Faith Church

First Words From the Empty Tomb – Revelation – Sermon from 4/7/2013

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Tom Taylor works for NASA and I want to thank him for sending me this image of our Milky Way galaxy that has highlighted for us where in the galaxy our solar system is located.

I also want to thank Tom for answering lots of questions I had about the universe. What is significant about our location is that because we are near the outer bands of the galaxy where there is less space dust, debris and light from multiple stars, we have the ability to observe not only our galaxy but galaxies beyond ours. Because we are in a relatively clean area of space we are able to get images like these of other galaxies which simply amaze me.

 

Some of these images were taken from satellites and space telescopes like the Hubble, but some were taken from the earth and the only reason we are able to get pictures like this from the earth is because our own atmosphere is relatively clean. Think about it, if our planet was covered with thick clouds like Saturn, we would have no idea what lies beyond us, but because we have a clear view of the world around us, just standing outside on a dark night we can observe our world.

This is an actual picture and the reason it reveals to us so many stars and planets is because our atmosphere allows us to see this. Now while some may want to say all of this is a coincidence, I’m not so sure.

Of all the billions of possible locations for God to place us, God chose a planet where we have the ability to observe the world around us. Maybe God wants us to observe the world around us because that search will awaken within us a search for meaning and purpose which will finally lead to a search for God. I think God placed us on this planet where we have the ability to search and observe because God wants us to search for him and find him. The reason we know that God wants to be found is because God doesn’t hide himself away in the dark corners of the world. If God really didn’t want to be found by us, he wouldn’t be. Let’s face it; we aren’t smart or powerful enough to find God on our own, so that we know anything about God is only because God has revealed himself to us.

The story of the Bible is really the story of God’s revelation. Through history and the pages of scripture, God reveals himself to his people. God spoke to Noah and Abraham and revealed to them not just his purpose for their lives but his purpose for the world. He also revealed to them a small part of who he was. God revealed himself to Moses and then through the law, God gave Moses and the people of Israel an even better picture of who he was. The law showed the people what was important to God and it began to reveal the heart and mind of God. Through the prophets God continued to reveal himself and God even said through the prophet Jeremiah that if we search for God we will find him. Look at Jeremiah 29:13-14a. Notice that it says here that the only reason we are able to find God is because allows himself to be found.

So God reveals himself to us and in the person of Jesus God revealed to us the fullness of his heart and life. Jesus was God in the flesh. In Colossians 1:15 it says, He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God. The fullness of God’s love and power dwelled in the person of Jesus so that when people looked at Jesus they were looking at God. This is what Jesus said in John 14:9, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. God revealed himself fully to the world through Jesus during his life and then some of the first words of Jesus from the empty tomb continued this process of revelation. After he rose from the dead Jesus worked to reveal himself to his followers; that is what we heard from the first words of Jesus from the empty tomb in the gospel of Luke.

In Luke’s gospel, the first words of Jesus after he leaves behind an empty tomb are shared with two of his followers as they are on the road to Emmaus. As they were heading out of town, these two men were discussing all that had taken place in Jerusalem over the past week. They were talking about how Jesus came into Jerusalem to the shouts and praise of all the people and how they were all hoping Jesus was going to set up his kingdom and set them free from the oppressive political power of Rome. They talked about how Jesus took the first steps in doing this by clearing out the Temple of all the money changers which not only upset the status quo but challenged the authority of the religious leaders. They talked about how Jesus was arrested and tried and how disappointed and distraught they were when he was handed over to be crucified. They talked about his death and how some of the disciples found his tomb empty. They debated how some thought Jesus might be alive, but others couldn’t believe anything like that could actually happen.

It’s amazing to think that they were not just talking about all of this to each other but to Jesus and yet they didn’t recognize him. The reason they didn’t recognize Jesus is because they were sad, it says their faces were downcast. The death of Jesus came as a blow to them. They had hoped for a different outcome. They believed things with Jesus would be different and they were struggling to understand what was going on and where God was in all that had taken place. They had believed Jesus was from God and that God was going to do great things through him, so when everything fell apart they were left asking themselves, where is God now? How could any of this be God’s plan?

Does any of that sound familiar? Have you ever been in a place of distress and discouragement and asked yourself, “Where is God in all of this?” Look at Luke 24:21a. Have you ever said something like this? We had hoped for a different outcome. We had hoped things would have turned out differently. We had hoped, but now we have no hope. It was because they had no hope and their hearts and lives were broken that they couldn’t see Jesus standing right there with him and the same is true for us at times. When we are discouraged and in despair it is hard to see that God is with us, but he is. I want you to notice something about these first words of Jesus; they keep pushing and prodding the disciples. Jesus gets them to think and talk and reflect. Jesus doesn’t give up on them; he keeps working to reveal to these two men the truth of God.

And then comes Luke 24:25. Now this could have been the end of the conversation and Jesus could have left them behind in the doubt and despair, but he didn’t. Look at Luke 24:27. Jesus took the time to teach and instruct these two men about all God had done and was doing. Think about the context here, this is the day that Jesus rose from the dead and we might think he would have better things to do than spend his time trying to explain the scriptures and the events of the past week to these two men, but he doesn’t. Jesus walks with them and takes the time to reveal to them God’s truth and love and helps them see the fullness of God in all that is taking place.

As they walk along the road together, Jesus slowly reveals to them God’s purpose and plan and when they arrive in Emmaus they still don’t recognize Jesus but want to hear more. They are captivated by his words and presence so they invite Jesus to stay with them. Jesus agrees and at the dinner table Jesus took bread and when he blessed it, broke it and he gave it to them the actions were so familiar that they finally saw Jesus for who he was. In the blessing and breaking of the bread Jesus was fully revealed. By taking the time to walk with these men, instruct them in the ways of God and finally reveal himself to them in the blessing and breaking of the bread it shows us that God still wants to reveal himself to us. Revelation is important to God and in this story we see three important ways God still wants to reveal himself to us.

The first way Jesus worked to reveal himself here was through his word. It says that Jesus interpreted to them the scriptures. In other words Jesus is having a small group Bible study with these two men and the reason Jesus chose to do this on the day of his resurrection is because he knows that the revelation of God still takes place primarily through God’s word. If we want to know about God we need to read God’s word and encounter God in the scriptures. In the book of Hebrews it says that God’s word is living and active, sharper than a doubled edged sword. And it says that our hearts and minds and lives are laid bare before God when we read God’s word. In other word God’s word reveals to us the power and truth and glory of God.

God’s word reveals God to us. We see God as we read about his relationship with his people in the Old Testament. We see God as we learn about what is important to God through the law and the prophets. We see God as we see Jesus and hear his words. Nowhere is God more clearly seen than in his word which is why some of the first words of Jesus from an empty tomb were given at a bible study.

If we want to know more about God then His word is the place for us to start. We need to read God’s word and hear His voice and encounter God’s presence in the scriptures but we also need to study God’s word and work to understand it. If you aren’t involved in Bible Study either personally or in a small group – I can’t encourage it enough. It was through a small group bible study that I began to understand see God and we all need to see God through his word and find in it fresh and relevant insight for our lives.

But it wasn’t just through Bible Study that Jesus revealed himself to these two men, it was also through the breaking of bread. In fact it was the act of Jesus blessing, breaking and giving them bread that their eyes were finally opened. Today this act is part of our worship and so worship is another place where God reveals himself to us. In times of praise, prayer, communion and silence God reveals himself to us. God speaks to us in worship. God’s presence is felt in worship and through simple and sometimes powerful ways God makes it known that he is with us

I will never forget leading a worship service in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in an outdoor amphitheater that looked out over the Rocky Mountains and as I was preaching two large deer entered the back of the seating area and slowly walked to the front. I stopped talking. People grabbed their cameras and the deer just walked through our sanctuary and then down the hill. When they were gone everyone looked back at me and all I could say was, “well, I don’t need to say anything more because God has just shown up.” We prayed, sang a song and gave thanks that God revealed himself to us in a time of worship.

God’s presence may not be that evident in every worship service, but God is always here. His presence might come to us through a moment of silence. It might come through a word of scripture or the note of a song. It might come through the smiles of the choir or the laughter of a child. It might come through an unexpected moment or being struck how a common routine like taking up the offering or sharing in communion suddenly takes on new meaning. There are countless ways God reveals himself during worship; I just know he does because the first words of Jesus on the day of his resurrection shows us that he does.

But there is one more way Jesus reveals himself to these two men on the road to Emmaus. He walks with them. Now what is really interesting about this is that at first these two men are walking in the wrong direction. The men are leaving Jerusalem which is where all the disciples have gathered together. Everyone is in Jerusalem and they are there to figure out what is going on. These two men had heard that Jesus might be alive but they are still leaving Jerusalem. It’s like they have given up or given in to what they believe is a hopeless situation. So they are leaving Jerusalem, headed in the wrong direction when Jesus appears to them which tells us that Jesus comes to us even when we are headed in the wrong direction. Even when we are making wrong choices – God is still with us and he works to reveal his goodness and love. So Jesus walks with them for the entire day, going in the wrong direction and then he spends time with them at dinner in Emmaus and once they see Jesus for who he is look at what they do – the immediately return to Jerusalem, the walk in the right direction.

I love this part of the story because it tells me that Jesus walks with us even when we are going in the wrong direction with the hopes of getting us to walk in the right direction. One of the things I love about the word of God is that at times it comes alive in our lives. I realized something this week I have never realized before, this story of the men on the road to Emmaus is my story. When I went to MSU as a freshman I wanted to experience the… let’s just say…wild side of college. I remember praying as I was riding to MSU in September, “God I want to be on a real party floor and experience all that college has to offer.” Well, God heard that prayer and answered. My first room was in an all male dorm on an all freshman floor. It didn’t get much wilder than that. God walked with me in the wrong direction, but also worked to reveal himself to me and lead me into the right direction.

While I was on a real party floor, God also led me to a Bible study where I began to learn about Jesus and through that study I began to understand more about God and actually saw in people and in God’s word the fullness of Jesus Christ. By the beginning of my sophomore year, I was walking in a different direction – God’s direction. So God walked with me in the wrong direction, led me in Bible study and through that time revealed himself to me which finally led me to walk with God in the right direction. This resurrection story is my story.

What direction are you walking today? Are you walking away from God? Like these men on the road to Emmaus are you walking away from the people of God? Are you walking in darkness and pain and sadness? Are you walking with your head’s downcast saying to yourself, I had hoped things would have been different? If you are then you need to know that God is still with you and he is working to reveal himself to you. God is by your side today and he is inviting you to turn and walk with him.

Whatever direction you are headed today, God is with you and he is working to reveal himself to you – that’s the message we hear from this first word from an empty tomb. God is all about revelation. We live in a world where we can observe and search for God because God wants to reveal himself to us. God’s revelation may not come through the stars,

but it will come through his word and through worship and through our walk of faith with Jesus and with one another.

Next Steps

First Words from an Empty Tomb ~ Revelation

On the day of his resurrection, Jesus revealed himself to his followers through the word, worship and walking together. God still reveals himself through His word, worship and walking with us.

1. Word. God reveals Himself through His word, but we need to search for Him in it.
• Take time each day to search for God in his word. This week read about the first words of Jesus found in Luke 24.
• Take time each week to gather with others to study God’s word. Join a Sunday School Class, Bible Study or small group. Stop at the connection table to get more information on available groups.

2. Worship. God reveals Himself through worship, but we have to commit ourselves to being there.
• Commit to being in worship for the First Words series during April.
• Set aside time every day to worship God through prayer, praise or silence.

3. Walking. God reveals Himself by walking with us.
• Thank God for walking with you during times of doubt, fear and disillusionment.
• Walk with others in service by giving your time to the Serving Our Seniors day of ministry.

Sunday Morning

8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

512 Hughes Street Bellefonte, PA 16823

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