Sunday 4th May 2014 – You are not alone!

The Word This Week:

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When we look to the story in today’s Gospel account of the men travelling to Emmaus, we see two powerful things. We see that Jesus is truly risen from the dead and also that he walks with people – even when they don’t know he is there…

Let’s look first to the fact that Jesus is risen. Luke in his Gospel, and the other gospel writers recount for us eye witness testimony of the risen Christ. These men, came running back to the Apostles, to tell them excitedly that they had seen the risen Christ. They knew the sort of ridicule the women had suffered earlier when they came back with similar stories, Luke tells us that they were thought t be telling idle tales. These men however weren’t concerned about the possible ridicule they might get for telling people about the resurrection, it was real, Jesus had walked with them, talked with them, instructed them and broke bread with them, and they wanted the world to know.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is alive, he has risen from the dead and conquered the power of sin! He has opened the path to salvation and eternal life to all who seek it! We need to be excitedly telling people about this! We need to be like these two men who ran back to Jerusalem, to spread the news. We are to be his witnesses in the world.  Let me put it this way… people often say to me, oh I believe, I just don’t want to be one of ‘those’ Christians who is always talking about their faith, you know the kind, they are always trying to tell people about Jesus, they try and put Jesus into every conversation in Some way it’s just embarrassing…

Well brothers and sisters, here’s the thing… if we REALLY believe that Jesus was the son of God, if we REALLY believe that he took the consequence of our sin to the cross with him, and if we REALLY believe that he rose from the death, and opened the door to eternal salvation to all would seek it… then how can we NOT want to tell people? Jesus rose from death! This isn’t a small thing that we shouldn’t bother people with, it is the very crux of our faith it is the key to eternal salvation! We should be telling everyone we meet that Jesus is alive!

But this passage has some deeper insights for us to explore. When Jesus first meets with the men on their way to Emmaus, they don’t recognise him. Never the less Jesus walks with them, and he gives them insight into the scriptures, he comforts them, and helps them to understand the pain they are suffering. Even though they didn’t recognise his presence, Jesus was with them.

We all have suffered loss, we have suffered pain, and we all have questioned where God is in the most troubling times in our lives. This scripture tells us where God is – Jesus is walking with us, he is available to comfort us, he will guide us and walk with us just as he does with these two men in our Gospel account. We need to remember in those troubling times that just as these men in our story didn’t recognise the presence of Christ with them as they were dealing with their grief over the crucifixion of Jesus, we too in our own struggles often struggle to see or feel the presence of God with us – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t there.

Jesus eventually reveals himself to the men in the breaking of the bread, and it is only then that the men can look back in hindsight at their journey, and see that they were in fact not alone in their pain and mourning, but that Jesus himself was with them on the journey. We too often only recognise the movement of God in our lives in hindsight, when we look back we can sometimes see that God really was with us.

So how do we help to ensure we can feel the presence of Jesus walking with us on our journey, rather than only seeing him in the rear vision mirror after the fact? Well again our Gospel points us in the right direction.  As the men reached their destination Jesus was about to walk on, and the men, despite their grief and struggles live their faith as Christ had taught them – they offer hospitality to the stranger. I wonder if I was in a similar position, dealing with grief and struggling with loss, if I would have invited the stranger to come and stay with me? Would I have asked him in or would I have took the opportunity to get some rest and alone time to deal with my grief? What would you have done?

The men choose to put their own struggles aside and offer hospitality to the stranger, and because they did so the Lord of Lord’s and King of King’s was revealed to them, they were able to know his presence with them.  Now I’m not suggesting that it is wrong to want to have some alone time in grief, everyone deals with hard times differently and needs to mourn and deal with things in their own way.  What I think this story does tell us though is that we need to continue to live our faith even when we struggle, because it is through living our faith that we encounter God.

The way that Jesus reveals himself in the breaking of the bread also points us to how we can experience the presence of God on our journey. When we take part in the Eucharist we experience the spiritual presence of Christ with us, through the bread and wine. Jesus in revealing himself in the breaking of the bread points us to the Holy Communion as the central way in which we can experience the true presence of Jesus among us.

As we all start out on our journey this week, I encourage you to reread this Gospel passage. To reflect on your own journey and to look for Christ walking with you. I encourage you to boldly live your faith, because it is through living what you believe that you will encounter our living Lord. I encourage you to be like the men in our Gospel, who proclaimed Jesus risen, even though they risked ridicule and mockery.

Go forth in confidence brothers and sisters, and know that Jesus is walking with you on your journey

Sunday 17th February 2013 – Choose the will of God

Watch and Listen:

Read instead:


The Word This Week:

Thoughts on the Word:

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

This week as we come to the first Sunday in our Lenten journey we encounter Jesus, the human being, being tempted by Satan.  We find him in the wilderness, having been fasting for 40 days, his body would be screaming at him to eat something – anything.  How easy it would be to listen to Satan, at this point when He is at his weakest.  We can assume that he is emotionally and mentally drained after enduring 40 days of temptation and torment from Satan and that as a human being just like us he would be becoming desperate to break free of this torment and return home to comfort and shelter – to food! Yet Jesus does something remarkable – something that we all must look to in our own struggles and through our own temptations. 

When he is literally starving Satan whispers in his ear – If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Oh how truly tempting it must have been for the Jesus to say yes to Satan’s temptation.  After 40 days he could simply say to this stone ‘become bread’ and he could have his fill.  Yet our saviour doesn’t say ‘become bread’ … he rather replies “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”  This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3 which says – He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

You see when he is tempted to follow his own desires – to fulfil his own wants and needs instead of God’s he turns to the Word of God – and he refutes the Devil’s temptation by declaring that he lives on the Word of God – and not of earthly things. Satan by now is becoming desperate – after all he has been trying to get this bloke to crack for 40 days, and even now in His state of weakness and desperation he still won’t turn away from God.  So he shows Jesus all the Kingdoms of the World, and offers Him dominion over all of them if only He will bow down and worship Satan.  Now this may have been tempting – after all think of all the good that could be done if Jesus was in complete control of the world, the oppressive Roman empire would be transformed into a Utopian paradise – yet the price for this is to turn from God and worship Satan.  Jesus again turns to his knowledge of the Word of God to reject Satan’s offer “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”  again he draws from the book of Deuteronomy, this time chapter 6 verse 13 which says – The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. Despite what good could come from accepting the temptation of Satan, Jesus knew that in doing so he would be committing a grievous act – he would be turning His back on the creator and sustainer of all things – No matter how good it seemed, nothing is worth turning your back on God and bowing down to Satan, or any other false God, as the remainder of Deuteronomy 6 makes clear.

Finally, Satan in a final act of desperation tempts Jesus to throw Himself from the temple – this time attempting to use God’s Word to confuse and trick Jesus.  Satan quotes from Psalm 91:11-12, in order to show that Jesus is under the protection of God and can do whatever he pleases.  Jesus’ reply – “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” is drawn from Deuteronomy 6:16 .

Jesus rejects all of Satan’s offers, no temptation that the evil one can muster up is enough to make Jesus turn away from God.  You see this whole passage is about something that affects all of us, just as much as it affected Jesus.  It is about choice.  Jesus has free will, just as every human who has ever lived has free will.  Jesus could have chosen of his own free will to turn that rock into bread, or to rule the world’s kingdoms, He could have thrown Himself off that temple, confident that He would be caught by the hands of Angels – yet he did not.  Jesus made a different choice… every time He was tempted to sin, Jesus made the conscious decision to be obedient to God.   Obedience to the will of God is what Jesus exemplifies, and it is what He calls us to also.  When we are tempted to go the way of the world, just as Jesus was in this Gospel account, we are being presented with an opportunity to make a choice – do we listen to the voice of Satan whispering in our ear, or do we instead choose obedience to God. 

Now many will say, ‘but how do I determine what the will of God is? … I want you to pay close attention as I read to you Jesus’ responses to Satan’s temptations. 

“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

“It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

“It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Did you notice something familiar in each of those responses?  It is written; It is written; it is said… Jesus points us to the Word of God in order to show us the will of God!  There is no better way for you to learn the will of God for your life than to be familiar with His Word.  You must build a relationship with God modelled on Jesus, and His relationship with God.  You will remember throughout the Gospel accounts we repeatedly see Jesus in prayer, often away from others.  You see Jesus gives us the model, and sets us the example.  The only question is are we ready to follow Him?

I encourage all of you to reflect on this reading, and especially on Jesus willingness to be obedient to God, even in the face of extreme hardship.  I pray that you fortify your own hearts against the temptations of this world through deepening your knowledge of the Word of God, and through regular prayer.

Finally take heart, because while you may have missed it, the Spirit of God never left Jesus during His temptation and hardships.  Our Gospel account tells us at the outset that Jesus was ‘led by the Spirit in the wilderness…’  It doesn’t say that the spirit took him out there and left Him – but that it led Him during His temptation.  Likewise the Spirit of God is always with you, and will give you strength to endure any temptation or hardship.