can see Him clearly, where He shows you exactly who He is in His body and blood—just as He was fully revealed on the cross—where He gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

To that end, may the resurrection of Christ, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds now and forever. Amen.


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