“A Resurrected Heart”
(Easter, So What? – Part 3)
May 07, 2017
By John Partridge*
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 Luke 24:13-35 1 Peter 1:17-23
Have you ever seen the Loch Ness monster?
What about Bigfoot, a Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, or a chupacabra?
I’m going to guess not. But even if you saw proof tonight, their existence probably wouldn’t change your life. Their existence, or non-existence, is only of academic interest to us.
When we learn things that are interesting, but not life changing, we are intellectually stimulated; we take note of the information, think about it, file it away, and go on with our lives.
But how we react to news that has the potential to change our lives is different.
If we heard on the news that there was another terrorist attack in France, it would be of academic interest. But if we had family or friends that lived there, we evaluate the information in a completely different way, and if a member of our family, or one of our friends was present at the time of the attack, or was the victim of the attack, our thinking would take place on an entirely different level that is far from academic.
This is exactly the difference that we witness this morning, as we read the story about the walk to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.
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. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
As we read this story we can recognize a four-step process to the thinking of the disciples. The story begins with them already at the first step. In that step the disciples simply know the facts about the events that they had experienced. They knew what had happened in Jerusalem and so did everyone else. So widespread was this knowledge that they were surprised when they met someone who didn’t seem to know what had happened. But as they walk, Jesus walks them through the scriptures and brings them to the next level which is an academic understanding of what had happened. Instead of merely knowing what had happened, they now understood the context of what had happened, they understood how the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion fit into the prophecies of Israel and the Messiah for whom Israel had been waiting.
But as Jesus broke bread, they arrived at step three. Their eyes were opened, they recognized Jesus, and suddenly a connection was made between their minds and their hearts. Suddenly, what had happened was no longer simply an academic exercise, but a deeply personal experience that made a difference in their lives. The fourth step came immediately afterward. Now that they knew academically, and understood in their hearts what had really happened, they also knew what had to be done about it.
What they knew was no longer something that was merely of academic interest. What they knew was no longer held back by the dangers of traveling a road that was awash with bandits at night. What they knew was so important, so transformative, and so life changing, that they had to immediately take action and go out into the night, regardless of the danger, to tell the other disciples, and everyone that knew Jesus, what they had seen and heard.
In Acts 2:14a, 36-41, we see the crowd moving through the same steps, but in this case, with the help of Peter’s explanation, they do so much more quickly.
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The people begin by knowing facts of the story. But as Peter speaks and explains to them that Jesus was indeed the long awaited Messiah of Israel, the people were “cut to the heart.” They immediately understand academically, and they connect deeply and personally with what has happened. What remains, and what they do not understand, is what action that they must take because of it. And so Peter explains that because they understand, the action they must take is that every one of them must repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus.
But beyond that, as we sit here today, we wonder what happens next. Many of us have already been baptized and we might wonder why Easter is still supposed to be such a big deal. The answer to that, at least in part, is also answered by Peter in his letter to the church in Asia Minor. (1 Peter 1:17-23)
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
Peter spells it out for the church this way: Because we belong to a God who is truly and completely impartial, we should live our lives as if our legal status is as tentative as a foreign citizen travelling in the United States with only a passport, or perhaps even without one. We must live in “reverent fear” by appreciating what we have, but understanding that we must conform our lives to the law and, at the same time, appreciate that we might, at any moment, be called upon to return home and take nothing with us. We know that our rescue from sin and death has been purchased at the highest possible price with nothing less than the blood of the Son of God. It is through him, and because of him, that we believe in God and put our faith and trust in him. We purify ourselves daily by obeying the truths that we have been taught by Jesus and through the scriptures and we obey them so that we can learn to love sincerely, so that we can learn to love one another deeply, and to love from the heart. Peter reminds us that believing in God, and in his son Jesus, is a heart condition that requires daily attention just as much as those who have medical conditions must pay diligent, daily, attention to their diets and to taking their medication. In our case, we must work daily to study and obey the word of God, to love one another, and to tell the world what we have learned so that they might also be rescued from death.
The story of Easter is far more than a fairy tale, and Jesus is much more than a mythical creature like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot. Scripture and history tell us clearly that Jesus is real and we believe that the story is true. But knowing the story is much more than an academic exercise. When we come to faith, we connect with the story at a deeper level and we understand with our hearts as well as with our minds. This heart connection makes us realize that the story of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, death and resurrection is so important, so transformative, and so life changing, that we must take action. We must do something with what we have learned. Believing in Jesus is a heart condition that requires daily attention.
The Easter story isn’t a “one and done” kind of a story…
…It’s a transformative moment in history that changes us, shapes us, directs us, and calls us to take action every single day of our lives.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.