The Cleopas Revolution        

A Sermon

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. 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. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.  Luke 2413-35

We had hoped ... If Only ... Cleopas and his friend were deeply despondent and bewildered. Why had their religious leaders crucified such a great prophet whom they hoped was their Messiah, their Redeemer? Their deepest longings had been dashed. Their whole future was in disarray.

The now risen Jesus had seen their plight. He cared. This event reveals the great compassion of the Lord God. So he came and listened and explained.

First he tells them how foolish they were, how slow to believe! But he did not despise them. Not like most of us. Once we see some new truth we wonder why no one else can see it too. 'Why are they so undiscerning?' we say. With love that was truthful and honest he showed them what was wrong. He carefully unfolded that what had happened was God's revealed plan from the beginning. It was not the disaster that filled their troubled minds.

How did he do this? He used the ever-reliable Scriptures which from Genesis to Revelation speak of the Christ. Throughout, the Word of God reveals Yeshua, the Redeemer, the Word the God. But we are not told how the Master opened the Word to them. What scriptures did he use to show why he had to be crucified? Where did the Prophets say how he had to first suffer and die for our sins?

He chose to begin with Moses. Why? Because Moses was the deliverer. He released the people from the slavery of Egypt by the power of God - even the Egyptian magicians said, "This is the finger of God." And he released them from death from the avenging Angel by the Passover Lamb. Some were also released from the universal slavery of sin. But many were not. Like many years later when they proudly and most inaccurately said to Jesus, "We've never been slaves of anyone." (Jn 833) But they had. They had been slaves in Egypt, in Babylon, under the Greek Selucid kings and now under Rome. Just as Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream of the great 4-part statue. Cleopas longed for the Messiah who would free the Jews from Roman rule. But sadly Jesus had been crucified. So 'the Stranger' told them how the blind saw, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed - and sinners were delivered from corruption and given a new heart.

Moses also led the Israelites to the promised land - to righteousness, justice and truth. This was the purpose of the Messiah. And God's purpose would never be diverted.

At God's instruction, Moses made the Passover an annual feast and also introduced the Feast of Weeks and of Tabernacles. Cleopas, in just 7 weeks you will witness the 'firstfruits' at Pentecost. You see, God has just fulfilled Passover. As John Baptist cried, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." This is the season of God's long awaited fulfilment. You will see how many will awaken to the warning sound of the feast of 'Trumpets' - and repent. They will experience the true Day of Atonement - God's forgiveness. As the High Priest offered the 2 goats, one sacrificed and the other left far away in the wilderness, so the Redeemer would offer not a goat, but himself. And then you will know that your sins are far away, forgotten by God. Though they were like scarlet they will be as white as snow. Then you will 'Tabernacle' with God. You will live with Christ, now and for ever.

Moses built the Tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant - God's sure and certain promise of salvation, the Mercy seat protected by two mighty Cherubim, and the sacrifices. They all showed that God would one day provide a perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin. And that day had just come!

God gave the Law to Moses. But man was unable to keep it, even when he wanted to. So the Law became a 'schoolmaster to lead us to Christ'. (Gal 324)

It is little wonder that Jesus began with Moses to explain to these two dejected disciples how accurately the Scriptures foretold their deliverance.

Then Jesus revealed to them the truth that the other Prophets had spoken of. How each in own way had longed for, and seen the day of Jesus Christ.

Joshua challenged the people, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ..." And the people replied, "We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God." But unlike many of us, Joshua didn't rejoice. With courage he told the people the truth. "You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God." No man can just decide to follow Jesus. Our corrupt nature needs to be changed. We must first repent, believe and be born again. And in Josh 2414-27 we are told how Joshua (=Yeshua or Saviour) even built a cairn of stones as a witness against them. It was not a testimony to the day of their historic decision, but a reminder that they had failed to truly serve and constantly needed a merciful Saviour, a mighty Redeemer and an effective Advocate. Cleopas, I'm glad you became a disciple, but this is your need too. This is why I had to die. There was no one else who could pay the high price that justice demands. Joshua was right. The scripture is true.

Isaiah had told of the Servant, of the suffering and the glory. Men so desire the glory that they unwittingly neglect the suffering. How could one whose 'appearance was so disfigured', who was 'despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows' 'one stricken by God' be the Messiah? This is what would puzzle the Ethiopian also. While riding home from Jerusalem in his chariot and reading Isaiah 53, he cried, "How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?" So God sent Philip, "who told him the good news about Jesus." The same news that Jesus told to Cleopas. Isaiah had clearly prophesied that the Messiah would be "pierced for our transgressions", "by his wounds we are healed" and "the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." It would be the Messiah who would be pierced and wounded and be the sacrifice upon whom our sins would be laid. "For he bore the sin of many." It was not a great disaster, world tragedy, but "it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer." There was no other way that he could "see his offspring and prolong his days" for ever! The Ethiopian with an open, seeking heart 'heard' this truth and understood. The heart of Cleopas and his friend were open too. Their 'hearts burned within them' as Jesus so clearly unfolded the scriptures that had lain neglected.

No prophet wept like Jeremiah who for over 40 years had to preach that disaster was about to strike a rebellious nation; that there would be no reprieve. He saw Israel's wound was 'incurable' but he also saw that one day Messiah would come to heal it. One day 'houses will be rebuilt', 'there is hope for your future' and there would be 'a new covenant' and new hearts. They would all 'know the Lord' who would 'forgive their wickedness'. It would however be 'a time of trouble for Jacob, but he would be saved out of it'. Jer 30, 31 Surely this would lift their downcast heads and put a spring in their step.

Jesus may well have told them about Hosea who knew from firsthand experience that his unfaithful bride required to be redeemed. Hos 3, 717   A young prophet whose ideals had been so badly shattered. It was revealed to him that he was walking in the footsteps of his Master, who would come and pay the ultimate price for his beloved bride. How true it is that 'joy comes in the morning'. God is wonderfully faithful. He always keeps his word.

Daniel was an exile in a most heathen land. There were over 50 temples to false gods in Nebuchadnezzar's brand new Babylon. He longed and prayed earnestly for righteousness. The wickedness that surrounded him grieved his Godly spirit. Everyone knows about Nebuchadnezzar's statue dream, the fiery furnace, the lions den, Belshazzar's feast and the writing on the wall. Few know much of his prophecies. And perhaps most neglected are the two most important revelations to Daniel. In the statue dream of the 4 great human empires, there is also 'a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue ...' and destroyed all 4 parts. The rock then 'became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth'. (Dan 234,35) The kingdom of God will one day fill the whole earth - gone will be the corrupt human empires with all their war and wickedness. But who could break open the seals and usher in this new kingdom? 'Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne'... 'And they sung a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe ... and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God".' This is God's sure promise. But Cleopas, you must see that first the Lamb must be slain. This great new, world-wide kingdom has to be purchased by blood. It could not happen by waving a magic wand. Jesus had to die. It was all part of the master-plan. The crucifixion was no weakness or failure. It was the very means of triumph.

For over 65 years Daniel remained in Babylon. Every day he set aside three times to pray. He pleaded for Jerusalem and God's rebellious people, for Nebuchadnezzar and his work as Prime Minister of Babylon. But above all he longed for righteousness and justice and truth. Then one day God sent Gabriel with his answer. There is a time set 'to finish transgression, and put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness ... the Anointed One will restore and rebuild Jerusalem.' (Dan 924,25) So often God's thoughts are not our thoughts, but Daniel, and Cleopas, my desire has become yours. And it will be fulfilled. But it won't just happen like planning a picnic. Wickedness requires atonement and cost. Only then will the kingdom of everlasting righteousness be established by the Anointed One. Jesus said you have been so slow to understand this. This is my way; it was prophesied repeatedly. Now it is being fulfilled.

King David was shown much about the actual manner of Messiah's death. When he wrote Psalm 22 and 69 he knew nothing about the much later Roman invention of crucifixion. But he heard God clearly. Jesus quoted it on the cross. Cleopas, when you heard these psalms read in synagogue what did you think?
What do you see now? Read it again in the light of what has just happened.

At the beginning when Adam and Eve yielded to Satan and disobeyed God, his warning was fulfilled. They knew they had done wrong and their relationship with God was broken - in an all too real way they had died. None the less God gave them both skins to cover their shame. Much better than fig-leaves. Man's efforts at ending sin are so futile. So from the start, God had shown that the only way to cover sin was by sacrifice. Not just any sacrifice, but a perfect one. Abel when he offered his best knew it wasn't good enough. The letter to the Hebrews says that he offered his best 'in faith', looking towards the days when a perfect sacrifice would be made. Thus also did Noah with the pitch that covered the Ark. In Hebrew this 'pitch' is the Jewish word for 'Atonement'! And Abraham's obedient offering of the willing 'only son' Isaac. He too looked to the day when Messiah would provide the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, calling the name of the place that God provided a ram, 'The Lord WILL provide', not the Lord HAS provided. Cleopas, do you see that what you have seen in these last three days, was precisely what God said would happen throughout the scriptures?

And besides all this, recall the number of times Jesus told you that the Son of Man must suffer many things. Remember?
(Math 1712 Mk 931 Lu 922 931 944 1831-34 247 2426 Jn 651 1015)

Yes, they were slow of heart to believe. And so in all probability were we. At the revelation of Jesus their hearts 'burned'. Soon they would never doubt again. They would believe all that the prophets had spoken, not just parts. Once they believed in Messiah's glory, but not his vital suffering. They were 'selective' in their believing and understanding. Like today when many desire revival and glory for the church; but reject suffering. They prefer a triumphant King to a suffering Servant. They proclaim the Rapture before the Tribulation judgement. But we will experience what Christ experienced. Jesus has warned us. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles... All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved... A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master... Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Math 1018-34)

Or as Peter wrote in his first letter, Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, Trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. (1 Pe 110,11)

Christ had to suffer first and then receive the glory. We will be called to suffer too. Let us be ready for the day of Tribulation and great wickedness when the Beast will reign as prince; but never as King.

Pray that our ears will be open to ALL that the prophets have proclaimed; lest we too become despondent like these two in the day of trial. For the saints will need much courage. This too God has promised in Joel 228 In those days I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. We will surely need him.

Jesus 'acted as if he were going further'. Why did he pretend he wanted to leave them? Had they heard all they could take in? Were they saturated? I think not. He wished to test their eagerness to hear more. Had they accepted his revelation of scripture? Had the truth excited and challenged them to the extent that they saw why they needed Jesus? Long ago Jacob was also tested. "Let me go," said the angel. "I will not let you go unless you bless me," Jacob replied. (Gen 3226) They each passed the test. Jesus gladly stayed with them, and as he gave thanks and broke the bread, they recognised him.

Significantly, they understood when he lifted up the bread, his broken body. It is never intellect or knowledge, but revelation that is needed. They sought and God was delighted to reveal the truth. Sinful man needs more that just words or even miracles in order to believe. In the story Jesus told about the rich man an Lazarus, the rich man was in torment and pleaded for Lazarus to be sent to his brothers. Abraham replied, "they have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them." "No, father Abraham," he said, "but if someone from the dead goes to them they will repent." He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."
These two had listened to Jesus expound Moses and the Prophets - and their hearts had burned, they accepted the truth - so now they believed when they recognised 'Someone', Jesus, who had risen from the dead. But 'the many' who reject the Word of God will not be convinced by his works. May God grant us revelation; then the truth of Jesus will set us free from the bondage of corruption.

Now Cleopas and his friend knew Jesus was alive. What a change from the 'we had hoped', as they hurried back to Jerusalem. But is not just that Jesus had risen that so excited them, but at last they had begun to realise why Jesus had had to die for them. They had learned so much in their very personal lesson with the Master.

Many today delight to focus on the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness ... but the Spirit also convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgement. During the Last Supper Jesus promised that He would come and reveal the truth to us. His focus was on the Word and the Spirit. Likewise here the heart of Cleopas was set on fire by the Scriptures, illuminated by the Spirit with accurate teaching. May our Bibles never gather dust. May we delight to search the Scriptures and walk with Jesus; learning the truth he reveals and obeying all that he commands.

Finally the 'breaking of bread' always looks to what Jesus did and achieved at Calvary. It is the reason that he came; to enable God to forgive me, to redeem me, to give me a new heart and a new spirit. Many men of old looked forward to this day of Jesus Christ; now we look back to that great day when he paid the price in full.

But that's not all; we all look forward to the wedding feast, the great banquet that he has with such kindness and grace invited us to. The day when all will be fulfilled. When sin shall never afflict us again. The war is over.  And we are truly one with Christ for ever.