The Urgency of the Truth
April 26, 2020*
By Pastor John Partridge
Luke 24:13-35 Acts 2:14a, 36-41 1 Peter 1:17-23
Have you ever watched any disaster movies?
In just about every one of them, there is either a scientist that knows the truth and is trying to sound the alarm to a world that isn’t listening, or there is someone who has discovered the truth about what is going on and there is a rush to get that information to important decision makers or to the news media. The message in both cases is clear, lives can be saved if only the truth were known. That was the message in San Andreas with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and in “Dante’s Peak” with Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton, “2012” with John Cusack and Woody Harrelson, “Independence Day” with Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, and a great many others and all too often that is how things happen in real life as well.
Lives can be saved if only the truth were known.
In the world’s current struggle with the Coronavirus pandemic, that’s as true in real life today as it is in the movies and the same has been true throughout history. The more we know, the better decisions we can make, and sometimes that knowledge saves lives. And it is that principle that we see in action in the story of the walk to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35 which says:
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.
In this story, two followers of Jesus are walking home from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus seven miles away. While they were walking, they were joined by a third man who, at the time, they did not realize was Jesus. As they walked, Jesus explained all the prophecies of the Old Testament about the messiah and how the scriptures had, centuries earlier, told of his death, burial, and resurrection. But when they arrived in their village, Jesus continued as if he would continue walking down the road and the two men urged him to stay with them overnight instead. That part is well explained in the story, but it is important for us to consider why they made this offer to someone they had only just met, and why this offer, and their urgency in making it, is important to the story.
Remember that in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, one man, who was walking alone, was attacked by bandits, stripped, beaten, and robbed. When Jesus told that story, everyone could easily grasp its significance because those sorts of things happened with some regularity. The trails and paths between towns were often narrow, dark, and passed through hills or mountains where you could easily misstep, and fall to your death, and where bandits could, and did, easily lay in wait for their victims. Walking those paths, at night, was incredibly dangerous, and doing so alone was doubly dangerous. Sensible people travelled in groups and only in daylight. And so, even though these two men had not recognized Jesus, and thought him to be a stranger, they urged him to stay the night with them because, even as a stranger, they cared about his well-being. It was just too dangerous to walk the road at night.
But then, as he breaks bread and give thanks to God, these followers of Jesus realize that it is he who is with them and who has been walking with them for the last few hours. It is at that moment that they realize the truth and, our story tells us, that they immediately got up and left for Jerusalem… just the two of them… in the dark.
But why was it that, only moments earlier, they considered it so dangerous to be out at night that they invited a total stranger to spend the night, but suddenly rush out into the night themselves?
And the only reasonable answer is that the information that they had just learned was a matter of life and death. They suddenly realized the incredible urgency of the truth. Lives would be saved if only the truth were known. And so, ignoring the danger, these two followers of Jesus rush out into the night so that they could return to Jerusalem, find the disciples, and tell them what had happened to them.
Like the men who walked the Emmaus road, the disciples also had to decide what to do with this truth and Peter emphasizes the conclusions of the gathered disciples in his summary statement at the end of his speech in Acts 2:14a, 36-41.
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.
Peter’s summary begins, as it often does, with the word, “therefore.” After all that they have seen, and all that they have heard, the disciples now boldly step into the public arena, at the risk of their lives, and conclude that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah. With that conclusion, then it is imperative that every brother, sister, Israelite, Gentile, and anyone else be urged to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and in order to receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. These words were not just an encouragement, but a warning. Peter begged and pleaded with the people to hear this message because it was a matter of life and death.
We have often discussed the dramatic transformation of the Apostle Peter and the other disciples from fearful and afraid to people of great faith who were bold and courageous, and one critical piece of this is that they considered the news about Jesus Christ to literally be a matter of life and death. There was and incredible urgency to the truth.
Lives could be saved only if the truth were known.
And so, the disciples, and the other followers of Jesus, risk their lives to tell as many people as possible about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
But what about us?
Why is any of this important to us today?
And Peter explains that in his letter to the church in 1 Peter 1:17-23 where he says:
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 reminds us that the Good News of Jesus Christ is still a matter of life and death. The life that we had before we chose to follow Jesus was empty and led only to death. But Jesus rescued us from death invited us into his house and gave us an everlasting life. Our lives were saved because we heard the truth and that means that our lives were not only saved, they were changed. Peter says that we are different because of what we know. We no longer “fit in” the way that we used to. And so, rather than blending in and acting as if nothing ever happened, we live differently than everyone else. Rather than living as if we belong here, and as if we will be a part of this nation, and a part of this world, forever, instead we live as foreigners who know that this country, and this world, is not our home. We do not belong here, and one day we will return to our true home in the only nation that is truly just, good, and loving.
But until then, we are just like all those scientists in all those disaster movies. We know how the story ends. We know the disaster that awaits people who are unprepared.
We know that…
…Lives can be saved if only the truth were known.
And so, until it is our time to return to our eternal home, it is our job, just like the people in the movies, to rescue as many people as possible simply by spreading the Good News and sharing the truth with them. Like the scientists in the movies, we know that not everyone is going to listen. Not everyone will believe that there is an earthquake, or a volcano, or an alien invasion. Not everyone will believe that God’s judgement is coming. But just like in the movies, the people who listen can be saved if the truth can be told.
May we all have the courage to share the Good News, to tell the truth to everyone who will listen, and save as many lives as we can.
Have a great week everybody.
You can find the video of this worship service here: https://youtu.be/ziTDpzsrMSg
Did you enjoy reading this?
Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.
Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.
Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.