13 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 the only one visiting Jerusalem who does 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 they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah 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 continued on 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?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.
Did you get good news on Tuesday night (midterm Elections)? That depends, doesn’t it? Now, we don’t need to get into politics to prove this point. It could be anything. It could be sports. It could be work. It could be family. It could be this past Friday, opening day for deer gun season. Did you get good news? It all depends on what you want, doesn’t it? That’s the way good news works. If the outcome or information is what you want or like, then it’s good. If not, then it’s not good.
But what if that’s not the way it has to be? What if some news was good no matter who was receiving it? What if some information was always good because of the one who has provided it? My brothers and sisters, that is what we have from God in the gospel. We have the news that is always good no matter who is listening or how they react. The gospel of Jesus is always good news.
This good news is so good that it is specifically designed by God to be not just something that makes me good, but also something that makes me want to give good news to others. This is called evangelism, and in our worship series, Walls Torn Down, we are reviewing this beautiful doctrine of the Bible to grow in how we Use the Power of Good News, which tears down the walls of sin, death, and hell.
That all began a few weeks ago in October. If you remember a few weeks back, we started by hearing from God that to be involved in evangelism you don’t need to have all sorts of skills or a certain personality. You don’t need to be on the church payroll. We heard the story Jesus told of a Good Samaritan, and there Jesus teaches us that love is all you need, the selfless, Good Samaritan love that cares for people no matter who they are. And it just so happens that the kind of love we need is exactly what Jesus did for us and is exactly what Jesus put into our hearts through faith. The second week we heard God’s Word from the God’s missionary to the Gentiles, Paul. He told us that when you are a Christian you are going to find ways to be all things to all people. In other words, we will get comfortable being uncomfortable. The third week we heard from Paul again about how to turn conversations from common everyday things that everybody knows to the uncommon and unique grace and power of our God and Savior. Remember how we saw him do that in Athens in the Areopagus? He used their city and their objects of worship, one of which said “to an unknown god.” He used their philosophers and poets. He used those things that the people of Athens knew well to point them to the God of heaven and earth and his salvation through Jesus, who died and rose for us.
That leads us to these two men walking on the road to Emmaus. It’s later on the day Jesus rose, Easter. They are both followers of Jesus, so for them to be talking with each other about everything that had happened is not all the remarkable. That would be like you discussing a sermon, a bible class, an outreach event with another member here or maybe encouraging and comforting someone close to you with an illness or a problem they are facing. Those are the kinds of things that you would be comfortable talking about with a brother or sister in faith.
But what if the audience is different? Would you be as comfortable talking about everything Jesus has done for us, about the power of God, or about the teachings of the Bible? Maybe we have to admit that when it comes to God’s good news, we don’t speak up because we think it depends on the audience. It’s similar to the way we look at elections or sports. We treat the gospel like it is only good news for those who we see here at church, those who are on our side.
When we do that, we are setting limits on the gospel that God has not set. We see the two men on the road to Emmaus do the same thing. When this stranger, who is really Jesus, asks them what they are discussing, they give a somber recap of what happened. Here’s the summary: “He [Jesus] 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;1 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 they did not see Jesus.”
This should be a joyous, exciting explanation of how Jesus conquered sin and death for all people, but instead it’s downcast and doleful, because they had set limits on God’s promises. Did you catch that in their response? See, here is what they thought God’s promised good news was: “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” These two thought the good news was the revival of the Jewish nation, God’s people, Abraham’s descendants. They thought God’s promise was the Israelites being delivered from the oppression of the Roman government and restored to ruling the world’s political scene.
Sure, that would be good news for Israelites, what about everyone else? What about the Romans? What about Samaritans? What about Gentiles who would grow up in Europe, Africa, or America. What about us? We wouldn’t have any good news from God.
Sadly, sometimes we put up those limits on God’s good news just like these two men walking on the road to Emmaus. The wonderful promises of God, his gospel of salvation for all, the Savior of the entire world is only good news for some. In essence, that is saying God’s gospel message, his good news is not as good as God thinks it is. Somehow we convince ourselves that the power of the gospel is not that powerful. How foolish you and I are to think that the good news of God would ever be so small and insignificant.
But we do, we do talk and act like it is unimpressive, and maybe that’s because we don’t think the bad news is all that bad, either. I think that happens to us like it was happening to the two men on the road. They thought the good news was that Jesus was going to redeem Israel and get rid of the Roman rule. So that means the bad news that was causing their sorrow was that Israel would still be stuck under the hated, oppressive government.
Brothers and sisters, that is not the bad news. How foolish you and I are to think the bad news could ever be political, economic, financial, educational. How foolish! The bad news is not that your team didn’t win. The bad news is not that you missed a big buck. The bad news is not that your loved one has cancer, that your family is in shambles, that you lost your job. That’s not even close too bad enough.
The bad news is sin. Sin is something God cannot wink at or ignore. Sin is something we cannot change the definition of. Sin is so bad that it separates people from God. Anyone who has ever done any one little thing wrong, even if it was just a thought to do wrong, has completely smashed God’s law to pieces. Anyone who has smashed God’s law to pieces cannot have a life with God. Sin is real, and it puts your name on the list of those who are going to the burning lake of sulfur where the worms that eat you do not die, and the fire is not quenched. We’re talking eternal torture and punishment. We’re talking the worst imaginable pain and suffering physically, emotionally, psychologically and it lasts forever. The bad news is that anyone, who is not perfect as God requires you to be, is going to hell. And this bad news cannot be changed by anyone. You cannot undo what you have done wrong. You cannot make up for these sins. There is simply no other option but to suffer the pain of hell. Period.
That’s bad, isn’t it? That’s so bad that it’s hard to put into words how bad sin and hell are. It’s so bad, in fact, that the only fix that would ever work is an act of God. He’s the only one powerful enough. He’s the only one loving enough. He’s the only one who could do anything about it. The only possible way to get rid of the devastating and eternal destruction sin causes to each person is that God would take that suffering and pain away from us and put it on someone else. Someone else who is powerful enough and loving enough to see sinners in this absolutely perilous condition and step in for us, that’s what it would take to get rid of our bad news.
What would you call it if someone actually did that? What would you call it if someone saw the entire world full of sinners and decided to step in for us? What would you call it if someone would suffer the pain and torture our sins have earned? What would you call it if someone would endure the physical, emotional, psychological hell that is coming for every sinner? What would you call it if someone would die so innocently so that the guilty ones could benefit? What would you call it if someone would take our pain and punishment and then give us the perfection God requires of us? What would you call it if someone who died under the crushing weight of our sins actually came back from the dead? What would you call it if someone conquered all, we’re talking every single one of our eternal enemies for us? What would you call it if you didn’t have to be afraid of death, the devil, or hell anymore? What would you call it if someone would provide all of this free of charge for all sinners, without conditions and without basing it on anything you did or didn’t do? What would you call it if someone didn’t put limits on the people who can have and enjoy this gift? What would you call that? How about THE GOOD NEWS!!!
Yes, good news is exactly what that is. Good news is exactly what Jesus has produced, accomplished, and provided for us. It’s so good, in fact, that God gave it a special name called the gospel. And God gave the gospel special power to work on hearts whenever and wherever it pleases him to change lives on earth and for eternity.
And do you notice what the gospel, what God’s good news, does to those who believe it? Those two on the road to Emmaus heard the good news from Jesus, they saw their Savior alive, and with hearts burning from the power of the gospel, they immediately wanted to share it. Luke writes in verse 33: They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem…
If you want to know how in the world you could ever tell someone the gospel of Jesus, I think you are looking at it all wrong. This good news is so good, how could you not? Amen.