Sunday Services at 10:00am
1155 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield

Waiting for resurrection

Back to all sermons Waiting for God

Date: December 5, 2021

Speaker: Eric Stillman

Series: Waiting for God

Scripture: Luke 24:13–24:32

We are currently in Advent, the time of the year where we look back at Jesus’ first coming and look ahead to His return. I’ve entitled this sermon series Waiting on God, as one of the themes of Advent is waiting – waiting for the Messiah to come, and waiting for Jesus to return. In this series, I’ll be looking at some of the major times of waiting in the Biblical story to see how they can help us in those times when we feel like God is distant, delayed, or not answering our prayers.  

 

Last week we looked at the story of Abram, Sarai and the child of promise and waiting on God’s promises. Specifically, the challenge it is to wait for God’s blessing instead of trying to manufacture the blessing ourselves.

 

This morning I will be preaching on waiting for the resurrection, as we look at the disciples during the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection. Now, in some sense that title is a misnomer, because the disciples weren’t really waiting for the resurrection. As far as they knew, Jesus was dead, and all hope was gone, and Jesus coming back to life was not a possibility. It felt like everything that they had dedicated their last three years to was for nothing. One disciple had betrayed Jesus and then killed himself. Another had denied knowing him and gone back to his pre-disciple life of fishing. The others had fled in fear. Everyone was either in hiding or had given up the mission. Hope was gone, and they were devastated. And so, while it may feel like a misnomer to say they were waiting for the resurrection, it is also entirely appropriate, for their hope was dead, and their only hope was for God to bring about resurrection and revive their hope.

 

For many of you, there are times in your life when it’s not so much that you are waiting for God’s promises but that you are like those disciples. Hope is gone, or hanging on by the thinnest of threads. Life has not gone the way you had hoped, and you are feeling devastated and in pain. This morning, as we take a look at one of the stories about the disciples post-crucifixion, I want to speak from God’s Word into those situations. I don’t want to minimize or trivialize anyone’s pain. But I do pray that God would speak through His Word some hope into your situation this morning.

 

Luke 24:13-32 - Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;  16 but they were kept from recognizing him.  17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast.  18 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?"  19 "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.  20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;  21 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.  22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning  23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.  24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."  25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"  27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.  29 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.  30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  32 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?"

 

I want to use three phrases from this passage to summarize what we learn about finding hope in hopeless times:

 

  • We had hoped...

 

"He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.  20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;  21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.

 

We had hoped that he was going to save us. But he’s dead. Our hope is gone.

 

There are many things in life that happen to us that can crush us, knock the wind out of us, bring us to our knees. The untimely death of a loved one, serious illness or injury, job loss, financial catastrophe, physical or sexual abuse, and so on. Life does not always go as we had hoped. Life is hard, and often very confusing, and so if faith for that matter. God does not always make sense, and there are no formulas to follow in order to achieve an easy road, no matter how many three step sermons you hear. What do you do when you have saved yourself for marriage, and then nobody wants to marry you? Or you save yourself, you marry someone, and the intimacy and love that you thought were promised never happen? What happens when you train up your child in the way they should go, and then they depart from the faith? How do you make sense of things when you give generously to the Lord, and instead of being rewarded for your faith, you lose your job? How do you handle it when you pray fervently for years for someone’s healing, only to have them die? Life is hard, and often things just don’t go the way we had hoped or expected them to go.

                                                                           

In Tim Keller’s book Walking with God through pain and suffering, he shares about a novel written by Elisabeth Elliot in 1966 called No Graven Image. The book tells the story of a young unmarried woman named Margaret who dedicates her life to translating the Bible for remote tribes in the Amazon rain forest whose languages have not yet been written down. She begins working with the Quechua people in Ecuador, and the key person to her work is a man named Pedro, the only man in the tribe who knows both Spanish and the unwritten language of the Quechuan people, which Pedro begins to teach to her.

 

One day, Margaret is praising God for all that he has provided for her to do the work, and she imagines what it will be like to bring the Bible to millions of people in the mountains. As she arrives at Pedro’s home, however, she finds that he has an infected wound in his leg. One of Margaret’s duties was to provide ordinary medical care, and so she gives Pedro an injection of penicillin. Within seconds, Pedro experiences an allergic reaction, and despite Margaret’s prayers and frantic attempts to help him, Pedro gets worse and worse until he dies, while Pedro’s mother accuses her of killing her son. And because the only connection she had to the tribe’s language is was now dead, her work comes to a screeching halt. As she says, “As for the translation of the Bible, of course, I cannot go ahead without an informant. God knew about that when Pedro died. I do not write prayer letters anymore, for I have nothing to say about my work. It seemed on the night of Pedro’s death as though Finis were written below all I had done.” The book ends with a thoroughly confused Margaret, standing at the grave of Pedro, wondering how God could have let that happen and how she can go on worshiping this God.

 

As you might imagine, this novel offended many Christians, who protested that God would never allow such a thing to happen to a woman who had dedicated her life to being a missionary. But the truth was that Elisabeth Elliot was writing out of her own life experience. She was a missionary in South America, and she had found a man who was the key to the whole language work, the only man who knew both Spanish and the native language. But then that man was murdered, and the translation work came to a complete stop. And then, soon after the murder, a flood and then a theft destroyed all the translation work that had been done. A short time after that, Elisabeth married a man, Jim Elliot, who took her along with four other missionaries and their families into the Amazonian rainforest to try to reach the Waorani people of Ecuador. One evening, they sang a hymn, “we rest on thee, our shield and our defender.” The next day, they traveled into the forest, met the Waornai people, and the five men were all speared to death.

 

Sometimes life crushes us, and all that is left is to cry out of our pain.

 

As Bernard of Clairvaux wrote, “O my God, deep calls unto deep. The deep of my profound misery calls to the deep of Your infinite mercy.”

 

It is okay to cry, to wail, to pour out our hearts to God. The Bible is full of lament – a prayer in pain that leads to trust. The Psalms – the songbook of ancient Israel – has 150 Psalms, and 60 of them are laments, voicing complaints such as Psalm 22:1-2 - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?  2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, Psalm 69:1-2  Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  2 I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. Psalm 6:2-3 - Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.  3 My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?  Psalm 88:18 - You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.

 

Life is hard, and it does not often go the way we had hoped or expected. But thank God, this is not the end of the story.

 

  • He explained to them all that was said in the Scriptures concerning himself

 

25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"  27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 

 

The disciples had hoped that Jesus would save them from Roman oppression. And now their hope was gone. But their hope was gone not because God had failed to come through, but because they had placed their hope in the wrong thing, something too small. They were expecting something that was smaller than what God had planned. The disciples did not have a big enough vision to see what God was really up to. And so Jesus, in disguise, as he walked along with them, taught them what the Bible actually said, that His death was not a mistake but was actually part of the plan, a plan not to save them from Roman oppression but to save them from sin, death, and evil itself.

 

Let me say it again. The disciples had an expectation and a hope, and when Jesus died, their hope died along with him. But when Jesus met them on the road to Emmaus, he showed them from the Bible that their vision was too small, that God was up to something far greater than their hopes and expectations.

 

I say this often, but it is so important to know. God never seemed more absent and unloving than He did on that day as He let His innocent son die on that cross. But looking back, we now know that God was never more present and loving than He was on that day as God the Son hung on that cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to make us right with Him. There will be times in your life when God seems absent, when he seems unloving. But in those moments, you look at the cross and remember that even when God seemed the most absent and unloving, He was never more present and loving. And it is no different in your life. Even when God seems absent and unloving, He is always present and loving.

 

Isaiah 55:8-9 - For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

And as the aforementioned Elisabeth Elliot put it:

 

God is God. If He is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere but in His will, and that will is infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.

 

Why are you suffering? Why has God allowed your circumstances? Ultimately, I don’t know. But I do know that it is not because He does not love you. That was settled at the cross.

 

Our vision is too small. We have placed our hope in the wrong things. God is up to something greater. Listen to His Word:

 

Romans 8:28-29 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers

 

The good He is working towards is not always the good we want, for our vision is too small, and we often place our hope in the wrong things. God is up to something greater, to make us like Jesus, and He will use anything that happens to us or that we do to ourselves to accomplish that goal. And at times, He also uses our suffering to prepare us to minister to others.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

 

Your suffering may be preparing you to minister to others in a way I never could. Your illness, the death you have experienced, your financial struggles, can allow you to minister to others with a power that someone else never could. Consider these words from Brennan Manning about a play by Thornton Wilder:

 

There's a scene in Thornton Wilder's play "The Angel that Troubled the Waters"

 

The scene is a doctor comes to the pool everyday wanting to be healed of his melancholy and his gloom and his sadness. Finally the angel appears. The doctor, he's a medical doctor, goes to step into the water. The angel blocks his entrance and says, "No, step back, the healing is not for you." The doctor pleads, "But I've got to get into the water. I can't live this way." The angel says, "No, this moment is not for you." And he says, "But how can I live this way?"

 

The angel says to him, "Doctor, without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of this earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love's service, only wounded soldiers can serve."

 

And so, you can say along with Joseph:

 

Genesis 50:20 - You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

 

God is up to something greater. He is always at work, even when He seems absent and unloving.

 

  • Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him

 

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  32 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?"

 

As he breaks the bread, their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus, but just as they recognize who it is, he disappears from their sight. And they say, “were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

 

In our hopelessness and pain, as we look to the cross, as we see our Savior broken on the cross, we catch a glimpse of His love for us.

 

As Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote:  “Put your hand into my wounds,” said the risen Jesus to Thomas, “and you will know who I am.” The wounds of Christ are his identity. They tell us who he is. He did not lose them. They went down into the grave with him and they came up with him – visible, tangible, palpable. Rising did not remove them. He who broke the bonds of death kept his wounds…

 

As we look to the cross, as we hear the gospel story, as we come to the table to remember that His body was broken and His blood was poured out for us, we are reminded that death is not the end, that our God is a God of resurrection, that nothing is ever hopeless, that even when He seems absent and unloving, he is always present and loving. The faint flame of our hope is fanned, and we are encouraged to press on in trust and hope. The world may be broken but God is still good. He has proved that at the cross. Let me close with one last verse, which is drawn from a book that a sorrowful look at the fall of Jerusalem:

 

Lamentations 3:21-24 - Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

 

Let us come to the table.