A Revelation Of God’s Love
by Rev. Jonathan Gale
Sunday 8:00am service
4th May 2014,
Acts 2: 14a, 36 – 41
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them:
36Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’
The First Converts
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ 38Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
Luke 24: 13 – 35
The Walk to Emmaus
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Most of us with English backgrounds have embedded in our literary and religious psyches the words of the King James Bible and one of the Scriptures that has come down in popular parlance is Proverbs 29: 18 that reads Where there is no vision, the people perish
However, a more accurate, if less entertaining translation is the NIV (New International Version): Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint
Jesus, in our Gospel reading, reveals himself to two disciples, doesn’t he?
Revelation, the flow of communication from God to each one of us, is critical to our well-being. It is our life-blood. Without it we indeed perish. We are as good as dead – or we cast off restraint, which by implication means we adopt ways that lead to death; and not just spiritual death.
And revelation is not simply cognitive. It is a heart understanding, or more accurately a profound enlivening of our spirits by the presence and insight granted us by God’s Holy Spirit within us.
And you reveal yourself to someone you love, don’t you?
Which calls to mind our reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.
I’m not sure about you but there are times in my life when I wonder what this obsession with sin is all about. And no, I’m not casting off restraint and about to perish. There really is a danger that our view of salvation can be limited to forgiveness for our transgressions, our misdemeanours; that pleasing God is simply a matter of sanitised behaviour.
I think this tendency is fuelled by an over-reliance on The Book of Common Prayer – on Archbishop Cranmer’s theology that careers at times between early sixteenth century Catholicism and the Puritanism of his time. That of course is a gross simplification of both Cranmer and the Prayer Book but then as people we do gross simplification all too well.
The problem lies in our understanding of sin. Terms like miserable offenders do not help. Sin at its heart is separation from God, whatever its cause. Its most likely cause, if we carefully examine the story of the Fall, is our playing God, whether that is declaring independence from God or manipulating the world for our own advantage – not giving God room to act but believing that our responsibility is to make decisions on his behalf.
Sin is so much broader than the transgression of a moral code.
Which means salvation is much broader than forgiveness of sin and a ticket to heaven. Salvation is broader too than healing of body, soul and spirit. It is more too than an assurance of communal well-being for the people of God. Broader even than the vision of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who said, (Vs 21 we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.)
In fact the resurrection of Jesus – the reversal of death (which as we all should know is caused by sin) hails the restoration of the whole of creation. The resurrection of Jesus is a mighty signal from God that everything he has created is loved passionately by God and is to be rescued from degradation and returned to the state for which he created it in the first place. That is why Paul links the eventual physical resurrection of the believer to Christ’s physical resurrection. God eventually wins and has his way.
This too is why Jesus came, not as a ghostly spirit figure, but as a flesh and blood person who fully shared our humanity. His sharing our physical humanity was a sign that God is interested in more than just our souls.
In fact God is interested in every part of us, warts and all.
Jesus came bodily into our midst. God became flesh – was incarnated in the world.
And while Jesus may now be seated at the right hand of God, by the Holy Spirit he remains here as the head of the church. The church – his body on earth. We are in a very real sense the hands and feet of Christ here on earth.
And Jesus left us with a command that In the Eucharist we ingest him body and blood, substantial and life-giving.
From 1 Corinthians 11: the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
He’s coming back, not simply to reveal himself to one or two, as he did on the road to Emmaus, but to all humankind – because he loves everyone – and to restore all things.
Yes, when the assembled crowd on the Day of Pentecost asked, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ 38Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Individual repentance and salvation are important because our sins – the things we do wrong – are evidence of a life moving away from God, evidence of a sinful state, our playing God every now and again.
But those who were individually saved formed themselves into a community – the church – and it is in the context of the church – God’s hands and feet in the world – that we make Eucharist together.
It is no co-incidence that in Vs 35 we read how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Spiritual truth is not divorced from spiritual action.
The breaking of the bread. There is a mystical link between our eating the bread – the body of Christ – and our being the Body of Christ (the church) together.
But notice how Jesus prepared the two travellers: Vs. 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
And Vs. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’
Jesus spent time opening up the scriptures to the two travellers because the scriptures testify about him. Scripture is vital for revelation, but it is in the breaking of bread that their eyes are opened. Full revelation comes in a practical context – not simply a head space.
But one final point. The real reason Jesus joined these two travellers to Emmaus in the first place was because they had their minds on him. Vs. 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them.
Revelation follows meditation.
May our minds be on Christ. When you’re in love your mind constantly moves towards your beloved. Nobody loves us like Jesus does. And as I said earlier, he loves us warts and all.
So to summarise, Jesus comes alongside the disciples when their minds are on him, when they are discussing the events of the last few days. That’s the first stage of revelation. He then opens the Scriptures to them, explaining how they testify of him, and their hearts burn within them as the revelation goes up a notch. It is finally when they break bread together that the full realisation hits them. They are with Jesus.
That’s a little like our services, isn’t it? We arrive and focus our minds on Jesus. Then the word is opened to us in the sentence, the reading of the Scriptures and the sermon. And finally we break bread together and we fellowship, mystically, with both God and one another.
John Legend has a song out at the moment called All of Me. The words of the chorus go like this:
‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you,
He doesn’t place conditions on his love. He doesn’t wait for us to co-operate with him or to declare ourselves for his purposes. He gives all of himself to us because he loves all of us. He loves us and therefore reveals himself to us.
His mind is on us.
Let our minds be on him.