I pray that you have had a wonderful Easter. Easter used to be a great celebration within the church. Now, however, due mainly to Covid-19 and politics, the church struggles to celebrate anything anymore. In the early church Easter celebrations would last for a couple of months, day after day, it was quite the celebration. The church needs to learn how to celebrate again.
Let’s get into the word. The tomb is empty. Jesus died, fulfilling the scriptures, but he did not stay dead, also fulfilling the scriptures. We pick up Luke’s narrative, 24:13-27,
“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened (over the last few days involving Jesus). As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. 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?’ ‘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. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, 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. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’
He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Now, today, when we refer to the Scriptures, we are referring to both the Old and New Testaments. When Jesus here is referring to the Scriptures, he is speaking only of the Old Testament, The Law of Moses, the Psalms, and the books of the Prophets. Over the next month or so, we too, just like the disciples under Jesus’ tutelage, are going to delve into the Old Testament teachings about Jesus. The disciples looked to the OT with an emphasis on the law. Jesus would teach them to look at the OT through the lens of Jesus Christ. We will begin with Genesis 3:15, this is the Lord God speaking to the serpent,
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Here it described the perpetual conflict which results from Adam and Eve eating the apple. While the direct reference is to the conflict between people and the serpent, the inference is to the epic struggle between God and Satan, Good versus Evil, and Light versus Darkness.
The offspring of the woman will eventually crush the serpent’s head, a promise that will be fulfilled in Christ’s victory over Satan, a victory in which each believer in Christ will share.
Now it is important for us to remember our part in this ultimate showdown between God and Satan. We begin on the side of Satan. If we live our lives, paying no attention to God or His Spirit, making no confession for Christ, we are stuck on the dark side, the evil side, Satan’s team.
As our previous scripture said, let us, like Jesus, begin with Moses and see what the scriptures (OT) reveal to us. Our next scripture, from the book of Numbers 21:4-9, reminds us of our inherent sinfulness.
“They traveled from Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died (my guess is that it was mainly the whiners and complainers that got bit). The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake for the people and put it on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.”
The Israelites had become over-confident, and cocky, taking God’s blessings for granted. Do we not do the same thing today? Of course we do. If we are sick, burdened, depressed, sure we call on the name of the Lord. We read our Bible. But when things are rolling good, all of a sudden, we are too busy to read our Bibles. It’s a great burden to attend church. Pray for who?
Now I don’t know what you think, but I know that Harmony (The church where I serve) is a church full of great cooks. I married an excellent cook. One rule, one rule is above all others when living with cooks: Do not complain about the food. So the Israelites complain about God’s cooking, and he sends a plague of deadly snakes among them. ‘How do you like my cooking now?’ No, God didn’t say this, but the Israelites did get the message.
God never answers prayers the way I envision him answering my prayers. This is a good thing, because his way is always a better way, for me and for us. God had Moses put a bronze image of a snake on a pole so that when people are bit by the poisonous snakes they can look up to the image of the snake and remember their sin and seek God’s mercy. He did not take away the poisonous snakes. God wanted the Israelites to remember their sin. However, the people could look up to that bronze snake and seek forgiveness and healing as they needed.
In the same way, Christ will be risen up on a cross, and crush the head of darkness Satan, and people, for eternity, may look up to Jesus and be saved.
I just wonder how many Israelites, after being snakebit, were too stubborn to look up at the bronze snake. Many of our friends and family are too stubborn to look to Jesus for salvation. It’s harvest time, let’s not forget. We need to remind our stubborn friends of Christ’s loving mercy. Not a bad lesson for us either. Unless, of course, you are immune to stubbornness. I doubt that many of us are this fortunate.
Our final verse for today refers directly to this lifting up of Jesus' prophecy. Deuteronomy 18:15,
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”
Here Moses is speaking God’s message to the people, telling them that there will be other prophets to follow, filling the shoes of Moses. Telling them that they need to listen to them, as they listened to Moses.
Now, back to the road to Emmaus. When we left Jesus, he had begun to teach Cleopas and his friend some of the very scriptures that we have covered today.
Jesus said something that seemed harsh in verse 25.
“How foolish you are, and how slow to heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”
This is when the word of God is proven to be alive. Because just as this verse is meant for Cleopas and his friend, it is also meant for us. We now, in modern times, have an entire New Testament to add to the testimony of the Old Testament. Yet, why are we still so slow to believe?
Are we also snakebit, too stubborn to look upon the bronze image of the snake? Can it be that we are still unaware of our need to call on the name of Jesus to be saved, seeking forgiveness and salvation?
Remember, if we are just lazy or stubborn, if we make no choice or decision, we belong to Satan’s team, the team of darkness, those who associate themselves with evil.
Look around, are you watching the news? I bet you are. I can identify evil. In fact, I can identify evil within some who are pretending to be good. Can you? Maybe this confuses you, delaying you in making your decision for Christ. No matter, your lens for understanding Truth and the Bible is Jesus Christ. The sooner we realize this, the better it will be for us.
Whether you are confused or not, the simple and safe choice is Jesus. What are you waiting for?
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC